Cowboys ready to make run at state title
With 10 wrestlers at state, six less than Crater, the majority of the Cowboys will have to compete their way to the later rounds of teh championship tournamentIt's expected to be an uphill battle, but the Cowboys are used to it.
Every year, the team suffers from being in one of the toughest districts in the state, resulting in the CCHS wrestling team qualifying fewer wrestlers to state than several other teams. This year is no exception.
At the Class 4A state wrestling tournament which kicked off this morning, the Cowboys will need the majority of their wrestlers to go far in the championship brackets in order to contend for a trophy, given out to teams which place fourth or better.
But judging by the quality of wrestlers in this year's group, CCHS assistant coach Rob Bonner feels his team has the talent to contend.
"In the past, we've had a lot of fourth place finishes," Bonner explained. "It's nothing to gripe about, but we're looking to place somewhere above that, so third or better."
While the Cowboys bring 10 wrestlers to state, they're not the only team bringing competitors in the double-digits.
Crater is believed to be bringing the most in the state with 16, while Eagle Point and West Linn aren't far behind with 13.
Bonner pointed out that taking 10 wrestlers from a difficult league is quite an accomplishment and feels it's not out of the question for his team to get past some of the schools who are bringing more competitors.
"Everyone one of our guys will have to place well, but it's definitely something that very realistically could happen," he added. "Taking 16, that's hard to beat, but not impossible."
As of Wednesday, four CCHS wrestlers were scheduled for byes in the first round. Byes are usually deemed as a disadvantage because no points are earned for matches wrestlers don't compete in. Wes York at 112, Mason Stafford at 145, Evan Hendrix at 160 and Hoot Paulson at 215 will all take the fist round off and automatically advance to the second round.
At 103 pounds, Luke Waetjen, ranked third in the state in his weight class, will face Casey Krull of Thurston. Krull is ranked 14th at 103 pounds. The number one wrestler in the state at 103 is Joel Harris of West Linn. If both Waetjen and Harris advance to the finals, because they are on opposite ends of the bracket, the two wrestlers will face each other. Waetjen has faced Harris twice this year and was just edged out by five points or fewer each time.
"Luke's real excited at the possibility to get another shot at him," Bonner said. "Luke's proven he can escape on him (Harris), but he needs to keep the pace of the match high."
While Bonner said it's exciting to look at the possibilities in each bracket, it's never a good idea to look past an opponent.
"What you have to do is wrestle every match like it's the state championship," Bonner said. "We are telling the guys not to overlook anybody, especially at the state level or you're done."
After his bye in the 112 bracket, York continues on in the same side of the bracket where No. 1 ranked 112-pound wrestler Eric Stevenson of Newberg is seeded. If York advances after the second round and Stevenson advances as well, the two opponents will face each other in the quarterfinals.
"Wes is someone who could definitely surprise some people," Bonner explained.
At 135 pounds, Mat Wood faces a wrestler from McMinnville High School. Wood is ranked fifth in the state in his weight class.
"He's wrestled really tough and he's coming in with a couple of weeks' rest." Bonner said. "He knows he right up there with the best of the state and he's looking forward to proving it."
At the 140-pound weight class, Haydn Reece will face John Gallo of Eagle Point in the first round. Reece is on the opposite side of the bracket as Hermiston's Orlando Perez. Reece fell to Perez by one point in the district finals. If both wrestlers advance to the finals at state, they will face each other.
"That's definitely what we're counting on," Bonner noted. "He knows he can't overlook anybody, but I know for a fact he wants another chance at Perez."
After his bye at 145-pounds, Stafford could face No. 1 rated Shawn Siefke of Oregon City in the second round.
"He has that injured elbow, but it's healing and to get someone like that his first match I think it's great," Bonner said of Stafford. "If he upsets someone like that then hopefully he will be sailing on into the finals. If anyone can do it, it's that kid."
At 152-pounds, Rollin Ervin, ranked third in the state in his weight class, will face Darek Smith of Eagle Point. The first and second rated wrestlers are also in this year's state tournament and both competitors are from the Intermountain Conference, Redmond's Cyle Hartzell and Hermiston's Jeremy Larson.
"It's good to know what you're up against," Bonner said.
After his bye at 160, Hendrix could face No. 2 seeded wrestler James Munk of Hood River. Hendrix faces the winner of Munk and Chris Hendry of Oregon City.
Even though this is Hendrix's first trip to state, Bonner doesn't think it'll phase him.
"He was so focused at district that I don't think state's going to bother him a bit," Bonner explained.
At 171 pounds, Jeff Lowen, ranked ninth in the state, will face of against Eddie Rippee of South Eugene, ranked fifth.
"He's been working hard on some things and I'm really happy to see where he's at right now," Bonner said.
At 189 pounds, Bolt Sheffield will face off against Antonio Griado of Southridge. If Sheffield advances, he could face Byron Woods of North Salem, ranked first in the state in his weight class.
"We have a great deal of confidence in the condition Bolt's in," Bonner said. "He gets better and better every week."
After his Bye at 215, Paulson will face the winner of the matchup between Brian Burleigh of Reynolds or Chase Sramek of West Linn.
"What a surprise he's been," Bonner said of Paulson. "If he does what he did at district, he could have a wonderful tournament.
Up to the minute results are expected to be posted on the OSAA website. The site is available through the Central Oregonian home page under sports links. The address for the site is www.centraloregonian.com. In addition, the sports section of the Central Oregonian website will post a summary of results by Friday afternoon for the first day and a half of the tournament.