If you arrived late for the Lake Oswego versus Putnam wrestling match last Thursday you risked the possibility of missing the entire event. But those who got there on time managed to see some exciting action.

Both teams were competing shorthanded, so just five matches were contested instead of the usual 14. But Lake Oswego coach Chad Smith wasn't complaining too much afterward, especially since his team wound up with a 36-33 victory.

It was first dual-meet victory of the year for the Lakers and just their third win over the last two seasons.

It's no secret that Lake Oswego has struggled mightily in wrestling over the last few years and Putnam has experienced its share of trouble this season as well. So, Thursday's meet probably didn't capture the attention of too many people outside of the Three Rivers League.

But, from Smith's perspective, it was a monumental performance by his troops.

'That was such an awesome match to win,' said Smith, who welcomed only 16 wrestlers to the beginning of preseason training.

With such a low turnout, which included the loss of the team's top two wrestlers, some people around the league were wondering if the Lakers would win any matches this season. But Smith prides himself on never giving up and that winning spirit is beginning to rub off on his athletes.

'The kids want to get better and they've gotten better each day,' the coach said. 'Numbers don't dictate how good your program is as long as the kids you have are dedicated.'

Of the five matches that were contested last Thursday, the Lakers won three of them.

The action started off with Lake Oswego's David Shin winning a 4-2 decision at 125 pounds. Then, after a pair of tough losses by Nathan Kozloski (at 135) and Dakota Hulsey (at 140), the Lakers bounced back with a must-have victory by Max D'Anniable at 152 pounds.

Smith called D'Anniable's third-round pin the most exciting match of the night. That was partly because D'Anniable's opponent put up a strong fight and the Lake Oswego grappler could only muster a 4-2 lead by the time he registered his pin.

The outcome of the meet was still up for grabs when Lake Oswego's Khahsi Jafari took the mat for the 215-pound match. That match was close, too, but Jafari claimed a 4-1 decision, thanks a second-round reversal. He then held his opponent down for the entire third round.

'He wrestled a great match,' Smith said of Jafari's showing.

The Lakers' victory then led to some inspired efforts in the practices that followed.

'The great thing is they came back and wrestled hard in practice the next day,' Smith said.

The team members then decided on their own to get together for a team run on Sunday. That kind of dedication was almost unheard of in previous seasons.

'I think that's pretty amazing of these young men,' the coach said.

The Lakers might come back down to earth a bit when they run into a couple of the league's stronger teams later this month. But Smith isn't worried about the morale of this team.

'I don't think they can get down,' the coach said.

The Lakeridge wrestling team, meanwhile, had a strong showing at last weekend's tournament at Hood River.

Tyrell Fortune, who is the nation's top-ranked 215-pounder, turned in the most impressive performance of the day when he needed just a minute to pin Hood River's Joe Johnson, who was ranked No. 2 in the state at that weight.

'It was kind of the anticipated match of the whole tournament,' Lakeridge coach Bret Stamper said. 'But Tyrell just ran (Johnson) over. He tossed him around like a rag doll.'

The victory improved Fortune's season record to 11-0, but it was his first match of the year at 215 pounds. His other matches were contested at 285 pounds. But now that he's down to 215 pounds, it will make room for Tyrell's brother, Tyree, to wrestle full-time at heavyweight.

Meanwhile, Lakeridge's Carter Cohn also had a strong showing at the Hood River tournament. He claimed second place in the 112-pound bracket.

'He wrestled really well,' Stamper said of Cohn.

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