On Friday, the state’s top wrestling teams will converge in Central Oregon for the return of one of Oregon’s most prestigious wrestling tournaments — the Oregon Classic.

At least that is the hope.

Organizing a tournament of the Oregon Classic’s size has been a whirlwind because the rapid spread of the omicron variant temporarily closed some schools and canceled some sports contests across the state in the first week of the new year. But the three-day tournament is expected to return Friday through Sunday to the First Interstate Bank Center in Redmond after the event was canceled a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 100 boys and girls high school wrestling teams from Oregon spanning all six classifications are registered to compete, including nearly all the teams expected to be in the mix for state titles the final weekend of February.

“With things the way they are, you don’t know who is going to show up and wrestle,” said Redmond High wrestling coach Kris Davis. “We had some teams back out but we’re still pushing through. It is exciting to have the tournament back. In the big picture, it is about kids having matches and competing. Hopefully the powers that be will let that happen.”

All but one of the team winners from the 2020 tournament are expected to return in Newberg (Class 6A), La Grande (4A), Burns (3A), Culver (2A/1A) and Bend High (girls). Only Crescent Valley (5A) is not registered for the tournament.

Locally, Mountain View, Bend High, Summit, Redmond, Ridgeview, Crook County, Sisters and La Pine are expected to compete.

“Things are a moving target right now,” said Culver wrestling coach J.D. Alley. “It can change really fast, but the Bulldogs have been busy the last couple of days getting mats to set up and be ready for the tournament. A lot of work behind the scenes — it is a tremendous effort to make this work. It is a genuine opportunity for Central Oregon wrestling fans to have it in our backyard.”

The Oregon Classic is unique compared with other wrestling tournaments.

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While most tournaments have individual weight-class brackets in which wrestlers score points for the team by advancing through the bracket, the Oregon Classic is a dual-meet tournament, meaning entire teams square off against one another and the winning team advances.

That makes the Classic the unofficial dual-meet state championships.

“It is a different animal,” Alley said. “Everyone has to contribute because they might be the match that determines who wins the dual.”

For dual meets, coaches strategize to form the best lineup to beat their opponent. In some cases, simply avoiding getting pinned — which gives teams three bonus points — can help a team’s overall score.

“You might put a kid out there that is overmatched but is a fighter and stays off his back, and that saves you three points,” Davis said. “Once kids take on their roles, they figure out what they need to do to help their team win.”

There is also the camaraderie element that the setup brings. Teams will not be broken up to watch different teammates who could be wrestling on different mats at the same time. Instead, entire teams are lined up around one mat to cheer on one another.

“It is a team-building tournament,” Davis said. “I love going to them. I think it is exciting for teams and our community gets behind it really well.”

High school wrestling is expected to start at 9 a.m. both Friday and Saturday, and masks will be required to enter the First Interstate Bank Center. Entry fee for adult spectators is $15 per day or $25 for both Friday and Saturday. A college women’s tournament is also scheduled for Saturday. Sunday features the kids tournament and the non-high school girls tournament.

For more information, visit oregonwrestlingclassic.com.

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Reporter: 541-383-0307,

brathbone@bendbulletin.com

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