Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
PORTLAND — Eagle Point, North Medford and Crater each advanced two wrestlers into this morning's semifinal round at the wrestling state tournament, but the Eagles by far had the best day among the Rogue Valley contingent at Memorial Coliseum.
Eagle Point still has eight wrestlers in contention overall and stands fifth in the Class 5A team standings after losing only four wrestlers through the opening day.
"The kids wrestled hard," said Eagles head coach Kacey McNulty. "It gets really tough right away in a 16-man bracket so we had a lot of kids that got bumped off in the first round or two but came back and are still in it and that's a good thing. We had a lot of good wins in the consolation rounds."
Eagle Point sophomore James McCoy dominated his opening two matches at 152 pounds, scoring a 7-0 decision before a stunning pin of No. 4 seed Alex Ferder of Pendleton in 1 minute, 28 seconds in the quarterfinals.
"James is doing a great job," McNulty said of McCoy, who faces No. 1 seed Wyatt Passantino of Dallas in the semifinals. "He's a young guy and still making some mistakes, but if we can narrow those down, he's a great competitor and he's savvy. He knows wrestling and is capable of being in the state finals, so hopefully he can pull it all together tomorrow."
Third-seeded Hunter Hoeptner has been equally as impressive for the Eagles, with the junior scoring a pair of pins at 160 to set up a showdown with No. 2 seed Scotty Dunagan of Dallas in the semis.
North Medford advanced Reid Shipley (170) and Trent Wilson (182) and Crater advanced Tyler Thomas (120) and Chase Mackey (160) to the Class 6A semifinals.
Phoenix's Izzy Rubio (160) and Hidden Valley's Brad Hyatt (195) also moved on to the 4A semifinals, while 3A semifinalists include Illinois Valley's Eric Miller (120), Brandon Parker (132) and John Britt (170).
Eagle Point's bid for a state trophy (top-four finish) will likely fall on the shoulders of its six wrestlers remaining in the consolation bracket. With 53 points, the Eagles only trail fourth-place Sandy by eight points. Hermiston leads the 5A tournament with 113 points, followed by Dallas (99.5) and Redmond (87.5).
Joining McCoy and Hoeptner on Day 2 are Orlando DeLaCruz (120), Eddie Perez (126), Levi Pomeroy (126), Sherman Hammond (138), Thane Baumer (152) and Caleb Ash (160).
"It's going to be a tough day tomorrow," said McNulty. "Those six kids on the back side have to win, and if we can get those kids to do that, who knows what can happen. If they can that'll be pretty impressive and they'll all be state placers, and they never can take that away from you."
The Eagles did take a hit at 182, however, when senior Johnny Wilkerson was leading 2-0 in his quarterfinal match against Sandy's Jeremy Funk but suffered an injury to his left knee with 25 seconds to go in the first round. Wilkerson, who was already wearing a large brace on his right leg, had to forfeit the match and did not return to action.
Also at the 5A level, Ashland's two-deep team of Mason Montgomery and Cody Eisenberg made quite a splash on opening day.
Montgomery, seeded third at 195, mowed through his opposition with a first-round pin in 53 seconds and a 16-3 win over Hood River Valley's Ramon Ramirez in the quarterfinals. Montgomery appeared destined for a technical fall in his second match, so much so that the refs whistled for a stoppage in action after one of his late takedowns figuring, incorrectly, that he had already clinched a 15-point victory.
"The mat referee thought that it was already a technical fall," said Ashland head coach Tony Champion of the unusual finish. "With the progress of the match he probably would've gotten it right there but that's OK."
Montgomery improved to 38-0 and still hasn't been taken down, but that will be put to the test today with a semifinal matchup against West Albany's Jackson Soto, seeded second and last year's state runner-up. Top-seeded Samuel Shields-Colbray of Hermiston, a national champion last summer in Fargo, N.D., remains in contention on the top half of the bracket.
"He's wrestling about what I expected him to do so far," Champion said of Montgomery. "We knew that he wouldn't have too tough of matches in the first two rounds but starting tomorrow is when it gets pretty serious. The top three guys in that weight class at 195 are really probably the three best in all classifications. There might be one or two other guys out there but they're pretty tough."
"If (Montgomery) wins he's a true champ," added Champion. "And if one of those two guys beats him then they've really brought their game because he's trained really hard these last two years. He's in excellent physical and mental condition."
Eisenberg remains in contention in the consolation bracket at 220 and the junior nearly turned the tables on top-seeded Steely Smith of West Albany in the opening match before ultimately falling 11-10 in four overtimes.
Very little seemed to go right for Crater during the early going, but the Comets still managed to tie Sprague for ninth place at 35 points — just ahead of North Medford (32) and Grants Pass (28.5).
Only one of the Comets' seeded wrestlers advanced to the semifinals — Mackey (No. 2 at 160) — and second-seeded Nate Walters (132) failed to win either of his matches to put Crater in an early hole. Of Crater's 10 qualifiers, only Thomas, Mackey, Dillon Ulrey (138) and Cavin Gillispie (170) won their opening matches.
"We struggled today, I don't know what the answer is," said Crater head coach Greg Haga. "We had some close matches we lost and just didn't wrestle well when we needed to. We've just got to come back tomorrow, the guys that are in it, and fight hard to place."
"I'm not sure what it was with a couple kids, whether it was stage fright or whatever," Haga added. "You always try to have them ready to go and I thought they were but every year it's something different. You never know."
Mackey steamrolled both his opponents to make it to the semis, scoring falls in 1:37 and 1:12, while Thomas endured a tougher road with a first-round fall and quarterfinal upset of third-seeded Joey Rodriguez of Hillsboro, 7-5. The back-and-forth match was settled when Thomas scored a reversal with 45 seconds to go and held down the feisty Rodriguez.
Ulrey led 4-1 one minute into his quarterfinal match but wound up losing 6-4 in overtime. He advanced in consolation action, along with Tommy Winningham at 138 and Derrick Turituri at 285, to give Crater five hopefuls on Day 2.
North Medford had a good run going with Shipley and Wilson securing 5-2 and 5-4 decisions, respectively, in the quarterfinals but was slowed a bit when top-three seeds Austin Mitchell (106) and Kaden Johnson (182) had their title hopes derailed.
"Trent runs into the No. 1 seed (Hillsboro's John Morin) and he plays the underdog role well, so we like that," North Medford head coach Nolan Harris said in sizing up the semifinals. "Reid's gotta go do what Reid's been doing and just cut loose and get after it (against No. 3 seed Tiger Paasch of McMinnville)."
Mitchell was a tough-luck, 9-8 loser to Hillsboro's Matt Peterson in a controversial finish that had Harris arguing for the tying and/or winning points in the final seconds on an apparent loss of control escape and potential reversal. Like Johnson, who lost 4-2 in his opener against Thomas Ayala of David Douglas, Mitchell regrouped to remain in contention for Day 2. Cole Hornbrook also remains in contention for the Black Tornado in the consolation bracket at 132.
"I'm proud of Mitchell because he had a heartbreaking match in the quarterfinals," said Harris. "All year he's wanted to be a state champ and that's all he's talked about. For him to come back and win that next one was important and now we'll see what he can do tomorrow."
South Medford's Ruben Mendez (145) scored the only victory on the day for the quartet of Panthers, opening with a pin in 3:07 against Nicholas Piwonka of Southridge before dropping his next two matches.
Grants Pass advanced Casey Coulter (106) and Kjell Thorsen (145) into the semis, with Michael Vanlohuizen (195) in the consolation bracket.
David Douglas leads the 6A competition with 70 points, followed by Hillsboro (66.5) and Roseburg (61).
At the 4A level, Rubio's run for Phoenix included a pair of pins — in 1:11 and 3:08 — and spearheaded a solid showing that saw four of the Pirates' six qualifiers advance to Day 2.
"He's been tough the whole time," said Phoenix head coach John Farmer of Rubio, the No. 2 seed at 160. "He hasn't been in danger at all, which we're hoping stays that way. Everything that he's been working for, it's starting to come together. We have high hopes that he'll keep it up and get into the finals here and do a good job."
Austyn Snow (126) and Kyle Bradfield (145) shook off first-round losses to remain in contention, while Richard Orndorff (113) dropped his quarterfinal match 6-5 to Cascade's Logan Humphrey but regrouped to stay alive. Bradfield's loss came against Lucas Randall of North Marion, who is vying for his fourth state title.