Cowboys headlock competition
Crook County takes first at 2004 Northwest Duals with a 7-1 performance
PORTLAND - After back-to-back road losses to Pendleton and Hermiston earlier in the season, it would have been easy for this year's Crook County wrestling team to fold up and lose confidence.
When Mount Spokane (Wash.) knocked off a previously undefeated Cowboy squad 39-27 in their sixth match of the 2004 Northwest Duals at Westview High School Thursday - setting up a rematch with Hermiston - such behavior could be almost assumed.
Crook County, however, showed its mettle and its character by rebounding for a first place finish at the 16-team event. The Cowboys edged the Bulldogs 33-31, then enacted revenge over Mt. Spokane in the championship match 37-25.
"That's a test of their character," said coach Mike Shinkle. "Mentally our kids could have shut down there, but they didn't. They rebounded and kept their heads high. That shows a lot of pride for their school and for themselves."
Crook County blew by its first five opponents of the tournament with a combined score of 307-61
Wednesday the Cowboys made easy work of Seaside, John F. Kennedy, Liberty and Glencoe, then started off the second day with a 57-15 defeat of host Westview.
Mt. Spokane seemed to have Crook County's number in the second match of the day and the loss set up a rematch with Intermountain Conference rival Hermiston. The Bulldogs narrowly edged the Cowboys 35-34 on Dec. 22, handing them their second conference loss of the season.
Thursday, Crook County displayed more favorable results. Shinkle pointed to the Mount Spokane loss as a factor in their turnaround.
"That was the turning point," he said. "We turned that loss into a positive. We knew that if we wrestled better against Hermiston we could win."
With a juggled lineup, and also momentum on their side, Crook County reversed their fortune against Mount Spokane in the second meeting of the day between the two teams.
Trent Lucas moved up a weight class to 160 and recorded a technical fall for the Cowboys while Brad Brock (103), Shane Rhoden (112), Ryan Smith (125) and Chase Lewis (135) added pins.
"It's tough to beat us twice in one day," said Shinkle. "The kids did a really good job of stepping up."
Lucas, Rhoden, Smith and Brock each finished the event a perfect 8-0.
Ben Neasham, last year's state champion at 125 was not present at the meet and as of now has quit the wrestling team.
Shinkle cited burnout as a possible reason for Neasham's departure.
"When you are at the top everyon's gunning for you. It's a lot of pressure both mentally and physically," he said. "It hurts to lose Ben but my thoughts are with him."
Crook County travels to Bend on Wednesday then continues tournament play this weekend with the Oregon Classic in Redmond.
Bend, Redmond, Pendleton and Hermiston are among the IMC teams scheduled to appear at the 29-team event.