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Wrestling: No easy draws for Tribe at state tournament

State championships begin Friday, Feb. 27

Crook County's Trevor Rasmussen had the opportunity to move up a weight class for his senior year, bumping from 220 to heavyweight and likely not having to worry about dropping pounds the rest of the season. Rasmussen decided to stay where he was, with one big reason in mind: He wanted to continue wrestling Scappoose's Devin Ray and defend his state title.

His chance and his challenger have arrived, as the first few rounds of the OSAA wrestling state tournament will begin in the morning on Friday, Feb. 27 at the Veteran Memorial Coliseum in Portland and the finals taking place in the evening of Feb. 28.

Ray and Rasmussen tangled in the finals of the Tillamook regional, with Rasmussen coming away with a win by fall to place the pair on opposite sides of the bracket. Though Ray isn't seeded and Rasmussen has the top seed in the tournament, there's every chance the two will see one another in the title bout for the second consecutive season.

Rasmussen's technical ability and Ray's athleticism — fighting for the first two rounds like a wild animal — make for a fascinating combination, but both have to battle through adversity to make the championship to begin with. Ray has La Grande freshman Zeth Horn in the first round, and will likely see Cascade's second seed Malachi Gonzalez in the quarterfinal. McLoughlin senior Jacob Podolski comes in as the third seed.

First-round previews

Tyler Cooper, after finishing third at regionals, will take on Sweet Home freshman Ricky Yunke in the first round of the 113-pound bracket. If Cooper wins his first round match, he'll have to face a gauntlet of ranked wrestlers in order to even make the final. Second-ranked AJ Lira of Marshfield likely awaits Cooper in the quarterfinals, with Crook County's Terran Libolt waiting in the semifinals as the bracket's second seed. Across the bracket as the top seed and top-ranked 113-pounder is Ontario senior Francisco Barrera, who sports a 29-2 overall record.

Another third-place finisher from the Tillamook regional, Scappoose junior Braxton Sue got a difficult draw in the 120-pound bracket. Sue will kick things off against Sweet Home senior Anthony Hardee, ranked seventh in his weight class with a 37-9 record. If the favored wrestlers win in the first round, Sue will have to beat the second-seeded Tyler Cambell of Marshfield to reach the semifinals. The semis are likely a meeting between Sue and Jerry Mealey, the top-ranked 120-pound junior from Corbett High School. Cascade senior Logan Humphrey is the top seed, across the bracket from Sue.

At 126 pounds, the Indians got another brutal draw for Alex Foumal in a first-round match with Cade Hite of Marshfield. A region champion, Hite comes in as the third seed with 46 wins this season and is ranked fourth in his weight bracket. Banks' Kurt Mode is on the same side of the bracket as Foumal, setting up a possible semifinal showdown, but both wrestlers will have to knock off higher seeds in order to reach the semifinals. Making the championship bout likely forces a rematch with No. 1 seeded Crook County senior Trayton Libolt, who won the Tillamook regional.

For Scappoose junior 145-pounder Cody Erhardt to make a run at the state championships, he'll have to upset nearly every match he wrestles. First up is Hidden Valley's AJ Munoz in the first round, followed by third-seeded Johnny Carpenter of Ontario. Then comes Crook County junior Cole Ovens as the second seed and second-ranked wrestler in the bracket in a difficult semifinal match up. A win awards the wrestler a shot at North Marion's Lane Stigall, who has been next to untouchable this season and enters with the No. 1 seed.

While it would take a handful of things to fall into place, possibilities in the bottom half of the 152-pound bracket stand out as one of the more intriguing story lines on the first day of competition. Third-ranked Scappoose senior Ben Gadbois has a first-round match with Jacob Morris of Philomath, but the quarterfinal match could be one of brother vs. brother. Sophomore Zach Gadbois would need a huge upset of top-ranked Marshfield freshman Travis Wittlake (46-1), but it's not unheard of — in fact, Ben Gadbois upset three highly-ranked wrestlers in a row to reach the 145-pound final a year ago.

Scappoose senior Logan Brooks will kick things off against the fourth seed at 160 pounds, matching up with Henley's James Jones in his first match of the tournament. Brooks is on the same side of the bracket as No. 1 seed Brendan Harkey and Cade Woodward, both of Crook County. The second seed at the bottom of the bracket is McLoughlin's Jeffery Jones.

Scappoose senior Johnny Tardif, after bowing out of the regional final to avoid injury, might just have a chance to knock off the top seed in a hurry. Tardif will face Junction City's Tim Volner in the first round of the 170-pound bracket, but has a likely match with No. 1 seed Gary Jantzer of Henley in the quarterfinals. Philomath's Taylor Kohn is the fourth seed and a candidate to make the semifinals on the top half of the bracket. Second-seed Crook County senior Ryder Shinkle waits on the bottom half of the bracket — a possible rematch of the Region 1 title match.

Another possible rematch awaits at 195 pounds, as Crook County senior Gunnar Robirts and Scappoose junior Tyson Broadbent sit on opposite sides of the bracket. Marshfield's TK Capps and Newport's Daniel Regan stand in Broadbent's way in the first and second rounds, respectively.

Scappoose will get a solid look at Crook County's top 285-pounder at least once, if not twice. Scappoose senior Colton Wheeler, making the tournament as the fifth wrestler out of the Tillamook regional, will get Zachary Smith in the first round with a solid chance of an upset. Smith is undersized for a heavyweight, while Wheeler is pushing the 285 lb. weight limit, according to the coaching staff, with much of his weight above his waist.

Tayler Heaton starts out on the top half of the bracket with La Grande freshman Tanner Jones. A win in the first round will most likely pitt Heaton against Elmira's top-seeded heavyweight Zane Wardwell, who comes in with the top ranking at 285 lbs. and boasts a 35-1 record.

Championship schedule and information

The first few rounds of the Class 4A OSAA wrestling championships will begin on Feb. 27 at 8:30 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

The second session, including the third and fourth rounds of consolation, championship semifinals and consolation finals, will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 28, lasting until around 3 p.m.

The championship finals will begin after a break to reset the mats into a five-mat configuration, one for each of the five divisions(6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A/1A). Following the Parade of Champions at 6 p.m., the championship bouts will start around 6:30 p.m.

Admission for the first session on Friday is $15 for adults, with admission dropping to $10 for adults for sessions two and three on Saturday morning and Saturday evening. Tickets for the full tournament are $35. Student pricing is also available.

Parking Information

Parking will be available at the onsite garage, but is limited and fills up very quickly. Rates in the garage at the Rose Quarter are $6 until 2:30 p.m. on Friday and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, at which point parking prices jump to $15. A good option to get around expensive parking troubles is to park for free at the Sunset Transit Center MAX station near the junction of highway 26 and highway 217 and take light rail downtown. Trains run from 5:30 a.m. to midnight, with all-day fare at a flat $5.

Follow @JowardHoward on twitter for match updates, stats and scores from the championship tournament in Portland.