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PORTLAND — One thing about freshmen, they can be absolutely unpredictable.
Tack on extremely talented and that's the uphill battle previously undefeated Ashland junior Mason Montgomery faced in Saturday's Class 5A wrestling state championship finals at Memorial Coliseum.
Montgomery went toe-to-toe with Hermiston freshman Samuel Shields-Colbray, a national champion last summer, but was caught off guard from the opening whistle and wound up suffering a 7-2 defeat.
"They came out a little different than I thought," said Ashland head coach Tony Champion. "He attacked with some fast, low shots from the outside and I wasn't expecting that. From all the stuff I'd seen before, he came up all upper body, but those were some quick outside shots. By the time Mason adjusted for that he's already down two takedowns."
Shields-Colbray scored off an ankle pick only 10 seconds into the 195-pound final and added another quick strike in the final 10 seconds to open a 4-1 lead that Montgomery struggled in vain to whittle down.
"I just wasn't prepared and wasn't ready for the ankle pick," said Montgomery, who placed third last year. "He kinda surprised me on it early and it kinda set me back for the rest of the match. It was tough to kinda re-gather myself after that. I tried but I could've done a better job."
Montgomery was striving to become Ashland's first state champion since Charles Taylor in 1973 and only third overall, but Shields-Colbray wouldn't allow it in a very physical showdown Saturday.
"The kid's legitimately tough; he's skilled and he's fast," said Champion. "He's just one of those rare phenomenal kids that comes along every now and then. It's pretty rare with the big guys for someone to be that good that young. You could tell he's been wrestling for a long time."
Still, Montgomery gave him a run throughout their match and got into some good scoring opportunities before ultimately getting turned away. The second period ended with Montgomery only down 4-2, and it was a 5-2 match for the better part of the third period before the junior Grizzly threw caution to the wind in the final 10 seconds and subsequently gave up a final takedown.
"I was pretty much giving whatever I had left to get some points there," said Montgomery, who finished the year 39-1.
Added Champion: "Those are two tough guys and on a different day Mason might win that match. It was pretty tight, that last takedown really wasn't a takedown so it was really a 5-2 match."
The sting of finishing second was real but short-lived following the match for Montgomery.
"First was the goal so I have that goal for next year," he said, "and I'm just going to do everything I can to get it next year."
Montgomery almost didn't get a chance to wrestle for a state title after a momentary lapse in his semifinal match with No. 2 seed Jackson Soto of West Albany nearly proved costly. Montgomery opened a 4-0 lead through one period and was up 7-1 early in the third when he overshot and Soto took advantage by rolling him into pinning position.
Montgomery was able to fend off the pin for a three-point near fall — the first takedown conceded all season by the Ashland junior — and then somehow answered with a reversal of his own to lead 9-6 with 55 seconds left.
An escape by Soto cut the margin to 9-7 with 45 seconds remaining but Montgomery did well to fend off his advances and then swooped around for a last-second takedown for an 11-7 win.
Eagle Point enjoyed the best day among the local schools on Friday and didn't wrestle poorly on Day 2. The Eagles simply couldn't take it to the next level.
James McCoy (152) and Hunter Hoeptner (160) each suffered tough losses in the semifinals, but Eagle Point still was able to garner six state placers among the 12 wrestlers it brought to the tourney and finish fifth overall — one spot outside trophy consideration.
Hermiston won the 5A team title with a whopping 246 points, followed by Dallas (181.5), Redmond (167.5), Sandy (96) and Eagle Point (89).
"It was a good performance for the most part," said EP head coach Kacey McNulty. "Four out of the six that placed for us are coming back next year, so that's a positive."
McCoy, a sophomore, opened a 4-0 lead on top-seeded Wyatt Passantino of Dallas in his semifinal but couldn't fight off the eventual state champion, who took a 6-5 lead into the third period and rode out McCoy for the win.
Hoeptner, a third-seeded junior, suffered a similar fate against No. 2 seed Scotty Dunagan of Dallas. Hoeptner led 2-0 through one period but one scramble in the second period turned the match in Dunagan's favor for a 5-2 decision.
"We had some opportunities in each of the matches and were ahead in both of them," said McNulty. "We went against some Dallas kids that were pretty good riders and we weren't able to get away and that was the difference in each of the matches. We've just got to get more mature on bottom."
Hoeptner regrouped to take third with a 4-2 decision over Redmond's Tanner Barichio, while McCoy placed fourth after a 5-4 loss to Liberty's Hunter Dehlin.
"Hunter got some back points scored on him in a scramble and couldn't come back from that," McNulty said of the semifinal. "He's a great competitor and he's a fighter, though, and he did good to get third."
In McCoy's final match, he and Dehlin battled to a back-and-forth 4-4 tie through two periods but Dehlin got an escape midway through the third and then eluded McCoy to avoid a potential match-turning takedown.
Also placing for the Eagles were senior Orlando DeLaCruz (fifth at 120), junior Eddie Perez (sixth at 126), junior Sherman Hammond (fifth at 138) and senior Caleb Ash (sixth at 160).
Ashland also had junior Cody Eisenberg place fourth at 220 pounds as the Grizzlies finished with 35.5 points and 16th place. Eisenberg suffered a four-overtime loss in his opening match against top-seeded Steely Smith of West Albany but won his next four matches before falling 4-1 in the third-place final to North Eugene's Dalton Pachano.
"For getting fifth place in the regional and coming back and getting fourth at state, that's pretty phenomenal for Cody," said Champion.
TEAM SCORES (Top 10) — Hermiston 246, Dallas 181.5, Redmond 167.5, Sandy 96, Eagle Point 89, Lebanon 87, Hood River Valley 66.5, Silverton 59, Churchill 56, Pendleton 51.
OTHER LOCAL SCORES — 16, Ashland 35.5.
106 — Cody Bibler, Dallas, dec. Andy Wagner, Hermiston, 9-8; 113 — Matt Hofenbredl, Dallas, dec. J.T. Ayers, Mountain View, 5-2; 120 — Thaddeus Nelson, Marshfield, dec. Isaac Aguilar, Hermison, 3-1; 126 — Alex Rich, Crescent Valley, pinned Austin Wallace-Lister, 3:50; 132 — Beau Gleed, Hermiston, dec. Izaak Tobin, Silverton, 5-2.
138 — Tyler Berger, Hermiston, pinned Gunner Wyatt, Dallas, 1:36; 145 — Josh Reyes, Parkrose, dec. Chance Lindquist, Redmond, 4-1; 152 — Wyatt Passantino, Dallas, dec. Sarek Shields, Redmond, 4-2; 160 — Abraham Rodriguez, Hermison, tech. fall, Scotty Dunagan, Dallas, 5:23.
170 — Kyle Bateman, Sandy, pinned Richard Bylund, Corvallis, 4:53; 182 — Gunnar Sigado, Redmond, pinned Quinn Dreher, Silverton, 4:35; 195 — Samuel Shields-Colbray, Hermiston, dec. Mason Montgomery, Ashland, 7-2; 220 — Sumner Saulsbury, Redmond, dec. Steely Smith, West Albany, 7-5; 285 — Semise Kofe, Roosevelt, dec. Armando Garcia, Hermiston, 3-2 ot.
152 — Hunter Dehlin, Liberty, dec. James McCoy, Eagle Point, 5-4; 160 — Hunter Hoeptner, Eagle Point, dec. Tanner Barichio, Redmond, 4-2; 220 — Dalton Pachano, North Eugene, dec. Cody Eisenberg, Ashland, 4-1.
120 — Orlando De La Cruz, Eagle Point, forfeit over Charlie Vandetta, Lebanon; 126 — Brandon Short, Redmond, dec. Eddie Perez, Eagle Point, 4-0; 138 — Sherman Hammond, Eagle Point, dec. Adrian Lyons-Lopez, South Albany, 5-3; 160 — KiAnte' Davis, Lebanon, pinned Caleb Ash, Eagle Point, 3:45.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry