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Crater in control at Class 4A tournament

PORTLAND ' You can't win a state wrestling tournament on the first day, but the Crater Comets laid the groundwork for one Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.

The white-hot Comets scorched the rest of the field with an awesome display of wrestling during the opening two championship rounds, sending 10 of their 12 entrants into today's quarterfinal round and building a 27-point lead over runner-up Roseburg.

Crater went into the tournament as the favorite. Now, the Comets are an overwhelming favorite to bring home their fifth Class 4A title under 15-year coach Greg Haga.

That second round was a great one for us, Haga said. Getting 10 kids to the quarterfinals was a little unexpected, but we pulled off some upsets.

The Comets finished the day with 73 points and led a parade of three Southern Oregon Conference teams atop the leaderboard. After Roseburg, with 46 points, came Eagle Point with 43.5. Glencoe and Newberg are tied for fourth with 41.

A fourth SOC team ' Grants Pass ' holds down 10th place with 33.5.

The biggest surprises for Crater came at 171 pounds, where freshman sensation Cody Clark soared into the quarterfinals with falls over McNary's Tyler Davison and West Linn's Nick Locke, and at 215 pounds, where senior Brandon Rauls stunned No. 2-seeded Todd Granum of Sprague with a 6-2 victory in the second round.

Clark, who needed an overtime win over Roseburg's Josh Osborne at the Southern Oregon Conference district tournament just to qualify for state, overcame deficits in both of his matches by muscling his way to pins.

I've been working hard in practice, and I came up here feeling 100 percent prepared, said Clark, who got off to a slow start this season after breaking an ankle during football. And wrestling in our conference helps a lot, too.

I just kind of looked at this as an extension of our district meet. The guys up here aren't any tougher than the best guys in our district.

Clark meets defending state champion Tyson Nelson of Eagle Point in today's quarterfinal round. Nelson advanced with a 14-3 win over Glencoe's Kyle King.

Rauls, meanwhile, registered a double-leg takedown and near fall in the opening minute against Granum and parlayed the quick, 4-0 lead into one of the day's biggest upsets.

Brandon was the aggressor from the get-go, Haga said. He got the lead and wrestled smart.

Josh Stratton emerged as the third Crater JV wrestler to advance to the quarterfinals, and, like Clark, he did so with a pair of pins.

They were joined in the winner's bracket by Bryson Gutches (119), Jake Gipson (130), Chase Maloney (135), Jeremy McLaughlin (140), Clayton Tankersly (145), Ron Lee (152) and Taylor Wilkerson (275).

All told, the Comets won 19 of 22 matches Thursday, including 15 by pin.

Their lone casualty was 103-pound freshman Tyler Weathers, who dropped a 5-2 decision to Century's David Boussios in the first round and then was pinned by West Salem's Jace Morrison after holding a 2-0 lead in the third period.

Jeremy Firestone (112) lost his first match but stayed alive in the consolation bracket.

Our goal was to get all 12 kids through the first day, Haga said. You feel bad for Weathers, but he's a freshman and he'll be back.

Roseburg and Eagle Point didn't have the horsepower to keep up with Crater, but both the Indians and the Eagles had strong first days of their own.

Eagle Point advanced seven to the quarterfinals and still has eight of its nine participants competing. Roseburg moved six to the quarters and all 10 of its grapplers are still alive.

Roseburg coach Steve Lander isn't ready to concede the team championship but admitted it's going to be an uphill struggle catching the Comets.

I'm not surprised at what they did today, Lander said. They did the same thing at district, winning practically every match.

Along with Nelson, other Eagle Point wrestlers advancing in the championship bracket were Jake McCoy (112), J.P. Sheile (119), Andrew Larsen (135), Stephen Price (140), Kevin Miers (171) and Nick Smith (215).

Sheile posted an exciting, 7-5 victory in the second round over Hillsboro's Alex Ensrud.

North Medford's 1-2 punch of 152-pound Jimmy Ulrey and 160-pound Rob Folsom also advanced. Ulrey drew a first-round bye before defeating Century's Steve Bifano, 10-6, while Folsom steamrolled to a 17-5 victory over Glencoe's Grant Singleton and a 24-9 technical fall over Canby's Josh Gustafson.

The tournament continues through Saturday.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail