Wrestling: Woodburn gets back to the grindstone
- Phil Hawkins
- Woodburn Independent - Sports
After an unexpected run at a near-perfect season in the Mid-Willamette Conference, the Woodburn wrestling team is looking to reprise its role as tenacious underdogs at the 2018 State Wrestling Championships this weekend.
The Bulldogs placed 11 wrestlers, sending seven to the state tournament this year after placing third overall at the district qualifier hosted by Silverton High School last week.
"I believe that we will do great," Woodburn junior Giovanni Bravo said after the tournament. "We all knew that we had lots of competition in this tournament, so we had to go out there and wrestle tough."
Bravo finished the tournament as one of the Bulldogs' top-ranked wrestlers, joining senior teammate Edwin Garcia as the only members of the team to reach the district championship match.
Bravo earned a quick trip to the semifinals after a first-round bye and a 53-second pin in the quarterfinals, then defeated Dallas' Bryce Miller by 11-2 decision to advance to the championship round.
But he was turned back by two-time state champion Legend Lamer of Crescent Valley, who defeated Bravo by 16-1 major decision.
Garcia's championship match was much closer, falling by a slim 3-2 margin to South Albany's Angel Huerta after advancing to the finals with wins by major decision and pinfall.
The Woodburn wrestling team earned a reputation this year as one of the deepest and most steadfast teams in the conference, defeating teams with more top-tier talent by overwhelming them with sheer numbers and determination throughout the season.
The Bulldogs were looking to ride that wave of excellence into state this year, and as a result, a third-place finish with no district champions left the team wanting more at the end of the weekend.
"The results weren't what we were expecting," 113-pound sophomore Wesley Vasquez said.
Vasquez is making his second consecutive trip to state and is joined by teammates Bravo (138 pounds), Garcia (220), Chris Serrano (170), William Sandoval (132), Freddy Hernandez (126) and Sergio Mendez (120).
Like last year, Vasquez punched his ticket to state with a fourth-place finish in his bracket, bumping up to 113 pounds this year after wrestling at 106 as a freshman.
While Vasquez praised the team's effort at the tournament, he's using the team's finish as motivation to improve for the coming state tournament this weekend in Portland.
"I wasn't expecting these results…but I got to learn what I did wrong, and it's only preparing me for state," Vasquez said. "This next week the whole team, including myself, is going to work extra hard on and off the mat paying the price to show different and better results at state."
Vasquez is one of four members of the team to place fourth at state, along with Sandoval, Hernandez and Mendez, putting all four of them in tough positions of going up against some of the top-seeded wrestlers in the state this weekend.
Unlike Vasquez, the other three fourth-place members of the Woodburn team will be making their state championship debut. After falling in the quarterfinals by a sudden victory loss to South Albany's Anthony Pulido, Mendez worked his way up the consolation bracket, winning four elimination matches to punch his ticket to state. On the way, he earned a rematch against Pulido in the fifth-place match, winning by pinfall in the third round to advance to the fourth place match where he won again by pinfall to qualify for state.
"It was incredible," Mendez said. "We all poured our guts onto that mat and had incredible matches. Although this is my last year of wrestling, I will miss the team for sweating pounds of grit with me on that mat, and the coaches for the huge help they have been."
The Bulldogs' final state qualifier, Serrano, advanced to the semifinals of the 170-pound bracket and went on to finish third overall, beating South Albany's Jordan Humphries 7-4 in the consolation final.
"(I) am a little disappointed in not making it to the finals, but now I have to get better and stronger for state," Serrano said. "The team did really good, but I know we all wanted it to turn out better. The season as a whole showed a lot of good things and a lot of promise for the future. Now we just got to keep it going."
Other placers at district include Angel Acevedo (138, 5th), Gerardo Gutierrez (145, 5th) and Eric Aparicio (220, 5th).
The 2018 State Wrestling Championships will be held Friday and Saturday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.