Of the Baker City Herald

Mix a defending state champion, three state qualifiers and seven district placers and the outlook for the 2004-05 Baker wrestling squad is bright.

Heath Paxton returns to defend his Class 3A state crown at 215 pounds. Levi Bunch (125) and Eugene Markgraf (189) also advanced to the state meet a year ago.

Returning district placers besides that trio are Quincy Warner (119), Jared Smull (130), Ross Weatherspoon (135) and Steven Cooke (152).

andquot;Heath wrestles his own style,andquot; said second-year Baker coach Dee Gorrell. andquot;The other kids can use his kind of aggressiveness and hard work, but they have to develop their own style.andquot;

Gorrell said the Bulldogs have 23 wrestlers out this season, a number that will help one of the biggest problems they had last year.

andquot;One of the biggest positives is that we're looking forward to not starting our duals down 24 points,andquot; Gorrell said.

At different times last year the Bulldogs had to forfeit as many as six matches due to a lack of bodies.

andquot;This year we have enough people at all weights to field a full varsity lineup,andquot; Gorrell said.

The Baker coach said the Bulldogs have set a high goal of taking 11 wrestlers to the state tournament in February.

andquot;That will be tough, but it is possible if the kids step up and work hard,andquot; he said.

andquot;We have seven seniors in our lineup and they have taken the leadership role,andquot; Gorrell said. andquot;They're working well with the younger kids.andquot;

Those seniors are Paxton, Markgraf, Bunch, Weatherspoon, Cooke, Will Hicks and newcomer Keith Newman.

andquot;Newman is new to our program, but he has wrestled before,andquot; Gorrell said.

The Baker coach sees his squad battling defending state champion Burns and Ontario for the Greater Oregon League crown.

andquot;We should be right there in the running,andquot; he said. andquot;It should come down to those three teams.andquot;

Baker opens its season today at the Enterprise Kickoff Tournament.