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Crater dominates SOC wrestling tourney

KLAMATH FALLS -- Twenty-seven wrestlers took the mat for Crater High at the Southern Oregon Conference District Tournament here Friday.

Twenty-six are still alive in the competition.

As expected, the Comets dominated the opening day of action, sending 19 of their grapplers into today's semifinal round. Seven others are still breathing fire in the consolation bracket.

Today's semifinal round begins at 10 a.m. at Mazama High School. The championship finals are scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

It was a foregone conclusion that the Comets were going to take the tournament by storm and so far they're blowing the doors off the eight other SOC schools.

With 234 points, the Comets enjoy a 95-point lead over North Medford. Eagle Point stands third with 130, followed by Grants Pass (121), Klamath Union (84), Roseburg (73), Mazama (58), South Medford (38) and Ashland (25).

No complaints, Crater coach Greg Haga said. Our main purpose is to get as many kids as we can to the state tournament and right now 26 of the 27 we brought over here are still alive. We took care of business and didn't have any big disappointments.

The Comets' only mild setback came at 160 pounds, where No. 2 seed Tanner Hillyer dropped a 6-4 decision to Bret Thomas of Eagle Point in the championship quarterfinals. But with the mild setback came a pleasant surprise -- Nathan Reed gained a spot in the semifinals at 145. Never mind that Reed got there the easy way, drawing a bye in the opening round and then getting a forfeit victory in his second bout when Chuck Martin of Grants Pass had to withdraw because of bruised ribs.

Freshman Levi Wisdom got Crater off to a positive start, winning a preliminary match at 140-pounds before any of the other Comets took the mat. Wisdom, who spent most of the season on the Crater freshman team and wasn't promoted to the varsity level until two weeks ago, won three of four matches and is still fighting and scrapping in the consolation bracket.

He showed a lot of poise for a freshman, Haga said. You'd think he'd be feeling the pressure a little but he's not. He went out there with a lot of energy and just wrestled his match. I'm as proud of him as anyone.

As expected, the Comets advanced all of their top seeds -- Andy Oman (103), Morgan Hawkins (112), Sean Mullen (119), Jayson Stratton (130), Matt Lee (152), Mike Lee (160), Erza Morse (171) and Cameron Fjarli (215).

None of them had any trouble winning with Oman and both Lees pinning all six of their opponents.

The real battle in the team chase is for second place. North Medford put itself in strong position to take runner-up honors at the tournament for the first time in 14 years. The Tornado advanced nine wrestlers to the semifinals compared to eight for Eagle Point, seven for Klamath Union and six for Grants Pass.

North Medford's two No. — seeds -- 125-pound Juston Menteer and 145-pound Nick Lennert -- moved on without a problem. Menteer pinned Roseburg's James Lybarger and registered a 13-4 victory over Mike Watts of Grants Pass, while Lennert pinned Ashland's Ben George and Eagle Point's Ramon Gutierez.

One of the best matches of the tourney will come in a 125-pound semifinal bout this morning when Crater's Tony Overstake tackles Eagle Point's John Nelmes.

Nelmes, a three-time placer at the state tournament and unbeaten at 28-0, competed at 112-pounds earlier this season but has grown nearly an inch since November and was forced to go up a weight.

Overstake has posted a 28-2 record with both loses coming to Menteer. The winner of this morning's showdown will likely face Menteer in the finals this afternoon.

I beat both of those guys when I was a freshman and I'm looking forward to wrestling them again, said Nelmes, a two-time district champion who finished second at the state tournament a year ago.