A standout in both football and wrestling, Mason Montgomery knew that eventually he would probably have to choose one sport over the other.
When the time finally came to make that choice, the Ashland High senior followed his heart.
Montgomery, the 220-pound Class 5A state wrestling champion as well as an all-state linebacker for the Grizzlies' football team, has decided to attend Butte College in Oroville, Calif. and play football for the Roadrunners.
Montgomery made the decision official by signing a letter of intent Monday. He hopes to start at linebacker as a freshman at Butte, which boasts one of the top junior college football programs on the west coast, then transfer to an NCAA Division I program.
"Butte probably gives me the best chance to do that," Montgomery said.
Montgomery led the Ashland High football team to the 5A semifinals in the fall, earning Midwestern League defensive player of the year honors for the second year in a row, then on March 1 captured Ashland's first individual state wrestling championship since 1971.
The decision to give up wrestling was not an easy one.
"I love wrestling," Montgomery said, "but I feel like I've been playing football for so long and there's nothing like it — playing games as a team in front of a lot of people."
Montgomery isn't the only Ashland High athlete who has decided to continue competing at the next level.
Ashland senior quarterback Danial White, who's played alongside Montgomery since their first Pop Warner season 10 years ago, said he's still undecided but is leaning toward George Fox University in Newberg. George Fox, an NCAA Division III school, will be competing in football this fall for the first time since 1969. White likes the idea of helping a new program get off the ground and is also attracted to the school's top-notch engineering program — White said he scored a 1,950 on his SAT test, missing only two questions on the math portion, and plans to be a civil engineer.
"I could step into that program and make an impact early in my career and get a lot of playing time early," said White, a first-team all-state selection who was responsible for 6,808 yards (4,776 passing, 2,032 rushing) and 82 touchdowns in three seasons as Ashland's starting QB.
He also was impressed by head coach Chris Casey, the older brother of Oregon State head baseball coach Pat Casey. Chris Casey led Aloha High to the OSAA Class 6A state title in 2010, six years after taking over a program that had won only 17 games in its previous 14 seasons.
"Coach (Chris) Casey's a really cool guy," White said. "He really stresses building character and making good men out of the people he coaches, and I really like that about him."
Ashland senior golf standout Matt Hedges has decided to take his clubs to Saint Martin's University in Lacey, Wash., an NCAA Division II school. The Saints compete in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Hedges placed second in the 2013 Class 5A state meet and tied for ninth as a sophomore in 2012.
A pair of Ashland baseball players also have chosen their next destination. Senior pitcher/catcher Carter Glick and senior third baseman Eric Carlson both plan on playing for Ohlone College, a junior college in Fremont, Calif.
Glick and Carlson helped Ashland finish the 2013 regular season No. 1 in the OSAA Class 5A power rankings. Both also received significant playing time last summer for the Medford Mustangs, with Glick emerging as the American Legion AAA team's surprise ace.
Four games into his senior season, Carlson is batting .642 with three doubles, a triple and eight RBIs.