Leben's big lift helps power Tualatin to a 51-30 victory

by: SUSAN POTI - STRENGTH -- Above, Tualatin High School senior Ace Leben (back) has South Salem's Adrian Zaldana in the air during their 285-pound bout. Below, Leben (left) completes the move by slamming Zaldana to the DAN BROOD -    SALEM — Aggression.

It was a big factor for the Tualatin High School wrestling team in its match with South Salem.

Win or lose, every single Timberwolf grappler seemed to exude aggression on the mat.

And Tualatin senior Ace Leben, competing in the 285-pound match, capped off the night for the Timberwolves with a big dose of — you guessed it — aggression.

Leben, with a spectacular slam and a pin of South Salem’s much-bigger Adrian Zaldana, provided a thrilling finish for the Timberwolves in their 51-30 win over the Saxons in a Special District 3 dual match held last Thursday at South Salem High School.

“We pride ourselves in practicing with aggression,” Leben said after the match. “And this is the product of that. We were good and aggressive tonight.”

“That was definitely the key,” said Tualatin senior Blake Reser, who won his 138-pound match by fall. “We all came out and were aggressive.”

South Salem moved to 1-7 in Special District 3 matches with the setback. Tualatin upped its Special District 3 record to 5-3.

“We’re still trying to figure things out,” Tualatin coach Matt Hamilton said. “I think we may be a better tournament team, because we give up too many falls, but they were really aggressive out there tonight. I was really happy about that.”

The aggressive Timberwolves already had the team victory wrapped up when Leben took to the mat for his 285-pound match with Zaldana.

Leben, who said he weighed in at 198.5 pounds prior to last week’s match, brought the crowd to its feet when, 50 seconds into the first round, he grabbed Zaldana (who, Leben guessed, weighed about 260) by one leg, picked him up and slammed him thunderously down to the DAN BROOD - UPLIFTING -- Tualatin High School senior Frank Giannone (back) has a strong hold on South Salem's Vincent Villareal during their 170-pound match. Giannone scored a 4-1 decision victory.

“I just pulled the leg,” Leben said with a smile. “And then I heard everyone screaming.”

Leben ended up pinning Zaldana at the 3:09 mark of the match to cap off the Wolves’ win.

“That was a good way to end the night,” he said. “I’m not big, but the coaches expect me to wrestle those guys.”

“I was really happy with Ace,” Hamilton said.

South Salem, getting pins in the 106 and 113-pound matches, jumped out to a quick 12-0 lead in last week’s match.

Senior Jeff Whitaker got the Timberwolves on the scoreboard by pinning South Salem’s Jackson Baker in just 17 seconds in the 120-pound match.

The Saxons answered back with falls at both 126 and 132, giving the home team a 24-6 advantage.

But Reser got the Wolves back on the winning track by pinning South Salem’s Chris Bledsoe in 1:32 seconds in the 138-pound match.

Reser, in his win, scored on a takedown just 5 seconds into the first round. He got a three-point nearfall with 1:09 remaining in the round before getting the fall with 32 seconds left in the round.

“We work hard and are rewarded,” Reser said. “You get out what you put into it.”

In the 145-pound match, Tualatin senior John Whitaker pinned Brandon Surritt in 3:02. Whitaker had three takedowns and a two-point nearfall before getting the pin, which cut South Salem’s lead in the team score to 24-18.

The Saxons picked up a fall in the 152-pound match to up their lead to 30-18. But that would be the last victory of the night for South Salem.

At 160-pounds, Tualatin sophomore Oliver Price pinned Travis Pressley in 3:13 to cut the South Salem advantage to 30-24.

The Wolves got even closer, at 30-27, after senior Frank Giannone scored a 4-1 decision win over Vincent Villarreal in the 170-pound bout. In that match, Giannone broke a scoreless tie with a three-point nearfall coming with 13 seconds left in the second round.

Tualatin senior Luke Goessens picked up a forfeit victory at 182 pounds, giving Tualatin a 33-30 lead in the team score.

At 195 pounds, Tualatin junior Kellen Poti pinned Uriah Thompson in 1:31 to up the Timberwolf lead to 39-30.

Tualatin senior Bryan Sobranis-Perez then pinned Ruben Rojas in 1:24 to up the margin to 45-30 before Leben capped off the night with his victory.

“This was pretty fun tonight,” Leben said.

by: DAN BROOD - TWISTING -- Tualatin High School senior Blake Reser (top) looks to turn South Salem's Chris Bledsoe during their 138-pound bout at last week's match. Reser won by fall in a time of 1:32. “We’re getting there,” Hamilton said. “Bryan had a real good match and Ollie (Price) picked it up.”

On Saturday, Tualatin finished in second place at the 12-team Mid-Valley Classic held at South Albany High School. The Wolves claimed the tourney runner-up spot with a score of 166 points. North Marion won the tourney team crown with a score of 197.

Now, the Timberwolves are preparing for the stretch run of their season. They’ll host West Salem tonight (Thursday), starting at 7 p.m., in a Special District 3 finale before competing in the district’s regional tournament, which will be held Feb. 14-15 at McNary High School.

“It’s time to finish strong,” Reser said.

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