REDMOND — J.D. Alley could not help but repeat himself Saturday night at Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center.
To the longtime Culver wrestling coach, the feat was worth echoing: “What a great night for Central Oregon.”
Indeed it was. Of the five championships staged at the dual-format Oregon Wrestling Classic, separated by classification, four featured area teams. Two captured titles. The only match without a Central Oregon team was Class 6A — and only because there are no local programs in the classification.
“I don’t know how to put it into words,” said Alley, whose Bulldogs won their 13th straight 2A/1A championship, 75-0 over Vernonia. “It’s tremendous. You can cut the energy with a knife. You just don’t see that. … This is just so good for our sport.”
While Culver coasted to yet another 2A/1A title at the Classic, Crook County needed a spark to reclaim the 4A crown.
Colton Burkhardt frequently checked the score as the Cowboys squared off against Tillamook: Crook County led 6-0 out of the gate after a pin by Hunter Mode at 106 pounds; the Cowboys went up 12-10 as Pacer Quire recorded a fall at 126, a lead that extended to 21-10 following a pin by Colton Morgan. Yet as Burkhardt prepared for his 160-pound bout with Tillamook’s Tommy Cruz, Crook County trailed 22-21.
“I realized we were down,” Burkhardt said, “and I figured I needed to go out there and do something about it and show my skill.”
With three seconds left in the second period, Burkhardt polished off a fall to give the Cowboys a 27-22 lead. Crook County’s Kyle Knudtson followed with a tech fall at 170, and Jaxson Rhoden recorded a pin at 182, sending the Cowboys to a 47-28 win to take back the 4A championship after falling short last season.
“It’s just a pride thing,” said Crook County coach Jake Huffman, whose Cowboys defeated Cascade 51-21 in the quarterfinals and La Grande 48-24 in the semis. “This is our sixth one in eight years, so when you get used to winning it and you don’t win it, there’s an emptiness. It’s a pride thing, and we want to keep the trophy in Prineville as long as we can.”
“This is really big for us,” said Burkhardt, whose team had its four-year run as state champs end last year. “It’s a big confidence booster to get our team back on top.”
Two mats down from Crook County was Culver, which pummeled opponents throughout the 2A/1A championship bracket, outscoring them 189-18 en route to the title.
“We talked about how we wrestled these guys yesterday (in pool play) and won 71-0,” Alley said, referring to Vernonia. “I honestly didn’t think we could do that again. I thought they were a pretty good team, but they just didn’t match up very well. Before, we talked about it. I said, ‘Hey, you beat them once. That’s something. You beat them a couple of times, they start to really believe that you are better.’ We tried to be better at every level than we did the time before, and I think we pretty much did that.”
Cylus Hoke knew the Bulldogs had another shutout in them. He said he could see the fire in their eyes. And with seven wrestlers recording a fall against Vernonia — including first-period pins by Anthony Hood at 120, Lorenzo Vasquez at 126, Victor Torres at 152, Joey Navarro at 182 and Hoke at 195 — Culver cruised to a 13th straight Classic championship.
“I’ve been a part of Culver wrestling pretty much for those 13 years, since I was little,” said Hoke, whose team defeated Crane and Central Linn to reach the final. “Watching all those older guys work hard to keep this going and being able to keep it going, it’s pretty cool to be part of such a winning team.”
On the adjacent mat to Culver was La Pine, which competed in its second straight 3A Classic championship after winning 36-36 on a tiebreaker over Burns in the quarterfinals and 42-36 over Scio in the semis. Derrik Kerr (120), Tommy Gallamore (126), Turrell Wilson (145) and Michael Heutzenroeder (182) each had a fall, but the Hawks fell to Willamina 51-24 to finish runner-up for the second straight season.
Also appearing in the finals for the second consecutive year was Mountain View, at 5A. The Cougars returned to the title match after logging wins over Redmond High and Thurston. Facing off against Dallas, which has won a state title and placed second four times at 5A since 2011, the Cougars trimmed a 10-0 deficit to 10-9 following a 3-2 victory by Carsen Johnson at 120 and a fall by Beau Ohlson at 126. Dallas booked back-to-back wins to go up 17-9, and another two straight wins, at 152 and 160, allowed the Dragons to pull away for a 39-23 victory.
Still, for the Cougars, in the midst of a stellar season, a second-place finish at a talent-laden tournament is a sign that they are moving in the right direction.
“We are taking little steps moving our program,” said Mountain View coach Les Combs. “We want to be as good as a Dallas and a Roseburg and those traditional powerhouse teams like Crook County and Redmond. That’s our goal. That’s what we want to be like.”
After falling to the Cougars in the quarterfinals, Redmond rebounded to defeat Silverton 42-39 as Bailey Fisher recorded a fall at 152 to kick off a string of four straight Redmond wins that was capped by a 13-second pin by Wyatt Gross at 182.
In the girls tournament, Bend’s Kyleigh Cuevas defeated La Pine’s Olivia Flack 10-8 to win the 100A title. At 160, Ridgeview’s Bailey Dennis took first after pinning Sutherlin’s Kyla Keen in the third period. Bend Charli Stewart (105) and Summit’s Jasmine Pedersen (145B) each placed fourth.
— Reporter: 541-383-0307, firstname.lastname@example.org