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Crater takes 4A wrestling lead; Phoenix tied for fifth in 3A race

PORTLAND -- The consolation bracket is not the most glamorous place to be at the state wrestling tournament.

But for the Crater Comets, it just might be their ticket to a championship.

The Comets advanced nine wrestlers into the championship quarterfinal round during the opening day of action Thursday. But even more noteworthy were the other seven who stayed alive in consolation competition.

With all 16 of their wrestlers producing points Thursday, the Comets racked up 87 points to take the first-day lead. Barlow of Gresham stands second with 69 points and defending champion Newberg is third with 60. Eagle Point is 10th with 28.

We don't have the horses like Newberg and Barlow, Crater coach Greg Haga said. What we've got is a bunch of tough kids that know how to grind it out. Nothing fancy, just in your face wrestling.

Tony Overstake, the Comets' only real threat to win an individual title, got off to an impressive start. The 125-pounder pinned Matt Mendiguren of North Eugene, then blasted Derrick Bollier of McKay 26-9 for a technical-fall victory.

Other Comets who marched into this morning's quarterfinal round were Andy Oman (103), Chad Griffin (112), Sean Mullen (119), Jayson Stratton (130), Justin Godley (135), Ezra Morse (171), Mike Whitehead (189) and Cameron Fjarli (215).

Overstake's two rivals from the Southern Oregon Conference -- North Medford's Juston Menteer and Eagle Point's John Nelmes -- also won their matches handily Thursday.

Nelmes registered two falls, while Menteer pinned one opponent and recorded an 18-8 victory over the other. Nelmes and Menteer are likely to meet in tonight's semifinal round.

Crater's biggest win Thursday came from Griffin, who scored a 2-0 overtime victory over No. 5-seed Nolan Harris of Sprague. Griffin had lost to Harris twice earlier this season but turned the tables around this time as he took Harris down in overtime for the win.

You'd definitely have to call that match an upset, Haga said. Chad had to ride the guy the whole third period just to stay even and then he took him down in overtime. I think Chad wanted the win a little more.

Mike Lee was among the early round casualties for the Comets as he dropped a 9-3 second-round decision to Casey O'Rourke of LaGrande. But Lee, like the rest of the consolation-destined Comets, came through later in the day.

I had to reset my goals and do it for the team, a solemn Lee said after a 10-6 consolation win over Toby Tucker of Silverton.

Along with Nelmes, Eagle Point had two other wrestlers advance to the championship quarterfinals -- Matt Bray (135) and heavyweight Robbie Fletes.

Bray wasn't on the mat more than a minute Thursday as he drew a bye in the first round and then watched Milwaukee's George Andrada hobble off with a knee injury early in their matchup.

Fletes, meanwhile, dodged a bullet in the opening round. He pinned Jefferson's Anthony Williams, but the officials made the two wrestle again after it was determined that the match should have been temporarily stopped just before Fletes got the pin due to an illegal move by Williams. The rematch then went to overtime, where Fletes eked out a 1-0 win.

We lost the 10 points, but at least Rob got the win, a frustrated Eagle Point coach Chris Lucas said.

In the Class 3A portion of the tournament, the Phoenix Pirates are tied for fifth after the opening day with 33 points. Sweet Home is the lead with 46.

Three Pirates -- Brandon Sousa (103), Bryon Monicle (135) and heavyweight Dan McLaren -- advanced to the semifinal round. However, Phoenix standout Jed Cowley dropped a 2-1 decision to Chad Zurcher of Sweet Home.

We're not that bad off, Phoenix coach Harry Mondale said. We're not going to get skunked. We've got a lot of young kids and I'm quite pleased with what's taking up here.