PORTLAND — State wrestling tournaments typically bring about shocking moments, but the highs and lows experienced during Friday’s first day at the Memorial Coliseum were pretty big for the Southern Oregon contingent.
While the morning session involving the Class 6A and 3A schools went largely as expected, the evening session was a roller coaster of emotions — especially at the Class 5A level where Crater, Eagle Point and Ashland seemingly had to buckle up just to get through it.
Crater saw its run toward a potential fourth straight top-two finish take a hit with tournament disqualifications for 138-pound freshman Colby Meek and 182-pound senior Tony Flores in the quarterfinals, while freshman Joseph Jordahl and sophomore Kellen Kerrigan conjured up stunning wins to join seniors Hunter Hiatt and Nathan Santoni in today’s semifinal round.
Senior Tanner Ulrey, a No. 2 seed at 120, was upset 3-2 in the quarterfinals but won his ensuing consolation match.
The Comets, who were as high as second place before point deductions for Meek and Flores, managed to advance nine wrestlers to Day 2. Crater stands tied for fourth with Crescent Valley in the team race at 74 points, trailing Crook County (94), Dallas (90.5) and Thurston (75).
“We had some highs and lows,” said Crater head coach Greg Haga. “I have a freshman (Jordahl) that pins the No. 2 seed (at 195 pounds), I have my 132-pounder (Kerrigan) that beats two guys that beat him in the last week of the season and he’s in the semis, and then I have whatever happened at (138) and (182). I had to walk away thinking, ‘What is going on?’”
“I have some great wrestling on one side and then some wrestling on the other that we just lost focus,” he added. “I guess that’s part of high school wrestling in a sense. I can’t explain one of it, but the other part I can explain because they’re working hard and they’re doing the job they’re supposed to do.”
In a rematch of the Midwestern League championship match, Meek and Thurston sophomore Manuel Monroy were waging a physical back-and-forth battle that had Monroy up 9-7 with 90 seconds remaining.
That’s when Monroy was working on another takedown and paused, with Meek seemingly scoring a reversal to tie the match as Monroy remained crumpled on the mat. During the delay, mat officials convened and determined that Meek had committed a flagrant misconduct foul to Monroy’s groin prior to the reversal and the No. 7 seed was disqualified.
In Flores’ match, the No. 4 seed trailed 6-0 to fifth-seeded Jared Coxen of Dallas with 29 seconds left in the second period when he lunged for a takedown and butted heads with Coxen. A similar second lunge as Flores was flying in for a takedown near the edge of the mat led him to be tagged with his own flagrant misconduct and disqualification for leading with his head.
“If they call it I guess it is, it doesn’t really matter what I think if it was or wasn’t,” said Haga. “That’s the whole deal of everything, it doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what the official calls, and that’s what they called. I’m still kind of dumbfounded on what happened.”
Besides being docked team points, the Comets lost any points the duo — who were pegged to finish as state placers — may have earned moving forward on an otherwise solid showing overall.
“We’re still going to wrestle hard, that’s what we came to do, wrestle hard and do the best we can,” said Haga. “That’s not atypical of a Crater guy doing that.”
“Our young kids are doing a great job for us like I thought they would,” he added, “and that kind of puts a little bit of a cloud on it, but we’re going to have to suck it up and wrestle hard anyway. We’ll just stay positive and work harder.”
Ashland senior Trevor Fulton experienced nothing but positives in his return to the state tourney, shocking even himself as he reached the semifinals at 182 with a 12-8 upset of No. 2 seed Joseph Blisseck of Lebanon.
“Right now I’m just so excited, I’m on top of the world,” said Fulton, who was one win from placing last year and now is guaranteed a spot on the podium. “I never expected this to happen. I lost to that guy at state last year and it just feels so good to come back and beat him. I’m just so happy.”
For Eagle Point, the results proved joyous for senior Trigger Weyers (106) and Freddy Barajas (113), who each advanced to the semis, but the Eagles couldn’t pull any others into the championship bracket with them.
Kerrigan’s 24-14 major decision in a wild win over senior Bradey Thrash (132) denied one of EP’s top threats, while senior Josh Sitzer trailed only 6-4 in his quarterfinal match before putting himself in danger and getting pinned in 4 minutes, 29 seconds by Pendleton’s Aiden Patterson in another tough loss at 170.
“Trigger had a great match, he ended it real fast (in 35 seconds),” said EP head coach Kacey McNulty. “He caught the kid in a cradle and was able to lock it up for a pin. Freddy looked like a little bit of anxiety got to him but he pushed through. He has that experience and he is just resilient.”
The Eagles, who have four wrestlers still in action overall, stand ninth in the 5A race with 47 points.
North Medford senior Andres Ramirez (145) and juniors Enrique Jaime (120) and Cole Zoller (138) paved the way for the local contingent at the 6A level by reaching today’s semifinals.
“Cole and Andres looked really good today; they didn’t have anything really close today,” said North Medford interim head coach Jimmy Ulrey. “Enrique had a couple close ones early on but he figured it out in the quarterfinals and he’s looking pretty good too.”
It will be the first state semifinal for Ramirez and Zoller, while Jaime makes a repeat appearance after his only loss of last year’s state tournament came in the semifinal round to senior teammate Chase Mitchell, who went on to lose in overtime in the state final.
Ramirez, who finished third at 152 last year, opened with a 19-4 technical fall before using pins in 3:04 over McMinnville’s Andre Mushombe and 5:34 over Ethan Edgerly to reach the semis.
Zoller finished one win from the placing rounds last year but mowed through his opposition Friday, using pins in 1:40 over Aloha’s Jaime Lemus and 5:08 over Johnny Ryan of Clackamas to secure his spot in the championship bracket.
Jaime, who placed third last year at 113, scored close decisions over Century’s William Musser, 7-4, and Aloha’s Justin Fisher, 6-3, before pinning West Linn’s Kaden Goff in 1:28 in the quarterfinals.
All but one of North Medford’s 10 state qualifiers tallied at least one point, but not being able to get more wrestlers into the semifinal round may prove costly for a Black Tornado bunch that was hoping to secure its third state trophy (top-four finish) in five years.
Five-time defending champion Roseburg took the early 6A lead with 179 points, followed by Newberg (157), Sprague (115.5), Mountain View (96), West Linn (83) and North Medford (76.5).
“Fourth place is still a for-sure chance and even third if we can push those guys into the finals and the other guys come back to place third,” said Ulrey. “It’s obviously a further stretch now than what I was planning for the tournament but we can still do it.”
The toughest loss of the day for North Medford may have come at 220, where second-seeded senior Jullian Stone was bounced from the championship bracket with a 4-3 setback in the quarterfinals to Sherwood sophomore Bryan Cuthbertson. Stone placed third at state last year at 220.
“Obviously Jullian was a guy we were looking for to reach the semifinals coming in and that was kind of a heartbreaker,” said Ulrey.
Stone was in a front headlock position and slipped off when Cuthbertson grabbed his leg, allowing his opponent to slip around for a reversal with 30 seconds to go in their match. Stone was then unable to recover to potentially tie and send the match into overtime.
Stone later regrouped to remain in contention for the placing rounds, winning 6-3 over Sprague’s Jacob Luna, to join sophomore Alex Silva (106), junior Ethan Miller (152) and senior Thomas Hamilton (160) in today’s consolation bracket.
Miller, whose path was started when he received a forfeit from No. 4 seed Jackson Rosado of Aloha, and Hamilton each were also ousted from the championship bracket in the quarterfinal round.
South Medford saw only one of its three qualifiers advance to Day 2, with freshman Brayden Ostvik (113) winning one match before getting pinned by Sprague’s Aaron Joklur in the second round. Ostvik responded with three straight wins — two by first-round fall — to retain his hopes of finishing as a state placer.
In 4A action, Phoenix advanced five of its eight wrestlers to the quarterfinal round but came out with only two semifinalists in seniors Jacky Hawkins (138) and Elijah Santana (160). The Pirates, who have five wrestlers remaining, stand eighth in the team race with 42 points. Tillamook (130) and Sweet Home (121) lead the pack.
At the 3A level, Cascade Christian went a perfect 2-for-2 Friday, with junior Gabe Vidlak (120) and sophomore Cody Havniear (132) each advancing to today’s semifinals.
Vidlak, who earned the Challengers’ first-ever state championship at 113 last year, didn’t have much work to do in order to reach his third straight semifinals. He received a first-round bye and then pinned Kevin Peasley of Burns in 2:41.
Havniear, who placed sixth last year at 120, was steady in both his matches, using a pin in 3:02 over Spyre Nelson of Willamina/Falls City and pin of Harrisburg’s Riley Suttles in 6:07 to maintain his championship hopes.
In 2A/1A, Rogue River’s Dyllan Houser (182) and Gabriel Tambellini (220) advanced to the semifinal round.
The first sanctioned girls wrestling tournament begins today with morning semifinals featuring North Medford senior Kyleigh Lopez and Phoenix junior Emma Truex.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry