Yes, the Madras wrestlers saw foes from other parts of the state in their return to the Oregon Classic during the weekend.
The White Buffalos also saw plenty of ranked 5A teams, but still advanced to the quarterfinals after a year's absence from the event at the Deschutes County Expo Center.
Madras upset No. 7 Corvallis in between losses to No. 1 Crater in the opener and No. 3 Hermiston (rankings according to Oregon Wrestling Forum).
The quarterfinal loss eliminated the Buffs from the trophy round. Then Madras gave itself a present, beating 6A Milwaukie in an exhibition match starting minutes after the loss to Hermiston (the eventual champion).
"Some of the guys weren't happy about going against Milwaukie right after facing Hermiston," Madras coach Paul Brown said. "I told them `we're here to wrestle.' Then they went out, wrestled hard and won. It was great to finish with a win instead of a loss."
The exhibition match was scheduled as the loss to fellow Intermountain Conference team Hermiston was going on (a 61-15 loss).
After trudging over a couple of mats, the Buffs promptly took an 18-0 lead in the match starting at 130 pounds. Pins by Nathan Monroe (130), Ryan Brunner (135) and Rodney Smith (140) gave Madras the quick lead.
Monroe said he was a reluctant lead-off wrestler. He was effective though, also scoring pins against Corvallis and Glencoe in Friday's preliminary action.
"I'd rather be, say, the third guy so I can get myself warmed up and ready watching the other matches," Monroe said. "I was the lead-off guy in middle school, but I really didn't like it."
The early lead against Milwaukie didn't last. The Mustangs went ahead 22-18 before Madras responded with another pinfest starting at 189.
Trevor Barrett, James Rodriguez (215) and Will Wienert (285) all had falls for a 36-22 lead. For Rodriguez, it was his fourth pin of the Classic to go along with a win by decision.
"James is getting in better wrestling shape, so he can wrestle harder and faster," Brown said. "He's also wrestling against an assistant (Shawn Smith), so he's getting an understanding of when to make his moves."
Milwaukie came back though, with a forfeit at 103 and pin at 112 for a 36-34 Buff lead. Then Madras slammed the door.
Robert Rodriguez rallied for a 9-7 victory at 119. He trailed 5-2 after the first period, but used a three-point near fall at the end of the second to take a 7-5 lead.
"That was a really good win for Robert," the Madras coach said. "The other guy came out like gangbusters, but Robert wore him down."
Stephen Scranton followed with a pin in the final seconds of the match. Scranton took a 6-2 lead into the third period of the match; Milwaukie needed a pin to win or technical fall to tie.
Madras opened the Classic with the daunting task of meeting No. 1 Crater (the Classic's eventual fourth-place finisher). The match started 13 hours after losing to Pendleton in an IMC duel Thursday.
The Buffs jumped ahead of Crater 15-6 thanks to pins by Brunner (135) and Smith (145), plus a 9-4 win by Justin Brown at 145. The Comets won four straight to take the lead. A 5-2 victory by Rodriguez and pin by Wienert stopped that streak. Crater closed out the match with four wins for a 49-25 win.
"The score really doesn't show how well we wrestled," the Madras coach said.
The trend continued against No. 7 Corvallis, with Madras taking a quick lead. Monroe and Brunner scored pins, followed by Smith winning 9-7 to put the Buffs up 15-0.
"We surprised them," Brown said. "They didn't expect to be trailing us. It helped us to start out at 130, right in the meat of our lineup."
The Spartans responded with four wins, two by pin. Then Madras put together a trio of pins with Barrett (189), Rodriguez (215) and Wienert (285) to clinch the team victory. For Rodriguez, it was a match with state ranking implications. Rodriguez is ranked second at his weight and Anthony Emmons is seventh.
"That guy was big and I was a little tired," Rodriguez said. "I knew I didn't have a lot of energy, so I tried to pin him in the first period."
Madras won 42-31 as Scranton closed out the match with an 11-7 victory. The team win also clinched second in the Buffs' bracket as Crater went on to beat Corvallis and Pendleton (a change from the original schedule).
Neither Madras nor Pendleton coaches wanted to wrestle each other again, so, the Buffs faced Glencoe in an exhibition match.
Madras jumped ahead 24-3, capped by Brandon O'Brien scoring a second-period pin after giving up a trio of three-point near falls.
"That pin was definitely a surprise, but Brandon is a fighter," the Buff coach said. "He never gives up."
Glencoe followed with a pair of surprising pins at 189 and 285 to start a comeback. It continued with two more pins to clinch the victory, winning 37-33, even after Scranton scored a 7-5 overtime decision.
The next morning, Madras faced Hermiston in the quarterfinals. The defending 5A champs won all but three matches. Rodriguez and Wienert had first-period pins while Scranton scored a 15-11 victory against Brandon Adolf, ranked sixth at 130 but wrestling down a weight.
Minutes later, the Buffs were back on the mat against Milwaukie.
Pendleton duel: Madras opened the IMC season with a 42-36 loss to the visiting Buckaroos on Thursday.
Both teams had seven wins with five pins, but the difference was a pair of forfeits by Madras.
The Buffs countered with pins by Monroe (130), Smith (140), Brown (145), Rodriguez (215) and Wienert (285).
Up next: Madras has another look at Hermiston, this time in the IMC duel. The match starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, due to girls' basketball games against Mountain View (starting with the frosh contest at 3:30 p.m.). The visiting Bulldogs will be coming off an IMC showdown against Crook County, a rematch of the Oregon Classic championship. Hermiston won 37-27.
The Buffs also wrestled at Summit on Tuesday, Jan. 15 (after press time).