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McSwain, Warrior wrestling battles back at state meet

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha senior Joe Kovachevich won two matches at the 6A state tournament for the Warriors. Kovachevich finished the season with more than 30 wins.

One could look far and wide, but there isn’t a top-seeded wrestler who admittedly desires to compete in the 6A consolation bracket.

The consolation bracket is sometimes just as desolate as it sounds. It’s where the fallen, the luckless, the injured or ill-fated end up on Saturday after one match goes wrong at the most inopportune moment. The Memorial Coliseum masses aren’t as big or focused on the matches as they were in the winner’s bracket. The buzz isn’t the same as it would’ve been for the Saturday night title bouts.

However, there can only be 14 state champions, one for each weight classes. The remaining bulk of grapplers have to make a decision similar to what Aloha’s Maurice McSwain chewed over on Saturday afternoon, with a blue t-shirt covering his face, sitting far away from the din of the Coliseum crowd, underneath the stadium.

Dejected after getting pinned letting a lead peel away from him in the second round of the 170-pound 6A state semifinal bout with Oregon City’s Tanner Fischer, the Aloha senior could’ve mailed in the consolation matches and still gone home a district champion with a decorated career.

But, McSwain chose to compete. To represent his school and Aloha community. He wanted to win for his Warrior teammates, the coaches who poured so much time and effort into his progression as an Aloha grappler over the years.

Battling back through the left side of the 170-pound bracket, McSwain knocked off Thurston’s Brandon Morgan with a third period escape to advance to the third place contest. Then, the fourth-ranked McSwain outlasted Crater’s Cavin Gillespie, 5-4, to take third place overall on Saturday— the highest finish of any state-competing Warrior.

“This is my last year, so I wanted it a lot,” said McSwain. “When you’re in the consolations it’s about who wants it more, who wants to be there more. I wasn’t going to let myself down, my team down.”

Taking on Fischer—the top seed in the 170-pound bracket— McSwain said he let the Pioneer senior get on top of him, after getting an early lead. Fischer caught McSwain out of position one time in the second round and it cost the Aloha senior a fall and a chance to advance to the championship match.

Yet, McSwain came back to the mat about an hour later, after talking with his dad, Tige, underneath Memorial Coliseum, regrouped, and got his head straight for a consolation match with Thurston’s Brandon Morgan.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha senior 170-pound Maurice McSwain shook off a semifinal loss at the 6A state tourney to place third overall on Saturday.

“It was pretty frustrating,” said McSwain. “I feel like I let my coaches and teammates down, but I wanted to get back to that third place. I’m just glad it worked out. All this hard work, even though it wasn’t for first, didn’t go to waste.”

McSwain said he knew Morgan was gunning for a single-leg takedown in the third period. So the Warrior grabbed the Colts’ hands, waited for Morgan to drop down and spun away for the deciding escape and 1-0 victory.

“Throughout the three rounds I felt pretty energized,” said McSwain. “I just waited for the right time at the end to make my move and fortunately it turned out well for me.”

McSwain tore through the 170-pound bracket at the Special District One championships in Forest Grove, taking first place overall and garnering Wrestler of the Meet honors. Taking third at state, after pushing away the bitter disappointment of losing to Fischer was the cherry on top of a wildly successful Warrior career.

“This year has been a blessing,” said McSwain. “Everything I do in the practice room goes back to my coaches and teammates. I worked hard and the results showed through this tournament. We didn’t have guys that quit on the mat. We had guys that took those last 10-15 second shots that most guys would just give up on. We have a lot of heart on this team.”

A year after going two-and-out at the state tourney, Aloha 182-pound senior Joe Kovachevich won a pair matches, one in the first round and the other in the consolation on Saturday.

“It’s really exciting,” said Kovachevich. “There’s a lot of great wrestlers here, a lot of guys that I’ve looked up to since I was younger that were even my age. Being in the same rooms as them is kind of cool. It’s been really fun and I’m just really to have had this opportunity.”

Kovachevich beat Newberg’s Devin Russo in the first round to set up a showdown with No. 1 seed Max Hane from Roseburg. Hane won by technical fall and eventually claimed the state crown. The Warrior senior never conceited defeat to Hane, but said his ambition was to reach Saturday and see if he could claim a spot on the medal stand. Aloha was the Metro League’s second highest finisher with 37 points.

“I knew it was going to be a tough one,” said Kovachevich. “I was looking to see if I could win that if I could, but if not, continue on to the second day. That was initial goal and I did it.”

As part of Aloha’s “Death Row” of talented, heavier weights, Kovachevich won more matches this year than the last two years combined, going 32-13 in his Warrior curtain call.

“I’m really happy to have been able to do that,” said Kovachevich. “I have some of the best coaches in the state. Coach Kearsley and his assistants are just such a pleasure to work with. I love those guys. Everything I’ve done I attribute to them. They’re the best.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha 285-pound senior Cortez Rodelo took fifth at the 6A state championships on Saturday.

Ranked second in the 285-pound bracket, Aloha’s Cortez Rodelo had his sights set on a state championship or at the very least a state title match. Those plans changed when Rodelo couldn’t get past Centennial’s Michael McGuire in the semifinals, dropping a 9-6, six-minute decision. McGuire notched a takedown 10 seconds into the first round, which Rodelo said put him behind the eight ball early.

“I pulled a stupid move and that kind of set the tone for the whole match,” said Rodelo. “It didn’t really mess me up mentally. I knew I had to get back and get after it. I just didn’t execute or wrestle as well as I wanted to.”

Yet, Rodelo answered with two takedowns of his own to go up 4-3. The first takedown Rodelo simply shoved McGuire to the ground with two hands and flopped on the Eagle for the early advantage.

“I’ve been doing that a lot this season,” said Rodelo. “But, I learned later on that wasn’t going to work.”

Rodelo recorded an escape in the third round to tie the match 5-5, but McGuire’s third takedown with 55 seconds to go essentially sealed Rodelo’s fortune.

The Warrior sophomore, who was also in the semis last year as a freshman, finished fifth overall after beating Clackamas’ Jack Jett in the consolation bracket. Ryan Schwartz and Luis Torres, both 152 pounds, and Cason Wight also competed at state for the Warriors.

“It was good to get here again,” said Rodelo. “I’d like to be here all four years. I wanted a different outcome out of myself, but I have two more years to go and get a state championship.”




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