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Crater commitment shows in Bolanos

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Senior Matthew Bolanos guides No. 5 Comets into Saturday’s MWL district championships

CENTRAL POINT — Matthew Bolanos, as much as anyone these days, knows what it takes to thrive in the Crater wrestling program.

Then again, he’s had plenty of time to let that marinate.

Like a handful of his teammates, Bolanos’ father Edward wrestled for Comets head coach Greg Haga back in his day and the younger version found himself matside in the not-so-distant future.

“With him it’s a little extra special,” Haga says of the Bolanos bond. “I coached his dad in high school and he’s been hanging around this facility here since he’s been a little kid. Just to watch him grow through the years into being an outstanding young man, that in itself is very gratifying just to be a small part of that.”

Also gratifying for Haga and the Comets has been Bolanos’ steady influence within the program that has grown near and dear to his heart.

On the mat, Bolanos is one of Crater’s most accomplished wrestlers this season and expects to take a No. 1 seed at 145 pounds into Saturday’s Midwestern League district championships at Eagle Point High.

In the mat room and beyond, Bolanos has been equally as valuable for the Comets.

“He’s a good, solid guy and he always gives the best effort,” says Haga. “He’s like having another coach at times up there in the mat room.”

“He kind of gets the momentum going for all of the guys,” adds the coach. “If you watch our warmups, he’s the one out there. We don’t have a coach doing our warmups, he does them. He’s that kind of leadership guy, but he’s also the guy that can sit down and laugh with the other guys. You only have to be ornery for the six minutes that you’re in the match. For everything else, just being a good person helps those around you.”

Helping those around him has been very important for the 5-foot-8 Bolanos, who for years saw first-hand what it meant for those in the Crater program to extend a welcoming hand to future Comets.

“My dad wrestled at Crater and most of my buddies’ dads wrestled at Crater,” says Bolanos, “so I feel like I’m just passing down the torch at this point and just passing down the traditions of being a Crater wrestler.”

“I feel like I’m just there to help the other kids out and in helping them feel comfortable in this sport and not be so skittish,” he adds. “I try to be a leader in helping them out and making them tougher.”

For a sport that has given him so much, it only seems fair.

Bolanos recently signed with the Southern Oregon University wrestling program to extend what has been a lifelong commitment to the sport.

“I feel like there’s a lot more into wrestling than most sports,” he says. “It prepares you for life a little more. It gets you mentally tough and when you’re going through hard situations, you’ve been there before and you’re more capable of handling it.”

That preparedness is one aspect Bolanos felt he was missing this past spring during an adjusted six-week sports season that was in doubt right up until Day 1 and found him grappling as a high schooler in June.

As a sophomore, Bolanos placed sixth at 132 at the Class 5A state tournament and finished fifth in the spring at 145.

“Last year I don’t think I was mentally prepared and I should’ve conditioned a little better,” Bolanos says of the end of June culminating week event put on by the Oregon Wrestling Association, “but this year should be a little bit different since I’m conditioned and we’ve had a longer season. I know what I’m looking for and I have more mat time than I did last year to make up the difference.”

Bolanos was named outstanding wrestler at the Nor Cal Championships earlier this season, pinning his three opponents in a combined 3 minutes, 38 seconds. He was the last Comet standing in the championship bracket at the Reser’s Tournament of Champions, advancing to the semifinals before suffering his first defeat to Newberg’s Ayden Garver and ultimately settling for fifth place after a consolation loss to Mountain View’s Jackson Potts.

In his 30 wins this season, Bolanos has posted 21 pins entering Saturday’s tournament, including one over Thurston’s Elijah Southern in the Reser’s quarterfinals in 2:58.

Not only is Bolanos one of Crater’s top hopefuls for a district championship, he’s in line to challenge for a state championship should things go well over the next few weeks.

“I think that’s always the progression you want to see,” says Haga. “You want to see them come in and put yourself in a position to win a state title before it’s all done. There’s about three or four guys in his weight class that are pretty solid and pretty tough but if he puts a good tournament together he’s going to be right in there.”

Whether it’s Bolanos, other seniors standouts like seniors Ryan McCarty and Brayden Gray or underclassmen like Elijah Bayne, Ty Havniear, Braiden Tester and Justin Brehm, the Comets definitely have what it takes to light up the scoreboard.

At issue, however, will be the fact that the MWL is one of the toughest leagues in the state. Thurston is the No. 1-ranked program at the 5A level, according to the state’s coaches. Crater comes in at No. 5 with Eagle Point at No. 8, and there’s enough top wrestlers in the MWL from the remaining schools to make any weight class a challenge to conquer.

“We’re always gonna try to fight to win,” says Haga. “If things break our way really well we could win it but, quite honestly, I think Thurston might be the best team in the state.

“Our goal is, like always, we want to be in there and get one of those (state) trophies, so that’s kind of what we’re pushing for this weekend.”

The district tournament kicks off at 11 a.m., with championship finals matches likely around the 5-6 p.m. time frames in the Eagles’ gym.

Bolanos, who has wrestled most of the year at 152 but will be at 145 moving forward, certainly expects to be in that later spotlighted crew with a handful of his fellow Comets.

“I think we’ll put on a good show (Saturday),” he says. “I feel like we’ll do pretty good. We’ve been conditioning and I feel like we can come out on top if we can just fix those minor mistakes we made (earlier this season in a 58-10 loss to Thurston at the Oregon Classic).”

With Bolanos leading the charge, it’s hard to imagine Saturday not being a show of redemption for Crater.

“Wrestling’s a pretty good sport that the harder you work, probably the more success you’re going to have,” says Haga, “and he’s a good example of that to the others. You like to have a few of those kinds of kids in your room, and I think we do.”

Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater wrestler Matthew Bolanos.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Matthew Bolanos and North Medford's Atreaue Roe during their match at 160 pounds.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater wrestler Matthew Bolanos.