Falcons crown three NWOC district champions and qualify nine wrestlers for the 5A state meet

Before the Northwest Oregon Conference district wrestling tournament last weekend, Liberty head coach Eric Givens thought the Falcons had a chance to compete with Sandy for a district title.

That was not the way it worked out.

Sandy scored an amazing 408½ points to easily win the district title, while Liberty took second place with 260 points.

Still, Givens was content with the way his crew PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Liberty senior A.J. Antillon wrestles Sherwood's Nic Clarke on Saturday for a NWOC district title at 145 pounds.

“We did good, bordering on great,” Givens said. “We always expect to do amazing and we came up a little short of that. We definitely underestimated how strong Sandy is right now.”

Liberty finished the tournament with three winners and nine total wrestlers qualifying for the Class 5A state meet, which begins on Friday at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

Kevin Rivas took first place in the 113-pound division, Angel Morales finished first at 138 pounds and Juan Ocampo won a district title at 285.

Liberty also had five district runner-ups — Derrick Roy at 132 pounds, Michael Feltmans at 138, A.J. Antillon at 145, Hunter Dehlin at 152 and Alexio Martinez at 285.

The Falcons’ other state qualifiers included Nathaniel Machado, who finished fourth in the 220-pound division; Sean Duenas, who took fifth place at 132 pounds; Drew Kyniston, who took fifth at 145; Tyson Ticknor, who finished fifth at 160; Rodrigo Garcia, who claimed sixth place at 106; and Hector Sandoval, who finished sixth at 120.

Givens was extremely happy about the fact that in two instances Liberty had wrestlers competing against each other in the final match.

“One of our goals was to have some Liberty-on-Liberty crime in the finals,” Givens said. “We had two instances, both at heavyweight and 138, where we had two guys in the finals. We were happy to do that. We had three district champs, which was one of our goals.”

Now that the district meet is over, Liberty will turn its attention toward the state meet. Givens said that his team learned a valuable lesson last season about not peaking too early.

“The state meet really doesn’t come down to how much skill you have,” Givens said. “It is how much desire you have. A lot of kids put so much emotion into their district tournament and getting to state that it’s hard to get that level of emotion a second week.

“We really talked to our kids about just the desire. It’s much more important at the state tournament to come mentally ready to go than it is to be more skilled than your opponent.”

Explaining last year’s postseason failure, Givens said: “Last year we put our heart and soul into the district tournament — every ounce — and we were not ready for the state tournament. Because that happened last year and we have some kids coming back this year, we have a little bit more focus than we did last year.

“I would love to have somewhere in the neighborhood of three to four state placers. Obviously, I’d love to have all 10, but a realistic goal would be three to four to start with.”

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