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District crown goes to Cowboys

For the seventh straight year, the CCHS wrestling team took down the IMC district championship
It was a good day for the Cowboys Saturday, but then again, for the past six years on the final day of the IMC district championship wrestling meet, they're used to having good days.
   The CCHS wrestling team took down its seventh straight Intermountain Conference crown over the weekend in Hermiston. At the two-day competition, 26 of the 28 Crook County wrestlers placed, with 10 advancing to the Class 4A state meet held Feb. 22-24 at the Portland Memorial Coliseum.
   Four individual champions were also crowned for the Cowboys, as the Crook County squad edged out Hermiston by a score of 374-349.
   "It's a great accomplishment," said CCHS assistant coach Rob Bonner. "We're happy sending 10 to state. We're definitely looking forward to it."
   After the first day of competition, the Cowboys held a slight 179-167 lead on the Bulldogs, with 26 of their 28 wrestlers still alive in the tournament.
   "After the first day, we didn't feel like we could've done a whole better," Bonner explained. "We won when we thought we could and we won a couple of times when we didn't know if we could have. It was awesome to see them peaking at the right time."
   Luke Waetjen cruised past the field in the 103-pound weight class and secured a district championship by pinning Remdond's Travis Ralls in 1:19. After a bye in the first round, Waetjen recorded two pins and a technical fall during his district reign.
   "He couldn't do much better," Bonner said. "He's very focused and knows where he needs to be and that's in the state finals.
   At 135-pounds, Mat Wood brought home a district championship with a 15-1 major decision over Redmond's Reed Rodgers.
   "He never got pushed," Bonner said. "He just gets stronger as the weeks go on."
   Evan Hendrix recorded an 18-3 technical fall over Bend's Jared Haller to claim the district championship at 160-pounds. In his second and third matches, Hendrix posted two pins in a combined time of less than three minutes.
   "He was focused," Bonner explained."He knew what he had to do and it was a pleasure to watch him do it."
   At 171 pounds, Jeff Lowen secured a 4-3 victory over Hermiston Andrew Reed, resulting in a district championship.
   "He stayed on top and rode him pretty well," Bonner said of Lowen's matchup with Reed. "We're looking forward to seeing what he can do at state."
   In addition to the four district champions, Wes York, who placed second at 112, will represent the Cowboys at state, as will Mason Stafford at 145 pounds (second place), Rollin Ervin at 152 pounds (third place) and Bolt Sheffield at 189 pounds (third place).
   The final two state spots belong to 140-pound Haydn Reece, and 215-pound Hoot Paulson. Reece, who is the No. 1 rated wrestler in his weight class, dropped his first match of the year to a Class 4A opponent Saturday, barely getting edged out against Hermiston's Orlando Perez 11-10 to place second.
   "Haydn is the type of kid who learns from that type of thing. I'm not at all worried about him at state," Bonner said.
   Paulson earned his spot to state by pinning Willie Koskela of Pendleton in the semi-finals. Koskela upset the No. 2 seed Mike Martin of Redmond a round earlier. In the finals, Paulson fell to Bend's Rob Sauter to place second. Sauter is ranked first in the state at the 215 weight class.
   "To see Hoot come in and do what he did was amazing," Bonner said. "To come in and to put in three pins just helped him tremendously. It was definitely a highlight."
   While the Cowboys were lead by the four state champions and the additional six who are headed to state, a championship could have only been won with a team effort.
   Coach Bonner said the fact that 26 of 28 Cowboys placed, shows pretty good depth.
   Three other wrestlers just missed spots to state. Jason Slaven (152), Austin Sheilds (160) and Jeremiah Puckett (275) all placed fourth in their weight classes.
   Other CCHS wreslters who placed were: Wade York at 103 pounds (sixth); Blake Long at 112 pounds (seventh); J.P. Marsh (fifth) and Josh Meadows (seventh) at 119 pounds; Matt Huff (fifth) and Ben Omlid (Sixth) at 125 pounds; Curtis Peebles (fifth) and Phil Cholin (seventh) at the 130 weight class; Derek Hendrix (seventh) at 135; Jason Tucker (eighth) at 145 Jason Wilkinson (sixth) at 171; Steven Brock (seventh) at 189; and Ryan Lowen at 275 (eighth).
   With 10 wrestlers headed to state, the Cowboys may not have the quantity of some of the other schools, but as far as quality goes, they're filled with it.
   "If you have teams with 18 or 19 wrestlers at state, the majority of them have to go two and out," Bonner said. "And the majority of our wrestlers have to make it to the finals and with the quality of wrestlers we have, it could happen."