CCHS is the clear favorite going into district meet


Crook County team looks even stronger than 2013 team which dominated district and state

When the Special District 2 wrestling tournament kicks off on Friday in La Pine, the Crook County Cowboys will be the prohibitive LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Tyler Berger works to pin Redmonds Hunter Smith during the Cowboys final match of the regular season. Berger, a three-time defending state champion, is undefeated this year with a 37-0 record. He will compete for the Cowboys at 152 pounds at this weekends district championships, which will be held in La Pine.

The Cowboys dominated the district meet last year, finishing with 518 points, more than twice the point total of second place La Grande (229). Mac Hi finished a distant third (183), while Ontario took fourth (171), and Madras came away with fifth (140.5).

This year’s Cowboys appear even stronger than last year’s squad, which went on to dominate the state tournament.

“The goal is to have 14 state champions and 14 runners-up,” said Crook County Head Coach Jake Huffman, who was only half joking. “Right now our goal is to get as many guys to state as we can and then once we get those guys to state we can focus on the next thing, but right now it’s just to get those guys on the bus.”

The Cowboys have six returning champions from last year’s district tournament and return two state champions. Add Tyler Berger, a three-time state champion who transferred from Hermiston, and Kurt Mode, who finished fourth at state a year ago at Scappoose, and the Cowboys are expected to have even more district champions this year.

Although the Cowboys lineup is mostly set, the team was still scheduled to have some wrestle offs on Monday before finalizing their district roster.

“Our lineup is 99.9 percent set,” said Huffman. “There is one little thing that could still change it but other than that it’s dialed in.”

The one place the Cowboys are uncertain is at 170 and 182 pounds, where Clark Woodward and Aaron Swindle were still deciding which weight to wrestle at. The pair could both wrestle at 170 pounds, or either one could move up to 182 pounds, where Gunnar Robirts is the Cowboys’ No. 1 wrestler for the district championships. by: LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Brendan Harkey is one of six returning district champions for the Cowboys. The team is expected to retain their district and state titles.

Carson Raymond is expected to take the final spot at either 170 or 182 depending on what Woodward and Swindle finally decide.

The remainder of the Cowboys lineup is largely set.

Terran Libolt and Jared Wheeler will compete at 106 pounds. Trayton Libolt and Johnny Avina, both defending district champions, will compete at 113 pounds, while Kurt Mode and Trey Shores will represent the Cowboys at 120 pounds. Wrestling at 126 pounds will be Brent Bannon and Zach Lawson, while Grayson Munn and Hayden Bates are at 132 pounds. Ryder Shinkle will be the Cowboys’ No. 1 wrestler at 138 pounds, while Michael Seyl is expected to be No. 2. Brad Howard and Zach Young were scheduled to have a wrestle off Monday afternoon with the winner taking on Seyl for the spot.

At 145 the Cowboys will be represented by Colbran Meeker and Cole Ovens. Undefeated Tyler Berger will wrestle at 152 pounds, while John Crites and Tyler King will wrestle off for the second 152-pound spot. At 160 pounds the Cowboys will enter Brendan Harkey and either Brogan Howard or Ethan Burch. Cade by: LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Colbran Meeker is the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the state at 138 pounds and is expected to defend his district championship this weekend.Woodward was expected to take the No. 2 spot, but suffered a knee injury last week in practice.

Zach Smith and Diego Vargas will compete at 195 pounds, while Trevor Rasmussen and Curtis Crouch will wrestle at 220 pounds. At heavyweight the Cowboys will be represented by Jason Williams and Christian Biggs.

The Cowboys took 21 wrestlers to state a year ago with 17 of them placing. The team is expecting to qualify even more wrestlers for the state tournament this year.

Huffman noted that all 28 Cowboys have the opportunity to make it to the state tournament and that the team is healthy and ready to go.

The Cowboys have not wrestled in more than two weeks, instead choosing to use the time for conditioning.

“It was awesome,” Huffman said. “The kids bought into it and I think it was the type of diversion that we needed. We did some good things in the wrestling room and I thought we came together as a team pretty well with some team bonding things that we did.”

La Grande should be the stiffest challenge for the Cowboys, but do not appear to have enough horsepower to be a serious threat to the Cowboys.

Still, the Tigers have several wrestlers who should compete for district titles.

Cole Rohan, who was fourth at 106 pounds a year ago, is ranked No. 1 in the state, and has already defeated Terran Libolt once this year. Caleb Woodworth also placed fourth in the district a year ago, and has defeated Woodward once this year in a 170-pound match. Other Tigers who could reach the state tournament include Corey Isaacson (106), Ryan Middleton (145), Micah Fuller (220), and Dyllan Reece (285).

Ridgeview also has a pair of wrestlers to watch for. Boomer Fleming (195) won the state championship a year ago and is undefeated this year, while Connor Sperling (220) is also expected to reach the state tournament.

One of the best matchups in the district should be at 113 pounds where Ontario’s Fransisco Barrera and Crook County’s Trayton Libolt have split a pair of matches this year.

Sal Morales, Ben Reyes, and Juan Lopez should also compete for spots at state for Ontario.

Madras will be represented by Ian Oppenlanger, Bryce Vincent, Samuel Flores and Miguel Sevilla, while Mac Hi, who the Cowboys have not seen yet this year, is also expected to field a strong squad.

“There are some tough guys that we haven’t seen yet from Mac Hi, and there will be some intriguing matchups at district,” said Huffman. “But the bottom line is if our kids go out and take care of business the results are going to take care of themselves.”

Ontario, Mac Hi, Baker, and Ridgeview should battle for third place in the district, while Madras, La Pine, and Sisters do not have enough firepower to mount a serious challenge.

Wrestling is set to start at 4 p.m. on Friday and resume at 11 a.m. on Saturday with the semifinals.

“I’m excited for this weekend,” Huffman said. “I’m excited for these kids and I think that’s what this big break does. It builds excitement and it gets us hungry. I would just tell the rest of the district to look out because the Cowboys are going to be ready and we’re fired up.”