PORTLAND — It took a little longer than anyone in the program may have expected — or wanted for that matter — but Crater reclaimed its position atop the wrestling landscape in typical Comet fashion Saturday in the Class 5A state tournament at Memorial Coliseum.
There wasn’t much glitz or glamour by the Comets, rather a unified effort to buckle up and battle to the end as Crater won its ninth state championship under head coach Greg Haga and first since 2006.
Crater scored 175.5 to finish ahead of Dallas (147.5), Redmond (144) and Hermiston (138), which had won the previous four 5A titles and nine of the 10 championships since the 5A classification began in the 2006-07 school year.
“I waited longer from the last one to this one than I did for my first one, “ joked Haga, who was named 5A coach of the year. “When you say it’s been 11 years, I never waited 11 years when I first started coaching. My first head coaching job was in 1989 and in ‘93 we won it. Then about every so many years we’d win again, so we didn’t have to wait so long ... so this is definitely very special. We had a great group of coaches and our kids worked hard, and they really love each other and work for each other.”
The pinnacle of that work could be seen in the championship finals, where junior Logan Meek dominated his match at 145 pounds for the second year in a row to repeat as state champion. Meek accomplished almost anything he wanted in the finals, scoring at will to gradually pull away from third-seeded Milwaukie junior Matthew Lee for a 21-6 technical fall victory in 5 minutes, 40 seconds.
He was named the outstanding wrestler for 5A.
“This one feels better than the first considering I got to do it with my team,” said Meek, who won last year’s title with a 14-2 major decision over Collin Swinehart of Central. “I’d like to have a couple more guys with me on top of the podium, but we got the team trophy and that’s what matters.”
And, truly, those teammates ultimately are the story for the Comets — as Meek and company said would be the case all season as they forged a goal to take the next step after tying for second place last year.
“We worked hard every day to make this happen, all of us,” said Meek. “We kind of got off to a bad start this morning, but our guys came back and pulled their heads out and did really good, like we asked them to do. They dug in deep and did an awesome job.”
The Comets entered the morning semifinal round with a comfortable cushion and saw it almost entirely erased after Meek was the only one to advance to the championship round.
After the dust settled, the Comets were left with a four-point lead heading into the consolation semifinals, putting their dream ending in jeopardy.
“We went in the back there and I said, ‘How do you want to end it?’ The way we normally end our tournaments, we wrestle tough and we come here to battle,’” said Haga. “I thought they bore down pretty good and got after it after that.”
As rough as the semifinal round was, the opposite was the case in the consolation semifinals as Crater showed its true colors. All five losing semifinalists won their matches and senior heavyweight Javon Gill kept his run alive through the back end to push the Comets back in title position with a 37-point round.
“I think that’s a testament to our kids’ toughness,” said Haga. “It’s not easy to come back and wrestle matches after you’ve lost a match that you thought you were going to win.”
Leading the charge was junior 106-pounder Zeth Brower, who saw his hopes of a third straight trip to the championship finals dashed when his 8-3 semifinals lead dwindled over the final 2½ minutes. He suffered a 14-11 loss that was settled on a takedown with back points in the final five seconds by Silverton’s Kaden Kuenzi.
When Brower rebounded with a fall in 2:03, it only served to pump up his teammates. Senior Hunter Grant (113), sophomore Hunter Hiatt (120), junior Dallas Howard (132), senior Jace Godley (170) and Gill (285) followed his lead into the third-place final.
Of that group, only Brower finished it off by taking third, 4-0 over Ryan Bibler of Dallas, but all the rebuilding had been done as fourth-place finishes by the rest and a sixth-place showing by senior Markus Bennett (170) allowed Meek to enter his final with the team championship locked up.
“Either way I was going to go out there and try to pin him or try to attack him like that so it didn’t matter to me,” said Meek. “But having it locked down before my match gave me time to celebrate with my team before the finals and that was awesome.”
Meek had pinned his way into the championship final in three matches that went a combined eight minutes, with his semifinals fall coming in 3 minutes, 6 seconds against Thurston’s Austin Watson. In the finals, Meek stalked Lee for most of the first period before opening a 5-0 advantage. It was 11-2 by the end of the second period and Meek methodically picked Lee apart for the final tally to earn his technical fall.
“It was the same game plan as always, go out there and score points and prove this is my title,” said Meek, whose goal was to prove last year’s title wasn’t a fluke. “Nobody came close this weekend and I take pride in that.”
His head coach also took pride in what proved to a fitting end to a fantastic season.
“Logan did a great job and kept the pressure on,” said Haga. “You saw anytime that kid would kind of start to wrestle, he’d score immediately. He did a great job of staying focused. It was nice not having the pressure of having to win for the team title or anything like that, but I was totally confident if it ever came down to it, he’d get it done.”
In other 5A action, Eagle Point’s Chance McMullen (120) and Ashland’s Zach Adler (182) each lost their morning consolation matches and were eliminated just outside the placing rounds.
TEAM SCORES (Top 10) — Roseburg 366, Sprague 195, Newberg 180, Century 122.5, David Douglas 96.5, Aloha 88.5, West Linn 86, Westview 82.5, Grants Pass 77, North Salem 71.
OTHER LOCAL SCORES — North Medford 69, South Medford 31.
170 — Trajan Hurd, Grants Pass, dec. Terrell West, Jefferson, 5-0.
113 — Brandon Quezada, North Salem, dec. Cole Zoller, North Medford, 5-2.
120 — Tre Blasingame, Beaverton, medical forfeit over Dominic Deitrick, North Medford.
160 — Dane McKinney, Sprague, pinned Jacob Russell, Grants Pass, :43.
220 — Tanner Sorensen, Sprague, dec. Michael Cormier, South Medford, 6-0.
TEAM SCORES (Top 10) — Crater 175.5, Dallas 147.5, Redmond 144, Hermiston 138, Sandy 135, Mountain View 115, Milwaukie 98.5, Lebanon 95, Thurston 81, Hillsboro 73.5.
OTHER LOCAL SCORES — Eagle Point 9, Ashland 8.
145 — Logan Meek, Crater, tech. fall Matthew Lee, Milwaukie, 21-6 (5:40).
106 — Zeth Brower, Crater, dec. Ryan Bibler, Dallas, 4-0.
113 — Cole Siemon, Hillsboro, maj. dec. Hunter Grant, Crater, 11-2.
120 — Hunter Rickman, Sandy, maj. dec. Hunter Hiatt, Crater, 8-0.
132 — Blake Ohlson, Mountain View, pinned Dallas Howard, Crater, 2:37.
152 — Julio Osorio, Ridgeview, dec. Jace Godley, Crater, 10-5.
285 — Enrique Guerra, Hillsboro, sudden victory over Javon Gill, Crater, 4-2.
170 — Colton Beisley, St. Helens, pinned Markus Bennett, Crater, :51.
TEAM SCORES (Top 10) — Sweet Home 181, Crook County 180.5, North Marion 165, Marshfield 157, Baker/Powder Valley 132.5, Tillamook 92.5, Cascade 89, Henley 85, Banks 65, La Grande 63.5.
OTHER LOCAL SCORES — Phoenix 6.
TEAM SCORES (Top 10) — Nyssa 287, Willamina/Falls City 167, Dayton 134, Glide 122, Harrisburg 107.5, La Pine 106.5, Scio 101, Riverside 68, Creswell 65, Cascade Christian 57.5.
OTHER LOCAL SCORES — Rogue River 9.
106 — Ryan Vidlak, Cascade Christian, dec. Micklo Luna, Nyssa, 13-6.
113 — Gabe Vidlak, Cascade Christian, maj. dec. Raul Ruiz, Nyssa, 14-0.
120 — Max Valle, Cascade Christian, maj. dec. Alex Dudley, La Pine, 15-7.
285 — Ruben Villa, Riverside, pinned Gabe Echaide, Rogue River, 4:45.
TEAM SCORES (Top 10) — Culver 202.5, Lowell 150.5, Central Linn 60, Neah-Kah-Nie 46, Crane 38, Gold Beach 37, Enterprise 35.5, Monroe 35, Joseph/Wallowa 33, Grant Union/Prairie City 32.
OTHER LOCAL SCORES — Butte Falls/Prospect 3.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry