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Braves get ready for regional tourney

Banks wrestlers win four titles at Cowapa League tournament

Saturday was a respectable showing, but the Banks wrestling team now has bigger fish to fry.

The Braves hosted last week’s Cowapa League championships and were hoping to emerge with the team victory. Instead they settled for third place in a tight three-way battle — Tillamook scored 305 points to walk away with the team title, Scappoose followed with 300½ points, and the Braves rounded out the top three with 297.

But coach Dan Herb and the rest of the Banks coaching staff have been training their crew hard for a postseason push, so the Braves’ best performances could be ahead of them — in the competitions that matter most.

That starts this week with the Class 4A Special District 1 regional tournament, slated for Friday and Saturday at Tillamook High School. The top five finishers advance to the state tournament later this month.

Given that the big stuff is yet to come, Herb kept last week in perspective.

“It was all right. Not our best performance, for sure, but we kind of expected that,” he said. “We’ve kind of done a three-week training period where we’ve been doing doubles ... so we are pretty overtrained right now. We’re trying to peak for the regional tournament next week and the state tournament.

“A league championship’s kind of cool, but really this means nothing in the grand scheme of things.”

Even dealing with the fatigue of heavy training, the Braves showed well and landed some 20 wrestlers on the awards stand, including four titlists.

Not unexpectedly, Banks’ big trio all landed top spots on the podium. Kurt Mode took the 132-pound title, Collin Purinton won at 138 pounds and Travis Thompson prevailed in the 152 bracket for his fourth consecutive Cowapa championship.

Mode breezed to his title, getting two falls after a first-round bye. He pinned third-seeded Michael Dooher of Tillamook barely more than a minute into the championship match.

“It was a good day. Not too much competition, but it was a good day,” said Mode, who will face his former team, Crook County, in the regional. “I was really hoping for the team title, though. We fell just a little short.”

Purinton, Mode’s wrestling partner in practice, picked up the 138 title when teammate and No. 2 seed Trevor Thiessen forfeited the final. A senior, Purinton remains undefeated this season entering regionals.

Thompson edged Scappoose’s Ben Gadbois 3-0 in the 152 final. He plans to wrestle the regional and state tournaments at 145 pounds, his lightest weight since his freshman year. A three-time state placer, the senior is looking to end his high school career with a best-ever finish, as he has wound up fourth or fifth all three years at state.

“I felt a little tired. At the end of the day I felt like I probably could have wrestled a little better than I did,” Thompson said. “But still, a win’s a win, so I feel good about that.”

Banks also had a great showing at 160 pounds, where Trask Epling won the title and Brock Smith finished third. A junior, Epling knocked off Tillamook’s Leonard Morales by a 7-3 decision in the final.

Other placers for Banks were Jack Wick (second, 106), Evan King, (second, 182), Twister McComas (second, 220), Clay Pena (third, 182), James Cook (third, 285), Dominick Watts (fourth, 126), Damian Young (fourth, 145), Skylor Africa-Barnes (fourth, 285), Jorge Rascon (fifth, 152), Kyle Herinckx (fifth, 170), Dylan Shafer (fifth, 195), Jade Young (sixth, 120), Schyler Hollinger (sixth, 132) and Melchiah Mauck (sixth, 138).

This year’s regional competition will no doubt have a bit of a different look. Due to the new OSAA realignment that began in the fall, Crook County is now in Banks’ region. The Cowboys are the top program in the state regardless of classification, and with several other state trophy contenders in the field, the meet could offer preview of the Class 4A tourney in two-and-a-half weeks. In addition to Crook County and the Cowapa squads, the 11-team region includes Corbett, Estacada, Gladstone, Madras and Molalla.

“It’s going to be a tough region,” Herb said. “Top five go to state. If you make it out of that region, you’ve got a pretty good shot to place at state. It’s going to hurt us a little bit, I think, numbers-wise, but our quality guys will still get through.

“I’m not super worried about it, but it’s going to be a tournament we’ve gotta be ready to roll for, that’s for sure.”

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