Matt Horillo feels at home in Siuslaw uniform

Senior Matt Horillo was a finalist this year for the Siuslaw Athlete of the Year Award.

Siuslaw Vikings multisport standout Matthew Horillo will head to Salem next June to attend his graduation ceremony and pick up his hard-earned diploma.

Before then, he'd like to qualify for state championships in wrestling and track and field and be part of a winning Vikings football team.

"My senior year is looking real exciting," Horillo said Saturday as he helped fellow Vikings wrestlers direct parking at the annual Wings and Wheels Car Show & Fly-in at the Florence Municipal Airport. "A lot better than it's been."

He was specifically referring to football, but is equally bullish on his winter and spring passions.

"We're so enthusiastic in the weight room and on the field already," Horillo said.

A home-schooler, Horillo will be finishing up his final year at the online Oregon Connections Academy, while trying to earn his fourth varsity letters in football and wrestling and his third letter in track and field with the Vikings.

He was a finalist this year for the Siuslaw Athlete of the Year Award for his solid three-sport performances.

While football is the current focus, wrestling is his passion, and has been for 14 years.

Horillo qualified for the state championships in wrestling this past season, and won the team's prestigious Nick Lutz Inspirational Award for his efforts.

"Matt has grown so much over the years," Siuslaw wrestling coach Neil Wartnik said. "When he first came to us he was a roly poly guy. He just has always had a good work ethic.

"Matt from the earliest times was on the mat. He's worked really hard, especially the last couple of years, and really transformed as an athlete."

That transformation has seen Horillo drop from 255 pounds two years ago to as low as 205 two weeks ago.

He's back to 215 now, thanks to football.

"With weight training, I've been gaining muscle back," Horillo said. "My goal is 195 for wrestling."

He would like to wrestle at 190 for his senior campaign, after competing at 220 and heavyweight in recent seasons.

"Last year was an amazing year for him," Wartnik said. "He won six or seven matches in overtime. So many matches that were nailbiters, wrestling so many of the best heavyweights and 220s in the state.

"And the matches would go down to the final seconds. He developed a lot of mental toughness. He's been such a joy to coach."

Horillo suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee in his final match at state, but put off surgery until the end of the track and field season.

He still managed to achieve a longtime goal of 40 feet in the shot put, going a personal best 40 feet, 4 inches. He will be one of the top returning Sky-Em League athletes in the event next spring, with a serious shot at state.

But first things first, and that is football, where he has distinguished himself on the offensive and defensive lines.

"I usually play guard on offense," Horillo said. "But I will help out any place on the line where needed.

"I like defense better. You don't gotta remember as much. You just gotta remember to tackle the guy with the ball."

He's also had to remember who his head football coach is. He will be playing for his third first-year coach in four seasons this fall, with Siuslaw graduate Sam Johnson taking over for Chad Smith, who lasted one season after taking over for Jamin Pool, who went two seasons.

"Sam Johnson is an amazing coach," Horrillo said. "He already knows so much for a young guy. He's going to do great stuff, I can tell."

Horillo, fellow lineman Zach Stinger and wide receiver Ricky Loza are the only Vikings with three varsity football letters heading into this fall.

In those three seasons, the Vikings were 2-6 in 2016, 1-7 in 2017 and 0-8 last year.

But the presence of Johnson has reinvigorated the program, turnout reportedly has improved dramatically and better days are projected.

 "We're building up a brotherhood," Horillo said. "More than it's been."


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