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Tenacity pays off for Tankersly

PORTLAND ' Clayton Tankersly came to the Class 4A state wrestling tournament armed with strength, speed, quickness and a tenacity that would make the meanest bulldog proud.

But with just two years of mat experience under his belt, the Crater High senior couldn't possibly hang with the best wrestlers in the state.

Or could he?

Tankersly defied logic Thursday when he pinned his first two opponents to charge into the championship quarterfinal round. His lack of refined skills caught up to him Friday morning when he lost to Marshfield's David Breakfield, 6-4, but he bounced back in the consolation round later in the day to assure himself of a state placing.

Tankersly credits practice partners Jeremy McLaughlin and Ron Lee ' who have both been on the mat practically since birth ' for helping him gain enough knowledge to be competitive.

Those guys have probably forgotten more wrestling than I'll ever know, says Tankersly, who has posted a 26-8 record. You roll around with them long enough, and pretty soon you start picking up on what they do.

Even so, Tankersly only knows three or four moves. But he's remarkably strong for his size, and he spent three years boxing at Wes Wambold's now defunct club in White City.

Combine that with the usual roughhousing that goes with having two brothers, and Tankersly doesn't shy away from the physical nature of wrestling.

I like any sport that's physical, he says. And I like the one-on-one aspect of wrestling.

Tankersly couldn't crack the varsity or junior varsity lineup at 145 pounds last season when he first turned out, so he bumped up to 152. the end of the season, he was good enough to finish fifth at the district tournament.

Crater coach Greg Haga says Tankersly is an example of how far a wrestler can come in a short amount of time.

There's a lesson to be learned with him, Haga says. He doesn't know a lot of moves, but he does know a few. And he does them hard.

While Crater has dominated the tournament and Roseburg has competed well enough to hold down second place heading into the final day, the team that has overachieved the most is Grants Pass.

The Cavemen brought just a half-dozen wrestlers to Portland, but three of them have advanced to the championship finals and the other three are still alive in the consolation bracket.

You can call these kids our Super Six, says Grants Pass coach Kelly Marvel, whose team is in third place entering today's action. What's happened here is a reflection of how hard they've worked all season.

The team leader is 189-pound senior Brian Alves, who has been competing all season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Alves suffered the injury during a football scrimmage last September but opted to forego surgery until after the wrestling season.

Along with Alves, 103-pound Tyler Baker and 125-pound Zach Steddum advanced to the finals. Of the three, only Steddum was a district champion.

No one works as hard as Alves, Marvel says of the lone senior among the Super Six. He's setting a great example for the younger kids.

Marvel took over the GP head coaching duties this season, but he'd be the first to admit that the team's success can be largely traced to Tim Satre, who stepped down as head coach to spend more time on the mats.

Tim loves being in the practice room helping the kids, Marvel says. Now he doesn't have to worry about all the other stuff that goes with being a head coach.

Former Southern Oregon University national champion Josh Morton also joined the staff this year, giving the Grants Pass upper weights another solid wrestling partner.

Matt Britt of Illinois Valley got more than he bargained for during his consolation quarterfinal match against Cody Oliver of Madras.

Out of the blue, Oliver hauled off and slugged Britt in the face as Britt was attempting a single-leg takedown late in the first period.

Oliver was kicked out of the tournament and Madras lost all 16 of the points he had scored prior to meeting Britt.

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