Bucks end Cowboys' reign
Smith, Lucas claim district titles, Crook County takes fourth
For about thirty seconds Saturday night, Drew Guthmiller looked like he had a chance.
After falling behind 2-0, the Pendleton junior scored a one-point escape and pulled within one from Crook County sophomore Ryan Smith in the 125-pound championship match of the Intermountain Conference district tournament in Hood River.
It was as close, however, as he would get.
Smith proved why he's the No. 1 ranked 125-pounder in the state this season with a resounding 8-1 victory.
The district title marks Smith's second in as many years and propels him into the 4A state tournament next weekend in Salem with Crook County's best shot at a state championship.
"I was just worried about getting to state, and there was no pressure on me really once I got into the finals because I knew I was going," Smith said of his final performance.
The rest of the Cowboys had difficulty matching Smith's bravado as overall they struggled to a fourth place finish. Pendleton ruined Crook County's shot at claiming a third straight district title with a dominating 385.5 point win. Redmond came in second with 336 points, Hermiston was third with 283 and the Cowboys finished with 276.
The Buckaroos placed 12 wrestlers in the championship round and finish with six district titles. Overall, they are sending 14 wrestlers to the state tournament.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, finished with two IMC championships, while qualifying eight for state.
Crook County went 1-2 at 152 pounds when Trent Lucas won by injury default over teammate Luke Thompson in the finals. Mike Gast (119) and Chase Raymond (171) wrapped up seconds for the Cowboys, while Shane Rhoden (112), Kelly Puckett (145) and Kevin Cholin (171) each won their third place matches. The top three wrestlers from each weight class advance to the state tournament.
Crook County had difficulty recovering from a rough first day that saw two of their top wrestlers go down and left them without a head coach.
Ben Neasham, last year's state champion at 125 pounds, was unable to regain his postseason form from a year ago and was shut out at 130 pounds. Shane Barden, another state hopeful at 145 pounds, didn't even get a chance to suit up as an injury sidelined him for the entire tournament.
To top it off, coach Mike Shinkle was ejected from the tournament Friday after protesting a call during Puckett's 145-pound quarterfinal match. Assistant coach Rob Bonner filled in in his place.
The Cowboys came home without a district championship for only the second time in the previous 12 years.
Their remaining eight will return to competition Thursday at the Pavilion at the State Fairgrounds in Salem. The three-day event is expected to conclude with championship matches starting at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
"Now the real work begins," said Smith. "It's a new season."