there was any doubt the Intermountain Conference is the toughest league in the state as far wrestling is concerned, those doubts were erased over the weekend when three of the four top squads at the 29-team Oregon Classic hailed from the IMC.
   Yes, Crook County was one of them.
   The Cowboys, fresh off a 31-30 nailbiter Wednesday against Redmond, didn't miss a beat as the dual-meet tournament opened Friday.
   Crook County rolled through the field and continued clear into Saturday night's final match, where they came one weight class from knocking off IMC foe Hermiston, falling 33-28.
   The Cowboys finished the Classic with a 4-1 record, moving their dual record for the season to 12-2.
   "After an exciting dual with Redmond on Wednesday, you almost anticipate a little bit of a let down," said CCHS head coach Rob Porter.
   "Instead of that, I think the kids didn't have the emotion as much as they just concentrated on what they had to do to be successful technically, so that was sort of the key that got the ball rolling."
   In the first dual of the tournament, Crook County cruised past Glencoe 49-27. In the dual's opening matchup, CC 171-pounder Evan Hendrix, rated No. 3 in the state, almost knocked off No. 2 ranked Ross Staldeman, but the Cowboys grabbed the upperhand with seven pins and one technical fall to secure the route and advance to round two Friday afternoon against Gresham.
   One of the several highlights against Gresham came when Cowboy 112-pounder Luke Waetjen upset No. 2 ranked Travis Aplet with a 1-0 decision. Josh Meadows aided the cause for Crook County with a huge 12-6 win at 130.
   On Friday night, the Cowboys faced Marshfield and came from behind to win all four of the final matches to claim the 36-25 victory. Austin Shields turned in a 20-5 technical fall for Crook County at 152, while Ben Neasham defeated a highly ranked opponent 9-6.
   "The kids are improving. They're getting better," Porter said. "They're showing they can compete with some of these guys who are recognized in the state, so you have to be pleased with that."
   In the semi-finals, the Cowboys faced off against Redmond for the second time in a week and handed the Panthers a 37-29 defeat.
   Crook County was led bfroma 16-0 technical fall by Neasham, a 6-2 advantage from Waetjen, a key 7-2 win from Trent Lucas at 135, a 13-2 victory at 140 by Curtis Peebles and a 8-2 win for Tony Clure at 145, who ended the Oregon Classic undefeated.
   "Although it's extremely hard to beat a tough team two times in one week, we had confidence going into it and having confidence makes up for a lot," Porter said.
   The win against Redmond sent Crook County to the finals Saturday night against Hermiston.
   The Cowboys won six matches in the dual, but the Bulldogs, who boast three top-ranked wrestlers, edged Crook County with a win at heavyweight, in a dual that was close the entire way. Waetjen (112), York (119), Peebles (140), Clure (145), Hendrix (160) and Paulson (215) each secured wins for Crook County.
   "I think our kids battled and just fought for every single point they could possibly get," Porter said. "They (Hermiston) are the defending champions. They are highly regarded and a lot of people believe that they can win it again. I can see why because they are an outstanding group of guys.
   "What we wanted to do was just to fight with them every step of the way. You almost have to have everything go right to beat a team like that and we probably had about 90 percent of the things go right, which got us close."
   The Cowboys will be in action again tonight when they face the Cougars at Mtn. View. Crook County then faces Pendleton Friday afternoon and Hermiston Saturday.
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