There is a reason why the Oregon Wrestling Classic is considered the “Unofficial Dual Meet State Championship.”
Barring travel conditions that may keep teams from making the trip to Redmond, nearly all the major players in Oregon high school wrestling will be in attendance for the two-day tournament, which begins Friday morning at the Deschutes County fairgrounds.
All the defending state title teams are expected to be there — Culver (Class 2A/1A), La Pine (3A), Tillamook (4A), Crescent Valley (5A), Newberg (6A) and Hood River Valley (girls) — as well as all of the 6A, 5A and 4A top-five team placers from the 2019 state tournament.
Spanning each classification, 75% of the wrestlers ranked in the top three of the Oregon Wrestling Forum (OWF) weight class rankings will be there as well. That list includes Mountain View’s Beau Ohlson, Carson Fassett and Blake Ohlson; Redmond’s Austin Carter; Crook County’s Hunter Mode and Kyle Knudtson; La Pine’s Dylan Mann and Daniel Underwood; and Culver’s Lane Downing and Isaiah Toomey, all of whom sit atop their respective weight classes in the OWF rankings.
“Those are the kids we are going to see in the state tournament,” said Mountain View coach Les Combs, whose team is No. 3 in the Class 6A rankings in both the OSAAtoday coaches and OWF team polls. “We get to feel out how our kids are going to compete against them.”
The 6A and 4A fields have 20 teams, the 5A, 3A and 2A/1A have 16 teams, and the girls tournament has 12. Before making the championship round, teams need to make it through pool play. The top two teams from each pool will advance to the eight-team championship bracket.
The Oregon Classic determines which school has the best wrestling team, rather than which has the most elite wrestlers.
In district and state tournaments, team points are calculated by how far an individual wrestler advances in the bracket. A team with several top-shelf wrestlers can pile up points in the individual tournaments. That is not the case in dual meet tournaments.
“That is the great thing about the dual meet,” Combs said. “You have to have a team, you need to have 12 to 14 kids. It’s how well do your average kids do. All the kids get to wrestle as many matches as our team is able to win. It gives them a chance to be in a tournament with a lot of pressure.”
Wrestlers in the Oregon Classic are not locked in to one weight class as they would in an individual tournament. Rather, depending on the opposing team, a wrestler could be moved to different weight classes for the best matchup to help the team win.
“There’s more strategy,” said Crook County coach Jake Gonzales, noting the importance of fielding a full lineup. “Having a full lineup is huge. Not giving up any forfeits is the biggest difference. If you have some studs you don’t need a full lineup (in individual tournaments).”
Success at dual meet tournaments like the Oregon Classic does not guarantee success at the state tournament. Of the five teams that finished first at Oregon Classic last season — Newberg, Dallas, Tillamook, Willamina and Culver — only Tillamook and Culver had the same results at state. La Pine, the 3A state champion in 2019, finished sixth at the Oregon Classic, while Crook County finished second in both tournaments.
“It’s a different atmosphere,” Gonzales said of the Oregon Classic. “It takes a whole team to win.”