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Vikings wrap up regular season

Forest Grove closes out the dual meet portion of its schedule with losses to McNary, Sprague

 - Forest Grove's Quentin Oppenlander wrestles against McNary's Wyatt Kesler during last Thursday’s Greater Valley Conference dual meet. Oppenlander won the match by pin.Now the fun really starts.

The Forest Grove wrestling team tuned up for the championship portion of the season last Thursday when it hosted Sprague and McNary in its final Greater Valley Conference dual meets of the season. The Vikings dropped both contests — 63-6 to the Olympians and 57-17 to the Celts — but the losses came against two of the toughest teams in the conference.

Still, getting a look at the best is usually helpful when the district tournament is right around the corner, as is the case for Forest Grove, which takes on the rest of the GVC in the Class 6A Special District 5 tournament Friday and Saturday at Sprague High School.

“They’re good teams, but I don’t think we put out our best effort, especially in that first dual,” Viking coach Chad Beatty said. “We didn’t perform the way that we can perform, and that’s frustrating. But in that second dual, they wrestled a lot tougher and they were more aggressive, and that’s what I’m looking for.

“I want them to push the pace and to attack even if the score is lopsided in the other favor.”

While the results did not turn the hosts’ way last week, there were some highlights, especially two wins from Quentin Oppenlander, who was coming back from an illness the previous week. Wrestling at 145 pounds, the sophomore took his opening match with a 7-2 decision against Sprague’s Nathan Rediger.

And then against the Celts, he somehow worked himself out of a tight spot against Wyatt Kesler for the team’s only pin.

“He was pretty close. You have to trust your skills, and that’s what I did,” Oppenlander said. “I trusted my skills and kept on pushing. Got a chance to pin him, and that’s what I did.”

Thanks to their strength in the lower weights, the Vikings actually took a 17-15 lead thanks to Oppenlander’s victory. But the Celts won out from there to take the team battle.

Norberto Lopez provided Forest Grove’s other victory against Sprague when he took a narrow 13-12 decision from Seth Rediger at 152.

Against McNary, Lucas Higginbotham won by a 17-6 major decision against Riley Repp at 113, Matthew Johnson picked up an 11-3 major decision over Jonathon Phelps at 126, and Sky Mora Lopez scored a 10-8 victory in overtime against Abraham Nelson at 138.

Mora Lopez almost recorded an escape late in regulation for his win, but then he got a takedown fairly early in the overtime period for the victory. He said the move he used — a fake, then shoot toward the legs — was something he has been working on for a while.

“I was exhausted, but my coaches and teammates were cheering me on, so that gave me energy,” Mora Lopez said. “It was a great feeling.”

The duals behind them, Beatty said he told his Vikings that they still have the chance to achieve their goals.

Efforts toward that start on Friday at 10 a.m., when the GVC tourney kicks off with a pigtail round, followed by the first championship round. Consolation matches and championship quarterfinals will also take place Friday.

On Saturday, championship semifinals are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by the third consolation round and the consolation semifinals from 12:30 to 3 p.m.

The third- and fifth-place matches will start at 4:30 p.m., and 30 minutes after those matches conclude, the parade of champions and the championship finals will take place beginning at 6 p.m.

The top three finishers in each weight class will advance to the Class 6A state tournament, slated for Feb. 27-28 at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum.

Even though his team didn’t compete how he would have liked Thursday, Beatty ended the evening excited that the postseason has arrived and liking where his wrestlers are at.

“This is what we train for all season,” Beatty said. “Don’t get me wrong, each dual and each match is really, really important, but now that the postseason is here — it’s upon us — we have to rise to another level.

“And that’s just the bottom line. That’s with everybody. Everybody in the state’s going to be rising.”

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