Lakeridge wrestling coach Bret Stamper was one happy camper by the end of last weekend's state tournament. And why wouldn't he be after the team finished 12th in the team standings. Even better, the Pacers were second among teams from the Three Rivers League.

That's a huge step forward for a program that didn't win a single match at last year's district tournament.

Of course, much of the team's success can be attributed to Tyrell and Tyree Fortune, who transferred from Parkrose to Lakeridge at the beginning of the school year. Tyrell Fortune wound up claiming a state title at 215 pounds, and did so in convincing fashion, and twin brother Tyree overcame a couple of tough losses to finish seventh at 285 pounds.

But the Pacers didn't rest their fortunes solely on the Fortunes.

Taylor London also had an excellent tournament at 160 pounds. He won his first two matches, including a second-round pin, to advance to the quarterfinals. Then, after losing there, London rebounded to win a consolation match. He eventually finished eighth.

Plus, Ben Shipley came within one match of placing at 130 pounds. And Phil Rogers had a decent showing at 125 pounds, but he failed to place.

Still, all things considered, Stamper, who was in his first year as Lakeridge's head coach, had a lot to smile about at this year's state tourney.

'I have a lot of passion for this sport,' Stamper said after the tournament. 'I think we spread that passion to a lot of people.'

Stamper has said all along that his goal is to eventually turn Lakeridge into a powerhouse wrestling team, which would include challenging Oregon City and West Linn for league supremacy.

'I think if we keep at it, we're going to get there,' the coach said. 'I know we're going to get there, and we're going to keep going up and up…. It's going to be fun.'

Unfortunately, London and the Fortunes will all graduate this spring. So, it might be a challenge for the remaining team members to duplicate what this year's team did at state. But Stamper is excited about the challenge.

'I think we're going to take another step in the right direction and then another step. It's going to take time, but it's going to happen,' the coach said.

One of the keys to the team's future success will be a group of middle school kids who are anxious but many of them are just learning how to wrestle.

'We still have freshmen that are coming in that aren't fluent in wrestling,' Stamper said. 'A lot of the big teams, like Oregon City, they have freshmen that are coming in that are fluent wrestlers.'

At least the Pacers appear to be on the right track, and it's been a while since anyone has been able to say that about the Lakeridge wrestling program.

Meanwhile, cross-town rival Lake Oswego had a respectable showing at state.

Probably the biggest highlight was Khashi Jafari's first-round pin over Nathan Osborne at 215 pounds. That moved Jafari into the quarterfinal round, which would have been a monumental achievement for past Laker teams.

Unfortunately, Jafari lost that quarterfinal match to Joe Johnson of Hood River Valley. Johnson entered the tournament as the second-ranked wrestler in the 215-pound ranks and he proved to be worthy of his ranking.

Jafari then lost his next match, which knocked him out of the tournament, but he still had a solid performance for the weekend.

The Lakers also qualified Max D'Annibale, a 152-pounder, for the tournament. He lost this first match but rebounded to beat Southridge's Kelvin King with a 52-second pin.

Unfortunately, the magic ended in the next round when D'Annibale was knocked from the tournament by Chris Porter of Tualatin.

The best news is that Jafari, a sophomore, and D'Annibale, a junior, will both be back next season for the Lakers. Plus, most of the team is already back at practice, getting ready for the spring and summer freestyle season.

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