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Cowboys ready defend district title

With a lineup of solid veteran, mixed with several highly touted junior varsity athletes, the Crook County High School wrestling team looks to claim its seventh district championship in as many years
They're hoping to walk off the mat at Hermiston High School with their seventh straight Intermountain Conference district wrestling championship.
   With a lineup of 28 wrestlers -- filled with veteran talent and mixed with several highly touted junior varsity athletes -- members of the CCHS wrestling team will travel to eastern Oregon this weekend as one of the squads to beat during the two-day competition which begins tomorrow.
   Each of the six teams in the district will be represented by two wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes. The top three wrestlers from each weight class will earn a spot at the Class 4A state wrestling championship tournament, held Feb. 22-24 at the Portland Memorial Coliseum.
   CCHS assistant coach Rob Bonner is looking for his team to win this year's tournament, but he also knows the competition will be steep.
   "Hermiston, Pendleton, Redmond and us are the predicted dog fight," Bonner said. "Your goal is always to win. In order to do that the people we've leaned on all year need to wrestle the way they've been and some of the other less likely wrestlers need to step up as well."
   The CCHS wrestling team finished the 2001 IMC dual-meet season with a record of 4-1, with the only setback coming in a 38-21 defeat to Hermiston. While coach Bonner believes having district held at the home mat of the Bulldogs will be a factor, he also indicates the tournament would be tough regardless of its location.
   "Hermiston is a tough team and that's a tough place to wrestle at," he said. "But it was going to be tough no matter where it was held because of the competition."
   The Cowboy lineup features last year's returning district champions senior Mat Wood and sophomore Wes York. Wood will represent the Cowboys in the 135-pound weight class, while York will be competing at 112 pounds.
   At the 103-pound weight class, junior Luke Waetjen, ranked third in the state at 103 pounds, will suit up for the Cowboys, while freshman Wade York will be in that division for Crook County as well.
   Joining Wes York in the 112 bracket for the Cowboys will be freshman Blake Long, while senior J.P. Marsh and junior Josh Meadows will compete in the 119 bracket.
   At 125-pounds, two freshmen will compete on the mat for Crook County as Matt Huff and Ben Omlid will represent the Cowboys.
   At 130 pounds, sophomore Curtis Peebles and freshman Phil Cholin will fill the bracket, while freshman Derek Hendrix will join Wood in competing at 135-pounds.
   In the 140-pound weight class, senior Haydn Reece, the number one wrestler in the state in his division, is favored to win a district championship, while sophomore Jimmy Robertson will be in the 140-pound class as well.
   Senior Mason Stafford is set to comeback from his dislocated elbow injury and compete at 145 pounds, while sophomore transfer Jason Tucker will be also featured in that division.
   At 152-pounds, senior Rollin Ervin will compete in one of the toughest weight classes in the district for the Cowboys. Ervin is ranked third in the state in his class, behind Cyle Hartzell of Redmond and Jeremy Larson of Hermiston.
   "I think Ervin's right where he wants to be," Bonner said. "I think if there is anyone in the lineup who's sitting pretty it's Ervin. He has zero to lose and that's a good position to be in. I'm looking to see good things from him."
   Joining Ervin in the weight class is junior Jason Slaven.
   At 160 pounds, junior Evan Hendrix and sophomore Austin Shields will compete for the Cowboys, while senior Jeff Lowen and junior Jason Wilkinson will compete at 171.
   In another tough IMC weight class, senior Bolt Sheffield, ranked seventh in the state, will gear up to compete against second-ranked Jed Lowe of Hermiston and fifth ranked J.D. Lambert of Pendleton at 189 pounds, while freshman Steven Brock will round out the category for Crook County.
   At 215-pounds, juniors Hoot Paulson and Justin Radabaugh will compete for the Cowboys, while 2A junior transfer Jeremiah Puckett and sophomore Ryan Lowen will compete at 275 pounds.
   The Cowboys will be missing two wrestlers who competed for Crook County this season. Kyle Adamson and Matt Vaughan, both state qualifiers last year, will not be in this year's district meet for various reasons.
   Even though the state tournament is just two weeks away, the Cowboy squad isn't about to look past district.
   "There's really been no talk about state," Bonner said. "We're focused on taking district and we feel we can't look past it.
   "It's definitely going to have to be a team effort. We're taking 28 guys and all 28 are going to have to step up. We can't just rely on the studs this time, we're going to have to rely on a deeper effort from everyone."