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Whistling while they work

WRESTLING - Referees donate their time to save middle school wrestling tournament
by: David Ball Chuck Lumpkin directs action on one of the mats during last week's middle school district wrestling tournament.

Some guys spend the weekend tinkering under the hood of their car, some may pick up tickets to a Blazers game and others will set up a movie night with their spouse. But when Rex Stratton got the call, he knew exactly how he would spend his two days off - on the center of a wrestling mat with a whistle hanging around his neck.

Saturday marked the second year in a row that Stratton, head of the Portland Wrestling Association, has rounded up a group of area officials to donate their time to call the East County middle school wrestling tournament - an event that the schools would have been unable to afford otherwise.

'It's a great group of officials who understand the big picture,' Stratton said. 'I called them up and the only response I got was 'When do you want me there'.'

So there they were Saturday at David Douglas High School - six referees arriving early in the morning and leaving as the sun began to fade, all so that nearly 150 kids could take their turns wrestling in the biggest event of their season.

Typically, these officials would take in at least $125 apiece for their efforts. Today, they would be walking away with empty pockets - literally. When Mark Max Perez took a quick break from the mat, he could be seen near the scorer's tables handing out candy to the student volunteers, thanking each of them for giving of their time.

'Junior high is a huge foundation for our sport, so we're out here to provide these kids with an opportunity,' Perez said. 'These kids are creating some special memories today.'

Others that volunteered their time as referees were Chuck Lumpkin, Russ Dyche, Brian Schaefer and Larry Stofregon.

'Once you lose a program, you don't get it back,' Stratton said. 'We're just trying to help it hang around until budgets can get back in line.'

Team scores weren't tallied at the tournament, but Alice Ott had a meet-best 11 weight class winners, while Centennial Middle School finished with four champions.