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...
Everyone likes to believe they've worked hard in a given week, but it's hard to imagine anyone topping what Eagle Point's James McCoy accomplished from one Saturday to another last week.
McCoy, a 17-year-old junior, put in some serious work during an eight-day span with the Eagles' wrestling team that included the Rogue Valley Championships on Jan. 4, a dual meet against Henley on Jan. 8, two more duals with Ashland and South Medford a day later and finally the Crater Classic this past Saturday.
All that came while Eagle Point's wrestlers were busy going through daily doubles last week in their training.
While the number of matches McCoy wrestled wasn't out of sync with most of his teammates, the 5-foot-10 standout's production was unparalleled. In his 12 matches, McCoy racked up 10 pins — eight coming in the first round — and earned a pair of decisions to improve his season record to 23-2.
"It was definitely a dominant performance," Eagle Point head coach Kacey McNulty said of McCoy's run. "He's wrestling well. I'm really pleased with the performance that he put on last week. Eight days and three dual meets and two tournaments, that's a lot of competition and a lot of being able to prepare yourself correctly and go out and compete with kids day in and day out."
McCoy's week began with three pins and a 4-0 decision over South Medford's Ruben Mendez at 160 pounds en route to the individual title at the Rogue Valley Championships. His dual-meet wins came via a 23-second pin and 38-second pin, along with a 10-2 major decision again over Mendez. This past Saturday, he posted four first-round pins and a second-round pin to go 5-0 at 152 pounds in the Crater Classic, which included team duals against Churchill, Crater, Culver, Grants Pass and Illinois Valley.
"It was pretty tough, I'm not going to lie, because I was wrestling 160 for the duals and 152 for the tournament at Crater," said McCoy. "I had to keep my weight down the whole week. It's kinda hard to recover from a week like that but I think we did all right."
To make it happen, McCoy said his strategy was pretty simple.
"You just kinda have to go into it with a positive attitude and just think of it as you're just bettering yourself and you're preparing yourself for whatever's ahead of you, like the state tournament," he said.
McCoy's offseason and early season experiences have been about preparing himself for the state tournament, where he placed fourth a year ago as a sophomore after battling through a torn meniscus.
Besides attending various wrestling camps and training sessions, McCoy was part of a cultural exchange program to Germany, where he wrestled and said he gained valuable experience.
"I definitely want to try to do that again this year because it was the highlight of my summer," he said. "It's awesome to be able to do something like that and I really owe it to lot of people who supported me because I couldn't do it on my own."
The results of his extra work in the offseason have definitely paid off this year, with 17 of his 23 wins coming by pin and another by technical fall. His only two losses have come against Crook County's Tyler Berger, who is a three-time state champion and pinned McCoy in 5:44 at the Coast Classic, and South Eugene's Shane Roach, who edged him 4-3 at the Grants Pass Winter Kickoff.
"Anytime you can rack up 17 pins, that's pretty good," said McNulty. "He's matured a year and just gets things over with. He's always been kinda dangerous where he ends up on top in scramble situations but he's also been doing a good job of getting arm bars and turning guys this year, too."
"He's aggressive and likes to keep people down and look for turns and really works hard at getting turns," added the coach. "A lot of times wrestlers don't work quite as hard at that. They work on holding someone down but they're not working on turning them and pinning them, but he stays on top as long as he can to work on those turns and pins."
McCoy said he had a couple of key moments this past week, but only one involved a pin. His decisions over Mendez left a good impression, along with his pin in 2:51 against Culver's Clay McClure, who won the 2A/1A state title at 138 pounds a year ago for Central Linn.
"My match against South Medford was good because I knew Ruben was going to be a tough match, he's always pretty tough," said McCoy. "I've never lost to him and he doesn't usually score on me but he's just a really tough guy to score on because he's got really good defense."
"I kinda impressed myself at (Crater's) dual tournament because I wrestled Clay McClure a long time ago and he pinned me," he added. "I was stressing about that match but I went up and pinned him in the second round so that was good for my confidence."
McNulty said McCoy's added confidence, maturity and comfort on the mat as an upperclassman have made a difference in how he approaches each match. As the younger brother of four-time state-placer Jake McCoy, James definitely has what it takes to take his wrestling to the next level.
"He's been working hard at it, that's for sure," said McNulty.
And McCoy's reaping the benefits of that hard work.
"I'm definitely happy about how this year's going," said McCoy, who will return to action Wednesday when Eagle Point plays host to Crater at 7 p.m. "I just feel like it's my year to win state. I'm ranked second right now at 152 (to Liberty senior Hunter Dehlin) but I did a lot of work over the summer and I really feel like I have a good shot at it."
FOUR LOCAL SCHOOLS landed inside the top 10 at their classification in the recent release of the Oregon Cup standings following the end of the fall term.
North Medford stands seventh at the Class 6A level, while Ashland is ninth at the 5A level and a pair of local 3A schools are in the top 10 in Cascade Christian (No. 3) and St. Mary's (No. 6).
The Oregonian Cup is an annual award that combines excellence in academics, activities, athletics and sportsmanship to develop a school-year ranking at each classification.
Jesuit and Central Catholic ended the fall terms as the top two schools in the Oregonian Cup at the 6A level, with West Albany and Summit topping the 5A list. The top two 4A schools are Philomath and Sisters and the 3A leaders are Valley Catholic and Santiam Christian. Portland Christian and Riverdale are the 2A leaders, while Imbler and St. Paul top the 1A list.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry