Forest Grove crowns two district champions and qualifies six wrestlers for the Class 6A tourney
Saturday was a record-setting day for the Forest Grove wrestling program.
Not only did the Vikings qualify six wrestlers for the upcoming Class 6A state tournament - the most in head coach Frank Johnson's 10-year tenure - but the team also watched a superb individual performance from one of its members, as senior Kyle Vanderkin became the fourth Forest Grove wrestler in history to win three consecutive district championships, joining Viking greats Brian Jackson, Craig Otto and Josh Johnson.
'The biggest news for sure is Kyle's accomplishment,' a jubilant Frank Johnson said Saturday after Vanderkin beat Hillsboro's John Morin in the 160-pound championship match at the Special District 1 regional wrestling tournament at Liberty High School.
'Actually, getting six to state is a pretty good deal as well.'
It was a pretty good deal all around for the Vikings, with senior Jake Bennett winning his second consecutive district championship and four other wrestlers qualifying for this weekend's state tournament. Joe Rodriguez finished second at 113 pounds, Ivan Mojica finished third at 120, Joey Guerra took fourth at 113 and Jeremy Sullivan was fourth at 220.
Vanderkin was his usual dominant self over the weekend, cruising through the 160-pound bracket with two pins and a major decision before beating Morin 5-2 in the finals. It was Vanderkin's third straight district title after winning at 152 pounds in 2010 and 171 pounds last year.
'Kyle is finishing strong,' Johnson said. 'He now has 39 wins with 21 pins to his credit and is entering the state tournament with the intention of settling for nothing less than a state title.'
Bennett will also be gunning for a state title this weekend in Portland. The senior was both district and state champion at 160 pounds last season, and he stormed to a 170-pound district title last weekend with four straight pins, culminating with a takedown of Glencoe's Michael Schrader just one minute, 18 seconds into the title bout.
'Jake is definitely on a roll,' Johnson said. 'There is no question that he's the guy to beat next week. You never know what will happen on the big stage, but for Jake not to come home with another title, it would have to be something unexpected.'
Elsewhere, Joe Rodriguez nearly wrestled his way to a district championship before losing out to Hillsboro's Dauki Wilburn in the 113-pound finals. The score was tied 2-2 in the third round when Wilburn caught Rodriguez in a scramble and put him in a headlock to score a takedown and two nearfall points, giving Wilburn a 7-2 victory.
'It was a bummer for Joe,' Johnson said. 'He wrestled very well and he has been having great practice sessions. Joe is really coming on right now. Even though he is on the tougher side of the bracket at state, I think he will do well.'
Joey Guerra wrestled back from the consolation bracket to earn a dramatic fourth-place finish at 113 pounds. Needing a victory to advance and challenge for fourth place, Guerra trailed Jake Peck of Century 12-9 late in the third period, but earned a stunning victory when, with five seconds left in the match, he turned Peck for a two-point reversal, then held him on his back for two nearfall points and a 13-12 comeback win.
That earned Guerra a chance to wrestle Sunset's Luke Batten for fourth place because Guerra had beaten him earlier in the tournament. In another exciting performance, Guerra came from behind after trailing for most of the match and beat Batten in the final seconds to earn his first-ever state berth.
'It was nerve-wracking for parents and Forest Grove fans to watch Joey wrestle this weekend,' Johnson said. 'He pulled off some very close matches and earned a trip to the state tournament. He also has a chance to build a great memory.'
Ivan Mojica earned a state berth by placing third at 120 pounds, losing to eventual district champion Ernesto Escobar of Westview but wrestling back through the consolation bracket and pinning Tony Lucas of Glencoe to lock up third.
'Ivan is a dangerous wrestler, especially for opponents who have never seen him,' Johnson said. 'He has an unorthodox style, but has become much more disciplined. We are hoping he surprises some people at state.'
The Vikings' final state qualifier was 220-pounder Jeremy Sullivan, who lost in the semifinals to No. 1 seeded Josh Pope of Aloha, then lost a 7-5 overtime decision to Dylan Lindquist of Hillsboro in the third-place match.
'Jeremy picked the right time to really get after it,' Johnson said. 'He came close to beating two guys who pinned him earlier in the year, and won decisively against his other opponents. If he can carry that into the state tournament, he has a chance to build a great memory.'
Banks qualified four wrestlers for the Class 4A state tournament last weekend, and the Braves did it in style, winning four regional titles in the process.
Every Banks wrestler that qualified for the upcoming state tournament did it by winning a regional championship last weekend, led by Bubba Brown and Travis Thompson, who also won Cowapa League district titles the weekend before.
Brown manhandled the competition en route to a title at 195 pounds, and Thompson made quick work of his foes at 145.
'Bubba did what (he) does, physically dominated his weight class,' said Banks head coach Dan Herb. 'Travis navigated his way through the bracket fairly easily (and) wrestled smart the whole tournament.'
Banks crowned two other regional champions, with Collin Purinton winning at 106 pounds and Kyle Douglas winning at 220.