Oregon City knocks off the defending TRL champs, 36-34

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Oregon City junior Michael Griffin was dominating en route to a 9-3 upset of Canby senior Jacob McKinnon. McKinnon is the defending regional champion at 182.The Oregon City Pioneers are back in the driver’s seat in Three Rivers League wrestling.

The Pioneers last Thursday eked out a 36-34 win over the Canby Cougars, avenging a 43-32 loss to the Cougars last season. Last year’s loss ended a string of four consecutive seasons in which the Pioneers had won at least a share of the TRL dual title.

“To beat Canby was a big win, because they are one of the tougher teams [in the TRL/Mt. Hood Conference region],” Oregon City senior co-captain Parker Folliard said. “It was a big confidence-booster for our team. It showed the guys that we can compete against some of the best teams.”

Folliard added, “I’m not surprised [we won]. I knew we matched up well and I knew it was going to be a battle. But I also knew that if we won the pivotal matches, we’d come out on top.”

“[Beating Canby] is a big deal,” said senior co-captain Kyle Sether. “It sets the stage for the rest of the year. Last year they beat us out for the title. To beat our toughest opponent in our first league dual kinda’ shows people we’re the real deal this year....”

Things looked grim for the Pioneers until late in the meet, as Canby had more veterans at the lower weights. Oregon City trailed 31-15 with just five matches remaining when Pioneer junior Tanner Fischer stepped on the mat at 170.

“[Falling behind 31-15] was a little nerve-racking,” Folliard said. “But I knew who we had coming up and who they had coming up, and I knew we could do it if we wrestled like we can.... It was good to see those guys perform under pressure....”

The meet came down to the final match. Oregon City senior 220-pounder Michael McCoy earned an early first-round fall to put the Pioneers ahead for the first time, at 36-31.

Next up was the heavyweight bout between Oregon City’s Jacob Hagler and Canby veteran Alejandro Sandoval, who was a heavy favorite to come out on top.

“Jacob was huge for us,” Fischer said. “We did not want Jacob to get pinned. He lost, but he went out there and battled, and we came out on top.”

Hagler not only kept off his back. He gave Sandoval a run for his money, losing by a narrow 3-2 decision. The score was tied at 1-1 when Sandoval scored a takedown midway through the final period.

“Jacob and every OC wrestler battled every minute they were on the red and black mat,” said Oregon City coach Roger Rolen. “Even the Pioneers that were pinned battled ‘til the very end....

“Our guys were confident [that they could win the meet], but not overly confident. But they were sweating it out at the end, just like me.”

Perhaps the most pivotal Pioneer win came at 182, where Oregon City junior Michael Griffin upset Canby senior Jacob McKinnon, 9-3. McKinnon was a regional champion at 182 last season, while Griffin had placed fifth at regionals at 160.

“Michael Griffin’s match was a great match....,” Rolen said. “Michael was wrestling up a weight class. But he won 9-3, and he dominated.”

Griffin put McKinnon away in the third round, after building a 4-2 lead, with takedowns in the first and second periods. McKinnon was ranked fifth in the state at 182 heading into the meet. Griffin was ranked 10th at 170.

Other winners for Oregon City were: junior Devin Poppen (120), by fall over Rice Daley; senior Kyle Sether (132), by 12-7 decision over Jesse McCaffrey; Folliard (138), by medical forfeit over Nick Strnad; Fischer (170), by fall over Braeden Hansen; and junior Grant Hicks (195), by forfeit.

Folliard was leading Strnad 7-0 3:19 into their match when Strnad ran out of blood time when his coaches couldn’t stop a nose bleed.

“Parker would have pinned him anyway,” Rolen said.

The Pioneers face another stiff opponent this Thursday, when they battle cross-river rival West Linn on the road.

“I’m sure it will be close,” Fischer said. “But I think we have the ability to beat them, if we come ready.”

“The way we match up, West Linn may be our biggest challenge,” Rolen said. “It should be a great meet.”

It other TRL match-ups last week, the youthful Clackamas Cavaliers dispatched with Lake Oswego 46-24, while West Linn made quick-work of Lakeridge.

Clackamas has an away meet with Lakeridge this Thursday.

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