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Stories from the Reser Tournament of Champions

Crook County becomes first team to win both the varsity and JV portion of tournament in the same year


On Saturday, the Crook County Cowboys became the first school in the history of the Reser Tournament of Champions to win both the varsity and JV portion of the tournament in the same year.

The Crook County varsity team dominated the tournament, scoring 274 points. Roseburg finished a distant second with 224 points, while Hillsboro was far behind in third place with 158 points.

The JV portion of the tournament was much closer with Crook?County edging Roseburg 294-284.5. Glencoe finished a distant third with just 130 points.

The Cowboys have now won the JV portion of the tournament each of the last three seasons. Still, despite dominating the varsity portion of the tournament, the historic achievement of winning both portions of the tournament was not without its share of suspense.

Diego Vargas didn’t get off to a very good start during Friday’s early rounds of the tourney. Wrestling at 195 pounds, Vargas lost in the first round of the JV tournament. Vargas earned a bye in the first round of consolation and was not scheduled to wrestle again until the end of the day Friday.

“He was waiting to be staged to the mat,” said Crook County High School Head Coach Jake Huffman. “He’s the last bout that our team has so a couple of the coaches have already gone back to the hotel with the rest of the wrestlers, but there are four coaches waiting there. We are listening, listening, and listening for his name to be called.”

Finally Vargas went to the staging area on his own and was told that he didn’t check in for his match in time so he had forfeited the match.

“The tournament director said ‘you didn’t show up to your mat when we staged you,'”?Huffman said. “So he was disqualified from the tournament when we left on Friday.”

Huffman added that he made a big deal about the disqualification because no one on the Crook County team was ever notified that it was time for Vargas to wrestle.

Huffman talked to the tournament director, the wrestler from Dallas that Vargas was scheduled to compete against, and a coach from Dallas, all to no avail.

Saturday morning Vargas weighed in even though he was not scheduled to wrestle.

Then just before the tournament was set to restart on Saturday morning, a different coach for Dallas did something extraordinary.

“A different Dallas coach comes up to me and says ‘hey, I’m a big believer in karma and that just can’t happen,’” Huffman said. “‘The right thing for you guys to do is to wrestle this match out,’”

Huffman and the Dallas coach talked to the tournament director and Vargas wrestled the Dallas wrestler on the center mat of the main court 10 minutes prior to the start of the tournament.

Vargas eventually won the match and was back in the tournament.

“He pins that kid and then he wins four more matches to take third in the tournament,” Huffman said. “For Diego to not even know that he was wrestling on Saturday morning, weigh in, wrestle and then win five straight matches was pretty special.”

Vargas finished with 20 points in the tournament, making the difference between Crook County winning or finishing second. Without the sportsmanship demonstrated by the Dallas wrestler and coaching staff, the Crook County accomplishment would never have happened.

Vargas was not the only Crook County wrestler to have a special tournament.

Zach Smith, the Cowboys varsity wrestler at 195 pounds, also had an interesting event. In the quarterfinals, Smith was trailing Ben Kociemba of Hillsboro 7-3 with just 16 seconds remaining.

“He grabs the kid, throws him in a head and arm and scores five points to win the match,” Huffman said.

In the semifinals, Smith again had a miraculous victory. He trailed Mikel Farley of Glide 10-2 midway through the third period.

“He gets into a scramble and ends up on top and ends up pinning the kid and winning the match,” Huffman said. “People are saying he’s so lucky, but I tell you what. To have luck you have to be ready for it. Zach has worked hard enough and done the right things in the practice room and outside the practice room, so he’s ready to take advantage of opportunities. It was pretty impressive, but our whole team did that.”

Several other Crook County wrestlers also had noteworthy tournaments. Terran Libolt knocked off the tournament’s No. 2 seed, Liam Tarvin, of Hermiston, to reach the semifinals of the 106-pound weight class. Libolt lost in the semifinals, but still finished fifth in the tournament.

Meanwhile, Trayton Libolt defeated No. 1 seed Casey Coulter, of Grants Pass, in the 113-pound championship, earning the wrestler of the meet award in the process.

Kurt Mode (120) also had a great tournament knocking off No. 2 seed and two-time defending 6A champion Devin Poppen, of Oregon City, in the tournament semifinals. Mode then lost a close 8-6 match to No. 1 seed Tyler Schilling of Sweet Home in the semifinals.

As usual, Tyler Berger also had an outstanding tournament. The undefeated Berger pinned all four of his opponents as he won the 152-pound weight class to win his fourth consecutive Reser individual championship. Berger is only the second athlete to accomplish the feat in the 25-plus year history of the tournament.

Huffman was also pleased with the effort of Brendan Harkey, who wound up fourth at 160 pounds. After leading late in the match, Harkey lost a close 7-5 quarterfinal decision to eventual champion Spencer Crawford of Cascade. Harkey battled his way back through the consolation rounds to the third and fourth place match, where he was edged 4-3 by defending 6A champion Ian Thomas for third place.

“So he’s right there in the mix,” Huffman said. “All of our guys are right in the mix.”

There is no question that all of the Cowboys are in the mix.

Twelve of the team’s 14 varsity wrestlers placed in the tournament, while 10 JV wrestlers also placed. Trey Shores (120), Hayden Bates (132), Michael Seyl (138), and Aaron Swindle (182) all won JV championships.

Huffman was rightfully proud of the team’s performance.

“It was a great weekend,” he said. “It was pretty special. Winning the Coast Classic, winning Rollie Lane, and winning Reser, those are team goals that have accomplished. Now we need to focus more on getting these kids where they want to be on the podium at state and the results will take care of themselves. Because, you know, that’s how they leave their mark on Crook County High School wrestling is placing at the state tournament, so we want to make sure that we help them get there.”

Crook County is finished wrestling in tournaments until the state championships. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of wrestling left to watch.

The Cowboys host the Culver Bulldogs in the annual Cowdog Classic on Wednesday, then travel to Redmond Thursday to take on Ridgeview and Madras in matches that are important for seeding at the district tournament. Both matches are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

The Cowboys have one final home match on Thursday, Feb 6 before taking a couple of weeks off to prepare for the Special District 2 championships, which will be held in La Pine on Friday and Saturday, Feb 21-22.




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