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Broken ankle ends year for Pirate standout

The unpredictable and sometimes cruel nature of sports reared its ugly head again on Saturday, sending shock waves throughout the Phoenix wrestling program and keeping one of the state's best from doing what he does best.

Standout junior wrestler Luke Amuchastegui suffered a broken right ankle with about 20 seconds to go in his last match before the Skyline Conference district tournament, and now the season is over for the top-ranked 152-pounder in Class 4A.

"It's really a tough break, especially to such a great kid," Phoenix coach John Farmer said Monday. "He works so hard and was second in state last year, and he had nobody I could see that could touch him this year."

Farmer said Amuchastegui had surgery on his ankle Sunday and was back home Monday.

Amuchastegui held a 1-0 lead with about 20 seconds to go in his championship finals match against Glide's Cole Walker in Saturday's North Valley Tournament before disaster struck. With both wrestlers on their feet, Amuchastegui shot in and got a single leg up in the air, but his senior foe countered with a move called a three-in-a-row that had unfortunate results.

When an opponent has your leg, Farmer said the move calls for you to jump to the side, put your foot in line next to his and then sit backwards from your opponent to knock his foot back.

"For the move to work all three feet must be facing forward, but Luke's foot was twisted toward the guy and all the weight got on there and he couldn't move it," said Farmer. "With both his weight and the other guy's weight, the ankle just snapped."

There was no malice involved, although Farmer was left to wonder whether such a rarely used move should remain legal.

"It was just the wrong weight and wrong way and a move that hardly anybody uses," he said. "I'm kinda wondering if the OSAA needs to look at that move, though, because it is a little bit too dangerous since you take a guy backwards where he has no protection."

Given that Amuchastegui was coming off a championship effort the prior Saturday in the Rogue Valley Championships against Roseburg standout Dylan Fors, as well as a win in Thursday's dual against Henley, it does beg the question of why the junior was even out on the mat with only seven days until the district.

"I thought about the same thing, especially after it happened," said Farmer. "Then I went through my mind how Roseburg had three state (finalists) wrestling the week before at the Rogue Valleys only a week before their district. Even in that tournament, Henley and (Illinois Valley) and North Valley had all their No. 1 kids there. It's not uncommon to do it like that. It's probably more common to go ahead and just wrestle and get ready for the tournament than not wrestle."

That said, Farmer left it up to Amuchastegui in the days leading up to the North Valley Tournament, which was rescheduled from a month ago.

"There was a point in time where we thought about not wrestling him and I asked him and he said, 'No, I want to wrestle,'" said Farmer.

"It was a freaky thing," he added. "Never in three years has he gotten remotely hurt."

Part of the draw for Amuchastegui was to wrestle someone the caliber of Walker, who is ranked No. 2 at 152 pounds in Class 3A and won the prestigious Reser's Tournament of Champions. Walker has placed fourth and third at state the past two seasons.

"It's just one of those things," said Farmer, whose team likely was the district favorite prior to Amuchastegui's injury. "You want to get a tune-up before you go to state. But he could've been hurt in the first round of districts or something, too. You never know when something like this may happen."

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SOUTH MEDFORD'S GIRLS basketball team will be in search of a little better luck at 7 tonight when the Panthers play host to cross-town rival North Medford.

An 0-24 program only two seasons ago, South Medford (11-11, 7-6 SWC) clinched its first playoff berth in seven years on Saturday, and the Panthers will be looking to put another feather in their cap tonight as they go in search of a first-ever season sweep of the Black Tornado.

Also at stake is the chance to further break a tie with Grants Pass and earn the No. 3 seed to the Class 6A state playoffs. The Cavers (12-8, 7-6) play at No. 2-ranked South Eugene tonight, then travel to Medford to take on the Panthers in the regular-season finale on Friday. South Medford won the last meeting with GP here 54-49, but lost 64-54 at the Cavers' gym two weeks ago.

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LES SCHWAB BOWL rosters were released Monday and include eight football players from Southern Oregon and two coaches on the South squad.

Crater's John Beck and South Medford's Bill Singler will serve as assistant coaches to West Albany's Randy Nyquist for the June 20 game in Hillsboro.

Players chosen for the all-star senior game include South Medford's Patrick Thibeault (running back), Daniel Kinney (defensive back) and Mitch Singler (wide receiver), Crater linebackers Darrio Mobley and Kenny Fahndrich, Ashland linebacker Talon Haggard, Eagle Point wide receiver Garrett Davis and Grants Pass lineman Justin Hannah.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com