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Connolly runs out of time

The Westview senior twice appears to have the winning takedown but loses 10-9 in title match
by: MILES VANCE, GIVING HIS ALL — Westview senior Sean Connolly fell behind Shaun Nance of Grants Pass 5-0 in the state title match at 130 pounds, then tied the score in the third round before losing 10-9 in Salem on Saturday night.

SALEM - The first-ever Class 6A state wrestling tournament truly had it all, and there was a handful of Metro League wrestlers who nearly won it all at state.

Foremost among those was Westview senior Sean Connolly, who finished second at 130 pounds after losing only to Grants Pass senior Shaun Nance 10-9 in the state championship match. In the process, Connolly led his team to an eighth-place finish in the team standings, the best among Metro League schools. The Wildcats, who also got a third-place effort from Alex Reser and a fourth from Brendan Connolly, finished with 81.5 points.

Roseburg won the team title at 190 points with West Linn second at 171.5 and Redmond third at 170.5. Metro champion Southridge was the next best local finisher in 13th place at 51 points. The state tournament was held Thursday through Saturday at the Pavilion at the Oregon State Fairgrounds.

Connolly, the Metro champion and top-seeded wrestler in the field, opened his tournament with four straight wins, taking out Hood River's Sean Baker 10-6, Oregon City's Shaun Snow by technical fall, Grants Pass' Mike Cowell 12-8 in the quarterfinals and Clackamas' Adam Vinton 9-1 in the semifinals.

But Nance's quick start in Saturday's state championship doomed Connolly's title hopes. Nance broke out of the gates at a dead run, scoring a takedown and a three-point nearfall in the first minute of his match with Connolly, and the Westview senior spent the rest of the match trying to recover from that early 5-0 deficit.

'I kind of screwed up and got caught,' Connolly said. 'I was a little bit surprised, but what can you do?'

Connolly scored an escape late in the first round, then notched two takedowns (offset by three Nance escapes) in the second to close within 8-5. Then, in the third round, Connolly notched a takedown 20 seconds into the period and gave Nance an escape to make it 9-7. Connolly took the Caveman senior down again with 1:16 left to tie the match at 9-9 but Nance escaped with 52 seconds remaining to lead 10-9.

And then things really got interesting. Connolly dropped Nance to the mat twice more with double leg takedowns in the remaining seconds, but each time, Connolly was unable to get around Nance to get the two points which would have won the match.

'I thought I had him but the refs just didn't call it,' Connolly said. 'They just never called it.'

'It was heartbreaking to see him lose like that when it's so close,' Brendan Connolly said of his twin brother. 'My heart goes out to him.'

Despite that loss, the Wildcats were thrilled with their team success at state and their ability to upstage Metro champion Southridge.

'It seems like we don't do good in district against (Southridge), but when it comes to state tournament, we know where we stand,' Brendan Connolly said.

Reser, another senior and Metro champion, made his mark at 152 pounds. After routing Franklin's Coleman Quinn in his opening match, Reser dropped a tough 8-7 decision to second-seeded Alex Ellison of West Salem and had to re-set his sights on third place.

He did that with great success, taking out Roseburg's Ken Kelley by technical fall, Oregon City's David Tkach 6-1, Lincoln's Riley Clingman 8-1 and West Linn's John Bartlett 11-1 to earn a shot for third against Redmond junior Justin Martin.

Once there, Reser made the most of his chance. He raced out to a 5-2 lead after one round, then added an escape, two takedowns and a three-point nearfall in the second to take control before Martin left the match with an injury, trailing 13-4 in the third round.

'That's a great way' to end it, Reser said. 'I had a tough match early in the tournament, but my goal was to place, so I came back, fought every match, tried to win and it turned out really good.

'My original goal was to be state champ, but like I said, I had a tough match and I didn't let that get to me after I lost. I came back and fought really hard and it turned out good. This was my last year so I wanted to go out on a good note and I think I did.'

Brendan Connolly, also top-seeded, battled his way into the third-place match of the 135-pound division. He took out Sam Meacham of Roseburg 6-4 and Gustavo Bessa of West Linn 1-0 on overtime to reach the tournament semifinals, but dropped a 5-4 decision there to eventual state champion Jacob Morris of Oregon City.

Connolly rallied to beat Metro champion Ray Wille of Beaverton 4-3 in overtime to win a spot in the third-place match, then fell to Tigard's Andy Howe 4-2 to finish fourth. Connolly, hampered by an injured left shoulder suffered in the win over Wille, fell behind 3-1 in the second round against Howe, then closed within 3-2 in the third before Howe sealed his victory with an escape in the final minute.

'I'm feeling pretty good, considering I've been sick the last week and just trying to fight back from being sick and do as good as I can in this tournament,' he said. 'But I hurt my shoulder pretty bad. I think I tore a muscle in it and it's been bothering me. But I didn't want to stop the match (against Howe). I wanted to keep on wrestling.'

Other state placewinners for Westview were Eric Perry, seventh at 285, and Geoff Bailey, eighth at 145.