Tigard battles the Titans to a tie, but loses due to criteria

by: DAN BROOD - TIGER ON TOP -- Tigard High School junior Luis Duran-Vega (top) keeps control of West Salem's Marco Vargas in their 113-pound match. Duran-Vega scored a 4-1 decision victory. SALEM — It was close.

Real close.

In fact, it was about as close as it could get. But, unfortunately for the Tigard High School wrestling team, the Tigers came out on the short end of that super close outcome.

Tigard, battling hard to get its first district dual match win of the season, battled West Salem to a 39-39 tie, only to see the Titans get a 40-39 win, based on criteria, in the Special District 3 contest held Dec. 18 at West Salem High School.

But, despite the hard-fought setback, the Tigers see the match as a good sign for the future of the young squad.

“It’s been a good season so far — better than last year,” said Tigard junior Eli Neely, who won his 182-pound match against West Salem by fall. “We’re more solid. The attitude is positive. We just need to keep getting better.”

“We’ve got a lot of potential,” said Tigard junior 138-pounder Kali Pabro, who also won his match by fall. “We’re still young, but we’re progressing every day.”

With the win over Tigard, which it got by virtue of having more victories by fall, West Salem upped its Special District 3 dual match record to 2-1. The Tigers, who fell 52-24 to Sprague earlier on the night as part of a double dual match, moved to 0-3 in district competition.

“It’s still early in the season,” Tigard coach Geoff Jarman said. “We’re trying some stuff. We’re still finding out what we need to work on.”

The Tigard-West Salem dual match started with the 126-pound bout. The Titans won that match, and the 132-pound match, by fall to jump out to a quick 12-0 lead in the team score.

But Pabro got the Tigers on the winning track, as he pinned West Salem’s Clint Jacobson in a time of 3 minutes and 49 seconds in the 138-pound match to trim the West Salem lead to 12-6.

In that match, Pabro trailed 4-1 after the first round. But, starting in the top position to start the second round, he was able to pin Jacobson with just 11 seconds remaining in the round.

“The coaches told me to keep going,” Pabro said of the key to his victory. “I got him in a half nelson.”

Tigard picked up another win by fall at 145 pounds, where junior Joey Steffani defeated West Salem’s Michael Hurtleff in 1:36 to tie the team score at 12-12.

Staffani scored on a takedown 29 seconds into the first round before getting the pin.

But West Salem answered back with pinfall wins at both 152 and 160 to claim a 24-12 advantage. The Titans then got a second-round pin at 170 pounds to push their lead to 30-12.

But Neely helped the Tigers gain momentum as he pinned West Salem’s Hunter Clark in a time of 1:35 in the 182-pound match.

Neely dominated from the start of the bout, getting a pair of takedowns and a three-point nearfall before getting the pin.

“Overall, it was pretty good,” Neely said. “I was able to get underneath him, but I should have done better.”

Tigard junior Bryan Baker, at 195 pounds, and senior Alex Anohkin, at 220, each picked up forfeit victories, tying the team score at 30-30.

At 285 pounds, in one of the most intense bouts of the night, West Salem’s Lisala Manu scored a 4-3 decision win over Tigard senior Victor Ceja, who was unbeaten on the season going into the match, to give the Titans a 33-30 lead.

West Salem then got a forfeit win at 106 to go up 39-30.

Tigard, knowing that it was going to get a forfeit win from Jason Alton at 120 pounds, was aware that it needed at least a major decision win from junior Luis Duran-Vega at 113 pounds to get the team victory.

And Duran-Vega came oh so close to getting that.

In his 113-pound match with West Salem’s Marco Vargas, Duran-Vega scored a takedown with 1:18 left in the first round, he started in the top position in the second round and he scored on a reversal with 1:44 remaining in the third round.

In all three of those rounds, Duran-Vega looked to be on the verge of putting Vargas on his back, but he wasn’t quite able to.

Duran-Vega had to settle for a 4-1 decision victory, making the final team score 39-39, and leaving West Salem claiming victory due to criteria.

Tigard competed at West Salem without a pair of key injured wrestlers, including senior Zack Vollstedt, who suffered a broken nose the day before in practice.

Vollstedt, who competes at 152 pounds, scored a pin against West Salem’s Harrison Hunt at a tournament earlier in the season. Hunt won by fall against the Tigers in last week’s dual match.

In the earlier match with Sprague, Tigard got a strong performance from senior Phil Engel at 170 pounds. In the 285-pound match, Ceja scored a double-overtime win against Sprague’s Eric Guerrero. Ceja and Guerrero split their matches last year.

“Victor is wrestling really well,” Jarman said. “And we’re working on his technique.”

Tigard will be back in action Jan. 4 when it competes at the Scappoose Tournament.

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