PORTLAND — Life sometimes comes at you fast — it kept me from filing a story from Saturday's finals of the Class 6A and 5A wrestling state tournaments.

PORTLAND — Life sometimes comes at you fast — it kept me from filing a story from Saturday's finals of the Class 6A and 5A wrestling state tournaments.

Given nothing but time since, thanks to being holed up in a Portland-area hospital — everything's OK now, by the way — here are a few things worth mentioning from the Memorial Coliseum event.


CRATER'S RUN THROUGH the consolation bracket on Saturday morning and afternoon was something to behold.

The Comets needed just about everything to go their way in order to edge out rival Eagle Point for an 11th straight state trophy (top-four finish) and went about their task in typical Crater High fashion.

Trailing the then-No. 4 Eagles by 4.5 points after the consolation quarterfinals (95.5-91), the Comets made up more than enough ground in the consolation semifinals. Crater won all five of those matches to advance to the third-place finals, while EP could manage only two wins in four tries during that round.

That difference equated into the Comets outscoring the Eagles 26-10 in the round, allowing Crater to move into a fourth-place standing it would not give up.

"It was a great round for us," said Crater coach Greg Haga. "We just needed it earlier in the tournament. I knew we could wrestle like that, but we didn't show up until today."

Brent Espinosa got the ball rolling for Crater at 119 pounds, scoring a 6-0 decision over No. 3 seed Jake Wilson of Cleveland.

Eagle Point had a wrestler in three matches that followed and did its best to provide more of a cushion over the Comets, with top-seeded Brady Holland (140) holding on for a 6-4 win and Scott Leonardo (152) breaking a 3-all tie with a three-point surge in the third period.

The Eagles' chances were hindered when Matt Wilson's remarkable comeback was denied at 135. The senior pulled off a nifty barrel roll to earn an escape point with 12 seconds to go, pulling him into a 1-1 tie with Bryce McMahon of Hermiston to force overtime. But only 21 seconds into the one-minute OT, McMahon was able to score a match-winning takedown.

That loss was tough for EP to withstand, but not any tougher than in the Eagles' fourth and last match of the consolation semifinals.

In a rematch of last week's district championship at 160, Kenny Fahndrich of Crater was once again able to fend off EP sophomore Steven Josephson. Fahndrich opened up a 4-1 lead by the end of the second period, then led 7-3 before Josephson valiantly fought back for a 7-all tie with 30 seconds to go in the match. But, after having already been cautioned for stalling earlier in the match, Josephson dove in on Fahndrich's leg as he tried to escape and essentially held on for a ride that eventually led the referee to give Fahndrich a penalty point with four seconds left on the clock.

Eagle Point coach Kacey McNulty was noticeably displeased with the call, and for good reason. The match was essentially a 10-point swing in the team standings since five went to Fahndrich and five didn't go to EP's Josephson.

"We lost one on the same kind of thing, so I guess we're even as far as the tournament goes," Haga said of the assessed penalty.

Zach Young (171) and Darrio Mobley (189) went on to dominate their matches and earn a spot in the third-place finals, but Brandon Hesse (285) had to do a little more work to make it a 5-for-5 showing in the round.

Hesse and Bend's Tyler Laemmle battled to a 1-all tie that couldn't be determined by the one-minute overtime. In the 30-second fifth period, Laemmle started in the down position and got away for an escape in 15 seconds. Neither wrestler could gain an advantage over the final half of the period.

Needing to score at least one point in the 30-second sixth period — the equivalent of college football's overtime plan where each team gets a chance to score — Hesse scored an escape in the opening seven seconds but neither wrestler could gain an advantage after that.

Moving to a seventh period — where the match's outcome is decided by whether a wrestler in the down position can escape in 30 seconds — Haga knew Hesse would prevail. As the Comets were able to do in all five matches in the consolation semis, Hesse scored first in the match to give him the option of the bottom or top position. Hesse opted for the bottom position and scored a reversal in 16 seconds.

"I knew he'd get away since he's pretty much gotten away from everybody all season," said Haga.


ROSEBURG'S DOMINATION of the 6A tourney won't be short-lived considering the Indians graduate only three wrestlers from a team that totaled a tournament-high 269 points. Only Culver's margin of victory over Lakeview in the Class 2A/1A race (107 points) was higher than the 73.5-point advantage Roseburg had on runner-up Newberg.

Thirteen of the 20 wrestlers Roseburg advanced to the state tourney placed in the top eight, including four title winners and two runners-up for the Southwest Conference wrestling power.

Roseburg coach Steve Lander said a key to his team's resurgence during his tenure has been its offseason club program, which boasts around 25 wrestlers per year.

"Typically, the kids that place for us are the ones who continue to wrestle like that," says Lander. "You see a big difference in how they wrestle (the next school year)."


BECOMING A WRESTLER later in life may not set you back as far as you might think, however.

Consider Crater's Brent Espinosa, who didn't begin to wrestle until he was a sophomore in high school. This year as a senior, Espinosa advanced to the 119-pound semifinals and eventually placed fourth — with his only losses coming to eventual champion Mikey Rodriguez of Hillsboro and No. 1 seed Chase Winters of Hermiston.

"Had he wrestled as a seventh- and eighth-grader, I think he might've been in the finals," said Haga of his quick study.

Assistant coach Nathan Winner was actually the one who first brought up the idea of Espinosa coming out for the wrestling team. Winner was Espinosa's freshman coach in baseball and immediately took note of the teenager's speed and athleticism.

"He's a tough kid and he's got some good hips and has speed," said Winner. "When you can get a kid that's pretty quick, sometimes you can turn them into a wrestler. Plus, he's just kinda ornery. Most baseball players are a little laid back, and he was a little more aggressive on the baseball field."

Espinosa played center field for Winner but didn't make an immediate impression and wasn't a starter. Winner said as the season wore on, however, Espinosa began to stand out more and more — a sign of Espinosa's work ethic and desire to compete.

"Those are the kind of kids you want," said Winner, who has enjoyed Espinosa's rise as much as anyone.

Espinosa showed up to the wrestling room his sophomore year but wasn't able to crack the district lineup. Instead of playing baseball in the spring, he opted to work harder on becoming a better wrestler.

As a junior, Espinosa was runner-up at 125 pounds in the Southern Sky Conference district tourney but was an early exit at his first state tourney.

As a senior, he needed only 1:27 to pin Mazama's Brice Hartley for the district crown and was a formidable force at Memorial Coliseum until coming up against Rodriguez and Winters.

"Anytime you can get a kid that's only wrestled for three years to do what he did is a bonus," said Winner. "For him to get fourth here was a good tournament for him. He would've liked to win that last match, but he still has a little lack of experience."

Still, Haga said he wasn't totally surprised by Espinosa's development into a title contender.

"Wrestling is a sport where if the kids are aggressive and hard workers, you can teach them to wrestle," said the 20th-year coach. "You're just not going to make a passive kid aggressive. But in his case, he's really fast and aggressive and is able to keep that mental focus you need."

Another such example at Crater was Darrio Mobley at 189, who also didn't wrestle as a freshman but as a junior placed fourth after dropping a 3-2 decision in the third-place finals.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com