EAGLE POINT — No matter how you break it down, what Crater’s wrestling team was able to accomplish at the Midwestern League district championships this weekend was impressive.
The Comets advanced at least one wrestler into the championship match in each of the 14 weight classes, and at five weights had teammates squaring off against each other.
In all, Crater moved 19 wrestlers into the finals and finished with 10 district champions and 21 state qualifiers to run away with the league title by amassing a record 543.5 points Saturday at Eagle Point High.
“We’ve been working hard and are ready for the state tournament, and I think we kind of showed it here,” said Crater 145-pound junior Logan Meek, who was one of four Comets to repeat as MWL champions. “Getting 21 guys to state is a pretty big deal, so we’re feeling pretty good.”
Thurston finished a distant second with 309 points, followed by Eagle Point (150), Ashland (129), Churchill (121), Springfield (100) and North Eugene (97). The top four placers at each weight qualified for the Class 5A state tournament Feb. 24-25 in Portland.
The parade of Crater wrestlers through the district finals was a sight to behold and, by and large, the Comets didn’t disappoint in closing out their competition to leave only four weight classes out of their grasp.
“I was real happy with the way everybody wrestled,” said Crater head coach Greg Haga, who was named Midwestern League coach of the year. “I thought we wrestled pretty aggressively. A couple matches might have gotten away from us for not attacking all the way through, but we’ve got two more weeks to get ready for the state tournament.”
“We’ve been kind of gunning for this tournament and the one in two more weeks,” added Haga, “and the kids have been willing to do what we ask, and that’s a big deal.”
Top seeds Zeth Brower (106 pounds), Hunter Grant (113), Meek (145) and Jace Godley (152) each held true to repeat as MWL champions and had plenty of company atop the podium in teammates Hunter Hiatt (120), Dallas Howard (132), Nathan Santoni (138), Logan Lowder (170), Tony Flores (182) and Javon Gill (285).
Placing second for the Comets were Angel Diaz (106), Tanner Ulrey (113), Isaiah Griffith (126), Bryce Cwiklinski (138), Cameron Savage (160), Markus Bennett (170), Wally Pendleton (195), Beau Crawford (220) and Cameron Sweet (285).
For good measure, Leonardo Gutierrez placed third at 182 and Daniel Flores was fourth at 220 to also qualify for the Comets.
“Our second guys always work hard at practice going with our first guys and that’s what’s going to do it at state for us is our second guys,” said Meek. “I’m really proud of what everyone was able to do here.”
Tony Flores provided one of the more exciting moments in the finals with his upset of top-seeded Zach Adler of Ashland. Adler, a junior, scored takedowns in the early going of each round to build a 6-0 cushion before the second-seeded sophomore caught him by surprise with a throw 24 seconds into the third period and used a head-and-arm to squeeze out a pin 17 seconds later for a fall in 4:41.
“You just have to have the right mindset going in,” said Flores of his comeback. “Even though he was winning, I still had the mindset that I’m going to win this. I came out victorious and I’m proud of that. Win or lose I was just trying my best, but it felt great when I got that pin.”
Haga was pleased with Flores’ ability to keep battling to the end, as well as the effort of his wrestlers when they squared off against one another in the finals. A prime example of that was Grant and Ulrey waging a back-and-forth battle that ultimately came down to an escape and takedown by Grant with one minute to go for a hard-earned 4-3 victory.
“Tanner Ulrey and Hunter Grant are top placers in the state and that match could go either way,” said Haga. “I’m proud of those guys because sometimes when teammates wrestle each other they don’t really get after it, and I thought those guys at 113 did a great job of attacking each other.”
Griffith was another hard-luck loser for the Comets after rallying to force overtime with a takedown just before the third-period horn against North Eugene’s Alec Nolan. In the one-minute extra session, both wrestlers battled to a stalemate until Nolan got a takedown at the buzzer that was initially wiped off but, after referee consultation, was awarded for an 8-6 win.
Eagle Point’s lone finalist was second-seeded senior Chance McMullen, but his day was cut short by the top-seeded Hiatt, who scored a quick takedown to open the match and then worked hard to leverage his way to a pin in 26 seconds.
“It happens fast, he got on his back and couldn’t get off,” said EP head coach Kacey McNulty, whose team qualified six wrestlers for state. “Credit to the Crater kid, he was able to finish it off, but I would’ve liked to see it go a little differently and I think Chance is capable of doing better than what that finals match was.”
“He had a good tournament,” added McNulty, “he just didn’t finish it like he wanted to. But there’s been a lot of downs today so it’s kind of hard. If you’re a Crater team and you have 21 going (to state) everybody’s high and they’re going to wrestle beyond their ability with all that momentum, and we just didn’t have that.”
Ashland qualified four wrestlers beyond Adler for state, including third-place finishers Jeremiah Sherrynewby (152), Trevor Fulton (160) and Cedar Barnes (170).
MWL District Championships
TEAM SCORES: Crater 543.5, Thurston 309, Eagle Point 150, Ashland 129, Churchill 121, Springfield 100, North Eugene 97.
106 — Zeth Brower, Cra, pinned Angel Diaz, Cra, 1:19; 113 — Hunter Grant, Cra, dec. Tanner Ulrey, Cra, 4-3; 120 — Hunter Hiatt, Cra, pinned Chance McMullen, EP, :26; 126 — Alec Nolan, NE, dec. Isaiah Griffith, Cra, 8-6 OT; 132 — Dallas Howard, Cra, major dec. Seth Morales, Thu, 8-0.
138 — Nathan Santoni, Cra, major dec. Bryce Cwiklinski, Cra, 16-6; 145 — Logan Meek, Cra, tech. fall Austin Watson, Thu, 23-8 (5:57); 152 — Jace Godley, Cra, pinned Brady Bigbee, Thu, 1:01; 160 — Joseph Michelson, Spr, pinned Cameron Savage, Cra, 3:12.
170 — Logan Lowder, Cra, pinned Markus Bennett, Cra, 2:15; 182 — Tony Flores, Cra, pinned Zach Adler, Ash, 4:41; 195 — Avery Jaramillo, Thu, pinned Wally Pendleton, Cra, 1:38; 220 — Jackson Casteel, Thu, pinned Beau Crawford, Cra, 5:59; 285 — Javon Gill, Cra, pinned Cameron Sweet, Cra, 1:39.
106 — Gavin Sherrill, Thu, pinned Freddy Barajas, EP, :17; 113 — Zane Stewart, Thu, pinned Jeremy Smith, Spr, 3:19; 120 — Joseph Wolf, Chu, pinned Joshua Sitowski, Chu, :41; 126 — Scotty Morgan, Thu, pinned Jerrod Reichert, Ash, 1:44; 132 — Shane Teigen, Thu, pinned Josh Sitzer, EP, :32.
138 — Evan Powell, Chu, dec. Brian De La Cruz, EP, 10-5; 145 — Anthony Tena, Chu, pinned Noah Sitzer, EP, 1:29; 152 — Jeremiah Sherrynewby, Ash, pinned Cameron Shaw, Thu, 2:38; 160 — Trevor Fulton, Ash, dec. Kyle Hendrix, NE, 7-5.
170 — Cedar Barnes, Ash, pinned Jack Johnson, Thu, 2:59; 182 — Leonardo Gutierrez, Cra, pinned Jett Vandersommer, Thu, 4:34; 195 — Brayden Rogers, Spr, dec. Jacob Hukill, EP, 13-11; 220 — Hayden Fausett, Chu, major dec. Daniel Flores, Cra, 10-1; 285 — Tyler Kinney, NE, dec. Cade Wolford, Spr, 6-1.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry