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Hitting his stride

It may have taken a year, but Chris Platt is settling in quite nicely at Oregon State.

Never was that more evident than when the 174-pound redshirt freshman from Eagle Point pinned Oregon sophomore Ron Lee, a former Crater wrestler, in 4 minutes, 16 seconds, to secure the Beavers' 22-13 victory over the Ducks in Corvallis on Feb. 17.

Platt, 9-4 on the season, cracked the Beavers' lineup midway through the year and will look to help Oregon State defend its title at the Pac-10 Conference Championships, which start Sunday at McArthur Court in Eugene.

Platt is the fourth seed at 174.

"He's improved a lot overall, just doing things the right way," says Oregon State coach Jim Zalesky. "Sometimes you've got to take a step back."

That's what Platt did after what he called "outside influences" detracted from his focus on wrestling in his first year in Corvallis.

"I had academic trouble and a roommate situation that wasn't so good," says Platt, a fisheries and wildlife major. "I didn't have my head in it as much as I should have. I didn't take it seriously. I came into this year knowing that I couldn't screw up anymore. I needed to figure it out.

"Now I've gotten on top of everything, academics and all that. I got things turned around in the right direction. I'm becoming more adjusted to this whole college lifestyle."

Says Zalesky: "He didn't have a good all-around year. I challenged him. 'You have to get going or you're going to lose this opportunity.' He's really taken advantage of his opportunities this season."

Platt boasts a 5-0 tournament record and is 4-0 in matches decided by pin. He earned his first dual-meet victory on Jan. 18 with a 10-5 decision over Cal State Bakersfield's Jason Points. The following dual against Arizona State, Platt took down Cory Nelson in 2:34 for his first dual-meet pin.

"He's a gamer," Zalesky says of Platt. "He's got a long ways to go, but he is always out there trying to score points. One thing I like about him, he's always going for falls and looking for back points."

Platt's most significant victory to date came against Oregon's Lee, who entered the match with a 17-11 record at 174.

With a season-high crowd of 1,852 in attendance to witness what is likely the final Civil War dual for some time — Oregon will discontinue its wrestling program after this season — Platt faced the favored Lee in the final match with Oregon State leading, 16-13.

"I was just trying not to think about the team score," Platt says. "I knew that he was really good, and I had to wrestle a good match to beat him."

The match was 2-2 heading into the second round after Lee's takedown and Platt's reversal, and Platt caught Lee on his back in the second round for the pin.

Platt's victory avenged a 5-4 loss to Lee earlier in the season.

"I thought he had a good chance (of beating Lee)," Zalesky said. "Sometimes when the meet is on the line, you don't know how guys (will) react. He's pretty loose and laid-back. He doesn't get really fired up. I think that helped (against Lee)."

Platt is no stranger to success on the mat. He went to Oregon State after three years at North Medford and one at Eagle Point. He posted a 166-21 career prep record, including league championships and second-place state finishes at 171 in his senior season at Eagle Point and junior season at North Medford.

He placed second in league and third at state as a sophomore and second in league as a freshman.

"He's definitely a tough kid," says Kacey McNulty, the Eagle Point coach and former North coach who led Platt for three seasons. "He's a hard-nosed wrestler, very physical and a great competitor. He's one of those elite wrestlers you get to coach."

Reach reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail landrews@mailtribune.com

Hitting his stride