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Tornado's Mitchell ends up as runner-up

PORTLAND — It’s been said that close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, and the face of North Medford senior Chase Mitchell sure showed that as he exited the main arena of Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night.

In his hand was a second-place medal for all his hard work during the two-day Class 6A wrestling state tournament, but it dangled there as if it were inconsequential.

Only moments earlier, Mitchell had battled back to send his title match at 113 pounds into overtime against top-seeded Christopher Strange of Newberg, only to see his title hopes vanish in a 6-4 overtime setback.

“It sucks I couldn’t get the title,” said Mitchell with a shake of the head, “but I wrestled tough and that’s a tough kid. He’ll win it next year for sure.”

“It’s a tough tournament, it’s tough not to get caught in the lights,” added the second-seeded Black Tornado. “He was a good opponent, state runner-up last year, and I just couldn’t get going quick enough.”

The ending proved to be the only negative in an otherwise spotless weekend for Mitchell, who was vying to give North Medford an individual champion for the fourth time in five years by joining Trent Wilson (2014) and Wyatt Westfall (2015, 2016).

Strange, who placed second at 120 last year, opened a 2-0 advantage in the first 30 seconds of the match, then pushed that to 4-0 midway through the second round before Mitchell finally came alive with a reversal.

It was 4-2 in the third when Mitchell broke through again to tie the match and send it into overtime, but in the extra session Strange was able to score a takedown for the win.

“He knows what I do so he crabbed up and it’s tough to score on a guy like that,” said Mitchell. “I wish I could’ve pulled something out but I just kind of got in my own head and let him get in on my leg and just froze up.”

To even be in this position was a big deal for Mitchell, who missed last year’s state tournament after requiring surgery on a torn meniscus and may be in line for another knee surgery after this tourney run.

“It was a tough experience coming back,” he admitted. “I could’ve called it a career after last year but I just wanted to fight through for my team.”

His North Medford team had his back as well, posting a strong finish to the tournament to keep the Black Tornado near the top of the standings but outside of a trophy. North Medford was seeking its third team trophy in four years and fourth overall but finished in sixth place with 133 points. The top four trophy.

North Medford saw Enrique Jaime (113), Andres Ramirez (152) and Jullian Stone (220) each place third Saturday for four state placers overall.

Roseburg shook off a strong challenge by Newberg to secure its fifth straight 6A team title and 10th in the last 12 years. The Indians scored 252 points to edge out Newberg (223.5), Sprague (192), David Douglas (161) and Aloha (137.5).

Mitchell earned his spot in the state finals earlier Saturday with a steady 6-0 triumph over Jaime, his sophomore teammate, in a rematch of the Southwest Conference district finals. Jaime responded with a 7-1 decision over West Albany’s Caleb Hart to secure a spot in the third-place final, where he finished off his breakout weekend with a 9-2 decision over fourth-seeded Elijah Fishler of Cleveland.

Ramirez (152) won by forfeit over Southridge’s Jacob McCrae of Aloha in his third-place final, while fellow Black Tornado junior Stone equaled his seeding by placing third at 220 with a 6-3 decision over Gavin Moore of Tualatin. The win was Stone’s second of the tourney over Moore, who he pinned in 3:46 to open the state tourney on Friday.

The semifinal round wasn’t quite as kind as Day 1 for South Medford seniors Cole Schumack (170) and Ryan Beck (182). Schumack fell 7-2 to McKay’s David Rubio and Beck dropped a 9-2 decision to top-seeded Adrian Rodriguez of Century.

Schumack rebounded with a 6-3 decision over Kyle McCalpin of Aloha to reach the third-place final, while Beck also had a nice bounce-back moment as he earned a 4-3 decision over Jorge Ochoa of North Salem to reach the third-place final.

Both Panthers, however, had to settle for fourth-place finishes as Schumack lost 6-3 to Roseburg No. 3 seed Garrett Russell and Beck was pinned in 1:25 by No. 3 seed Brett Bell of West Linn. They finished the highest of any South Medford wrestler since Cody Knudsen also placed fourth at 125 in 2007.

“It was a good weekend for us,” said Panthers head coach David Bage. “It was probably our best wrestling, overall as a team not just Cole and Ryan.”

South Medford, which finished 17th in the team standings with 47 points, secured multiple top-six placers for the first time since 1993, when Jason Gutches placed second at 178 and Matt Cromwell was sixth at 191.

“It means a lot for them because they worked hard and it means a lot for the program,” Bage said of the dual No. 4 finishes. “They deserve it. These guys worked hard all season and it paid off. Obviously we all want to be on the top of the podium, but for them to get to the podium like they did, I’m really proud of them, they worked their butts off.”

Vincent Washington placed fifth at 138 to finish as the lone state placer for Grants Pass, which finished 24th in the team standings with 32.5 points.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

North Medford's Chase Mitchell, top, holds on tightly against Newberg's Christopher Strange in the championship match at 113 pounds in Class 6A. Strange won, 3-0. [DIEGO DIAZ/FOR THE MAIL TRIBUNE]