Cowboys favored to win regionals
The Crook County Cowboys are the odds-on favorites to win the Special District 1 Wrestling Championships, which are scheduled to be contested in Molalla tonight and Saturday.
However, just because the Cowboys are favored doesn't mean that it is going to be easy.
The 4A's No. 1-ranked Cowboys should be tested throughout the meet by the No. 2-ranked Tillamook Cheesemakers.
Tenth-ranked Molalla, Estacada and Scappoose also have the potential to qualify several wrestlers for the state championships, which will be held the following weekend in Portland.
Winning the tournament is one thing, but more important to the Cowboys is qualifying as many wrestlers as possible for the state championships.
The Crook County coaching staff has made it clear that the team is on a mission. The top four in each weight class advance to state.
"Our goal is to put as many wrestlers on the bus to state as possible," head coach Jake Huffman has said repeatedly.
The Cowboys had won four consecutive state titles before finishing one half point behind Sweet Home for last year's championship. Anything short of a state championship would be disappointing to the Cowboys. However, in order to accomplish that, the team needs to take a sizeable contingent to state.
With 14 weight classes and four wrestlers qualifying in each class, that means that 56 wrestlers from the district will punch a ticket to the state meet.
With each team allowed to enter up to two wrestlers per weight class, the Cowboys are expected to enter 27 wrestlers in this weekend's competition.
Entries were not finalized until a seeding meeting Thursday evening, and with coaches keeping their lineups close to the vest, it is unclear who will be entered at what weight classes for the district meet.
What is clear is that Special District 1 is loaded with talent. The region has at least three ranked wrestlers in each weight class. Competition should be especially fierce at 106, 170 and 220 pounds, where six wrestlers in each weight class are ranked.
The region also has five ranked wrestlers at 120, 138, 145, 152 and 160 pounds.
That means that in several cases, wrestlers who have a legitimate chance to place at the state championships may not even qualify.
The Cowboys have 16 ranked wrestlers and have several others who have at least an outside chance of making it to the state tournament.
Hunter Mode should have the No. 1 seed at 106 pounds as he is the top-ranked wrestler in the state at that weight. Mode currently has a 24-5 record.
That still doesn't mean that Mode is a lock to make it to the state tournament. A.J. DeGrande, of Scappoose, is ranked second in the state at 106, while Dustin Asher, of Molalla, is third and Keegan Hagerty, of Tillamook, is fourth.
Other ranked wrestlers who may compete at 106 include Tillamook's Isaias Loza (eighth), Estacada's Landin Vittetoe (ninth), and Crook County's Stephen Ware (ranked eighth at 113 pounds).
Other Cowboys who could potentially earn No. 1 seeds for the regional tournament include Pacer Quire (ranked third at 120 pounds), Zachary Mauras (ranked second at 126 pounds), Cole Morgan (ranked second at 132 pounds), Tyler Fioravanti (ranked fifth at 138 pounds), Colton Burkhardt (ranked fourth at 160 pounds), Kyle Knudtson (ranked third at 170 pounds), Mario Hansen (ranked seventh at 220 pounds), and Caleb Parrott (ranked second at 285 pounds).
Mauras could wrestle at either 126 or 132 pounds, while Morgan could compete at 132 or 138. Fioravanti has competed at 145 most of the year but could go down to 138 for regionals. In the upper weight classes, none of the Cowboys are expected to change weight classes.
Whether or not all of those Cowboys will earn No. 1 seeds for the regional tournament will depend on a number of variables, not the least of which is at what weight class several opposition wrestlers choose to compete.
Other Cowboys who appear to have a good chance of making it to the state tournament include Tannon Joyner (ranked fourth at 113 pounds), Trevor Martin (ranked 15th at 120 pounds), Turner Austin (unranked), Jaxson Rhoden (ranked fourth at 182 pounds), and Cal Wilcox (ranked ninth at 195 pounds).
Martin is likely to compete at 113 pounds at regionals, while Austin could wrestle at either 145 or 152 pounds.
Depending on what weight class other wrestlers compete at, Crook County fans might also watch for Jace England, Gage Perry, Tucker Shores, Benjamin Sather, Luke Brewer, Sage Harris, Garrett Bond, Colton Schlachter, Wyatt Holliday and Hayden Hilderbrand.
Second-ranked Tillamook also has a sizeable contingent of wrestlers who are expected to make it to the state tournament.
Quintin Metcalfe is currently ranked first in the state at 113 pounds, while Luis Macias is seventh at 120 pounds, Sam Connolly 13th at 126 pounds, Sean McColly sixth at 132 pounds, Chad Werner sixth at 138 pounds, Dylan Dickson ninth at 138 pounds, Antonio Chacon eighth at 145 pounds, Austin Weeks third at 152 pounds, Elijah McRae third at 160 pounds, Caleb Werner 10th at 170 pounds, Fabian Neimi first at 182 pounds, and Dawson McKibbin eighth at 220 pounds.
Metcalfe, Weeks and Neimi are all expected to earn No. 1 seeds for the regional tournament.
Although the battle for first will be between Crook County and Tillamook, several other teams are expected to make their presence felt.
Estacada has nine wrestlers with at least a chance to make it to the state championships, including Vittetoe at 106 pounds, Caleb Brotnov, 132, Sam Garrison, 138, Justin Drury, 152, Lance Mosier, 170, Draco Yandell, 182, Nico Winsor, 220, and Hunter Gotchall, 285.
Wrestlers to watch for from Scappoose include DeGrande, 106, Colton Frates, 113, Isaac Cook, 152, Jack Eggers, 160, Zeddy Jameson, 170, and Bret Couch, 220.
Molalla also has a chance to send multiple wrestlers to the state tournament, including Asher, 106, Max Tate, 120, Ben Pruitt, 138, Wyatt Perkins, 160, and Emmett Smyth, 170.
From Banks, look for Jack Wicks, 126, Tanner Thompson, 138, Max Merritt, 195, and Brendon Dreyer, 195, to have strong tournaments.
For Gladstone, Jacob Wanlass, 195, Austin Heywood, 220, Max Meyer, 220, and Stefan Smith, 285, should all have a chance to make it to the state tournament.
For Madras, Tyrell Reynoso, 152, Thomas LeClair, 170, and Harrison Manu, 195, are expected to challenge for berths to state.
The remaining teams in the region, Corbett, Seaside and Astoria are long shots to qualify anyone for state.
The regional tournament begins at 4 p.m. tonight with matches through the championship quarterfinals and the first two rounds of consolation contested. Wrestling resumes Saturday morning beginning at 10 a.m. with the championship matches scheduled to start at approximately 5:30 p.m.