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Vikings hold off North Salem

Forest Grove posts a narrow 41-39 victory in its first conference dual of the season

 - Forest Grove's Griffin Crabtree (top) wrestles against North Salem's Alex Perez in the 113-pound match during last Thursday’s Greater Valley Conference wrestling dual meet.Isaac Graham lost the battle but won the war.

Heading into the final weight class of Forest Grove’s home wrestling dual against North Salem last Thursday, the Vikings led by a scant five points, 41-36.

That meant that depending on the outcome of Graham’s 285-pound match against Luis Ruiz Ramirez, a win, loss or tie were all possible results for Forest Grove.

Not that Graham knew that.

“I didn’t realize not getting pinned would win it,” said Graham, a sophomore who moved up a weight class for the dual, wrestling at 285 for the first time. “I didn’t know the score, I didn’t know how that all worked.”

Given that Graham was wrestling up a class, he said, his goal was to avoid getting pinned. As it turned out, that was also what he needed to preserve the team victory, which he did with a 7-0 loss to Ruiz Ramirez.

The result earned North Salem just three points, allowing Forest Grove to escape with an exciting 41-39 victory in its first-ever Greater Valley Conference dual.

“We wrestled pretty good,” said new coach Chad Beatty, who picked up the win in his dual meet debut. “It was a lot of fun. The kids really worked hard and they never gave up, and that’s all I was looking for tonight, just going out and competing.”

Forest Grove led most of the way on Thursday, going up 29-6 with Griffin Crabtree’s win over Alex Perez by technical fall at 113 pounds, plus forfeit victories by Christian Guerra (120), Lucas Higginbotham (126) and Jose Lucas Lucas (132), and Matthew Johnson’s first-round pin of Mark Kondash at 138 pounds.

While Norberto Lopez (160) and Alex Vanderkin (195) each won by pin to help the Forest Grove cause, North Salem picked up wins in five of the next seven matches to tighten the contest up considerably.

All of that left the outcome in doubt until the very end.

“Right before (Graham) got up, I looked at the score and I did the math, and there were six points, so as long as he didn’t get pinned we were going to win,” Johnson noted. “It was exciting.”

Graham had to work for it to hold on to the team victory, with Ruiz Ramirez dictating the match. Several times the North Salem wrestler — who appeared to outweigh Graham by an appreciable amount — seemed as though he might be headed toward a pin, but Graham fended him off each time.

The last of those incidents happened in the third and final round as the clock wound down, sending many eyes looking toward the scoreboard — even Graham’s.

“I was almost on my back with the last 10 seconds,” Graham said. “I could see the clock.”

When the clock hit zeroes, the Vikings on the Forest Grove side celebrated, and Graham walked off the mat a loser and yet also a winner.

As for Beatty, he liked what he saw from his young team, but he also saw room for growth.

“It was a really fun night,” Beatty said. “We have to get better though. That’s what I told our team. I said, ‘We wrestled pretty good tonight. We got the win, and if we continue to build and get better, we’re going to have even more fun.’”

Forest Grove was back in action on Saturday at the Herrin Holiday Classic, staged at North Salem. The Vikings placed seventh in the eight-team field with 142 points but were just 24 points out of third place. Dallas cruised to the team title with 392½ points.

Maya Guerra and Johnson led the way by winning titles at 126 and 132 pounds. Guerra knocked off Dallas junior John Baird 8-5 in the championship match. Johnson earned his title by pinning Reynolds’ Steven Coca 3:49 into the title match.

Christian Guerra, Maya’s older brother, took second at 120 pounds. He dropped a 7-6 decision to Nolan Miller of Dallas in the final. Crabtree (fourth, 113), Rudy Tinoco (fifth, 132), Vanderkin (fifth, 195), Higginbotham (sixth, 120) and Leonard Blix (sixth, 220) also placed in the top six for Forest Grove.

This week, the Vikings travel to South Salem for a GVC dual on Thursday and to Liberty High School in Hillsboro for Saturday’s Liberty Classic.

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