The Lake Oswego wrestling team was hoping to take at least three competitors to this weekend's state meet in Salem. Instead, the Lakers' fortunes will rest solely on the shoulders of John Clanton.
Coming into last weekend's district meet, the Lakers figured that Chris Allen (who was seeded fourth at 103 pounds), Kyle Allison (fourth at 135) and Clanton (third at 215) all had a good chance to advance to state.
Allen and Allison both wrestled well while recording fifth-place finishes in their respective weight classes. Plus, Brandon Vance and Ryan Amacher, both unseeded, did better than expected. Vance finished fourth at 112 pounds while Amacher took the same spot in the 285-pound class.
It was Clanton, though, who had the team's best showing with a third-place finish in the relatively strong 215-pound bracket. And he won his final two matches with a broken rib.
Clanton, who is ranked No. 18 in the state at his weight, won three of the four matches he wrestled and two of them came against the same opponent. After starting his tournament off with a bye, Clanton pinned Clackamas' Danny Koontz in 2:46 of their second-round match.
That victory guaranteed that Clanton would at least be a place-winner in his bracket and it also moved him into the semifinals against Putnam's Scott Oleson, who is ranked sixth in the state. Oleson lived up his billing by pinning Clanton in 3:27, but Oleson's chances were helped considerably when Clanton landed awkwardly and suffered a broken rib.
That would have been the end of the tournament for most wrestlers, but Clanton convinced the on-site trainer that he could continue.
'He was in a lot of pain,' Lake Oswego coach Chad Smith said of Clanton's injury. 'Even when he was in the stands he could barely breathe.'
Despite being in a lot of pain, Clanton came back and pinned Oregon City's Casey House in the consolation semifinals. That set up a third-place showdown against Koontz. Clanton was trailing 8-3 in that match but he quickly rebounded and then won the match with a pin on head-and-arm hold.
Clanton uses that move to record most of his pins, Smith said, and his teammates are now calling that move 'The Clampton.'
It was a considerable accomplishment for Clanton, considering the fact that he's only been wrestling for seven weeks. He even got a late start to the season while he waited for a doctor's clearance following a shoulder injury.
'When you have someone who is so green in this sport, it's definitely a surprise that he did that well,' Smith said.
With Clanton's help, the Lakers scored 77 team points, which was good enough for a fifth-place finish in the district meet.
'It was awesome,' Smith said. 'I was more than pleased … Finishing fifth was huge because no one can remember the last time we didn't finish last.'
Cross-town rival Lakeridge, meanwhile, had a much more difficult time. In fact, the Pacers failed to record a single point in the tournament and they wound up in the last-place position the Lakers used to occupy.
By the midpoint of the season, it appeared that Lakeridge's Jeff Hutchens might have a good chance to qualify for state at 152 pounds. But a severely injured back left Hutchens inactive for almost the entire second half of the season.
He managed to return in time for districts, but the injury and the lost training time limited Hutchens' effectiveness. In fact, he was eliminated after losing his first two matches.