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Third-ranked Lions grapplers go 2-3 at Newberg Invitational

It's a good thing that the members of the West Linn wrestling team are already in good shape. They will be grateful of that fact in another week or so, after coach Doug Samarron puts them through one of their most grueling weeks of practice ever.

Samarron wants to make sure his team is ready for next week's brutal schedule, which includes a dual match against Southridge on Thursday and then round-robin matches against Canby, Roseburg and Sprague the following day at the Canby Invitational.

That week will be so tough that Samarron plans to train his kids hard all week this week, even though a league match against Putnam looms on Thursday (tonight).

'I don't want to overlook anyone, but we're going to go full speed through this week. We're going to train right through Putnam,' Samarron said.

The coach decided to step up the pressure a little bit when the Lions stumbled out of the gate at last weekend's Newberg Invitational. The Lions went 2-3 in a string of dual matches that exposed a couple of holes in West Linn's lineup. Samarron also saw a few technical things that need to be worked on before next week's matches.

To help get his kids prepared, Samarron started the new week with a series of sprints across the wrestling practice room.

'They did eight minutes of wall sprints to start Monday's practice,' the coach said. 'It was a real attention-getter.'

West Linn won the Newberg tournament a year ago, so a repeat performance seemed like a real possibility this time around for the third-ranked Lions.

The event got off to a good start when West Linn beat former Three Rivers League rival St. Helens 47-28.

It was an impressive showing considering the fact that Samarron had every wrestler except 103-pound Donald Paulson move up at least one weight.

But the Lions' bubble popped in the next round when they dropped a 36-28 decision to an always-tough Crook County team.

However, the Lions' chances were hampered somewhat when they were forced to go without two of their stalwarts - Jake Helbling and Tim Kim. In addition, nationally-ranked Brandon LaDick was bumped up to 152, 12 pounds above his normal weight, but he won anyway.

The Lions then ended a disappointing opening day of the tournament by losing to host Newberg 41-36. No one can blame senior Gus Bessa for that loss, though. In fact, Bessa beat two opponents in that meet, which is an extremely rare occurrence.

After forfeiting the 140-pound match, which was something Samarron did throughout the weekend, the Lions sent Bessa out to wrestle the 145-pound match.

But the Newberg coach apparently didn't realize West Linn was forfeiting a match, so the Tigers sent their 140-pounder out to wrestle Bessa. And Bessa pinned him.

Then, the Newberg coach complained, saying those two wrestlers should not have competed against each other. So, Samarron suggested that Bessa then wrestle Newberg's 145-pounder. And he pinned him, too, thus registering two pins in approximately 10 minutes' time.

Before the season, not many people around the state knew of Bessa. But his performance over the weekend might have changed that.

'I think a lot of people know about him now,' Samarron said.

Saturday's action started with a difficult 42-29 loss to Thurston, which is ranked No. 5 in the 5A class.

The Colts are not only strong but they also have most of the lineup in place for a run at a state title. West Linn, on the other hand, is shuffling a lot of people around and that made for some difficult matchups last weekend.

Samarron decided to bump up many of his wrestlers an extra weight, mainly so Bessa could be included in the lineup. Bessa wound up winning his match, as did LaDick at 152 and Ryan Krellwitz at 171. But Lane Locked suffered when he was pushed up to 189 and wound up losing to a big, physical kid.

'I wouldn't say (the plan to bump everyone) backfired,' Samarron said. 'It's going to help us in the long run. It's already helped us.'

West Linn finished its weekend by beating Century 33-29. That included a victory by LaDick at 145 and an impressive performance by the 103-pound Paulson, who has shown 'he's a legitimate wrestler,' Samarron said.

Paulson and LaDick both wound up going 5-0 during the weekend. Prescott Garner also won all five of his matches at 130, which is 11 pounds higher than his normal weight. Despite wrestling bigger opponents, Garner still had four pins and a 16-3 major decision.

'He was physically dominant at 130 pounds and he's going to be at 119 (by the end of the season),' the coach said, almost in amazement.

In addition, John Bartlett went 4-1 at 152 and 160. 'Major kudos to him,' Samarron said of Bartlett. 'He's on a good track.'

Locke also went 4-1 while wrestling two weights above his norm.

Despite losing three of five matches over the weekend, Samarron was far from being upset.

'I was pretty satisfied,' he said of his team's start.

He will be a lot more satisfied, though, if the team is on a roll by the time the difficult part of the season comes around, which will start with the Pacific Coast Invitational in Vancouver in three weeks.

'It's all about getting these guys to peak by the end of the season,' Samarron said.