Poppen ties Oregon Citys school record for career pins as the Pioneers edge the Cavaliers

by: JOHN LARIVIERE - Senior Devin Poppen made Oregon City High School wrestling history over the weekend. With three wins by fall in a tournament at Liberty High School, Poppen recorded his 101st, 102nd and 103rd career pins in collegiate wrestling. The old school record for career pins was 100.The Oregon City Pioneers dodged a bullet and claimed their first Three Rivers League wrestling dual win of the season on Jan. 23, winning at Clackamas in a 39-33 barnburner.

It was a meet with a number of hotly contested matches that could have just as easily gone the other way. Each team won seven matches.

The difference for Oregon City was that the Pioneers won five of their matches by fall, and Clackamas forfeited for lack of a wrestler at 195. Clackamas had only three wins by fall. Counting only the 13 matches contested on the mat, the meet would have ended in a 33-33 standoff.

It wasn’t until the twelfth match of the night, the 120-pound bout between Oregon City senior Devin Poppen and Clackamas senior Travis Whittaker, that the Pioneers clinched the team win.

With Oregon City nursing a 33-26 lead, Poppen pinned Whittaker in the first round, upping Oregon City’s lead to 39-26 — with two matches remaining — and putting the meet out of reach.

Had it not been for the over-aggressiveness of Clackamas junior Luis Zarate in the third match of the night, at 152, the Cavaliers would have likely ended up on the winning end of the 39-33 score.

Zarate got the upper hand on his opponent, Oregon City senior Wyatt Griffith, early in the second round, and appeared headed for a fall. But Zarate lost his grip on Griffith and Griffith ended up the man on top. And 2:36 into their match, the fall went to Griffith. And Oregon City picked up the six points instead of Clackamas.

Oregon City sophomore Ethan Holt (160) and Oregon City senior Tanner Fischer (170) followed with wins by fall [Holt over Alex Brittle and Fischer over Nathan Andrusko]; Pioneer senior Michael Griffin won a close decision over Clackamas senior Brad Pfeifer at 182; and Pioneer senior Grant Hicks accepted a forfeit at 195. And the Pioneers were in the drivers’ seat, leading 27-11.

But the Cavaliers weren’t about to call it a night. They gained momentum in the next two matches, with Clackamas junior Kyle Anderegg taking just 19 seconds to dispatch with Oregon City sophomore Mack Civil at 220. Clackamas junior heavyweight Zach Jett took Oregon City senior Keith Arnold down to his back early in the first round and pinned him, cutting Oregon City’s lead to 27-23. And the Cavaliers appeared to have the momentum to mount a comeback.

Enter Oregon City freshman 106-pounder Devon Lucas, who made Clackamas freshman Gage Sanders look like the rookie he is, dominating Sanders en route to a second-round fall.

“Lucas’ fall was huge,” said Oregon City coach Roger Rolen. “He’s going to be a good one.”

Next up Oregon City fans were treated to a gutsy performance by one of the Pioneers’ most improved wrestlers, junior 113-pounder Ryan Leonard. Leonard was matched up with Clackamas junior Will Greer, a wrestler who had manhandled him, winning 20-3 in dual competition a year ago. Leonard lost the match 9-7, but Greer had to go to overtime to eke out the win.

Aware that the dual-meet team win was still on the line, Oregon City pinmaster, Devin Poppen, (120) then took care of business, earning a fall over Whittaker, and clinching the Pioneer team victory.

It was the 100th career fall for Poppen. The 100 falls tied Oregon City’s school record for career falls in collegiate wrestling, set by Oregon City High School 2012 graduate Jared Groner, who holds the record for most falls in a single season, at 33.

“It’s pretty cool [getting 100 falls],” said Poppen. “It feels good. But I still want to get the record for senior year. It’s 33, and I’ve got 15 so far.”

The featured match of the meet was the 182-pound bout between Griffin and Pfeifer. They were ranked fifth and sixth in the state respectively heading into the meet.

After a scoreless first round, Griffin went up 5-4 with two takedowns and an escape in the second period. Griffin upped his lead to 8-4 with an escape and takedown late in the third round, and then hung on for the 8-5 victory.

Commenting on his team’s performance at Clackamas, Poppen said, “A lot of guys stepped up and got falls, and I think that was the difference in the meet. But we’ve got plenty of room for improvement. We’ve got to work on getting away and keeping off our backs.”

Poppen said of Griffith’s fall: “That was huge. It psyched the team up and got us going. We got two pins after that, and it changed the momentum.”

“Some of our guys wrestled decently,” said Clackamas team co-captain Johnny Nguyen. “But others didn’t perform like we needed them to. We gave up too many falls....”

With the loss, Clackamas slipped to 2-1 in TRL duals. Oregon City, which dropped recent meets to West Linn (37-34) and Canby (40-31), improved to 1-2 with the win.

Despite the two dual losses, Poppen says he still believes his team has a decent shot at winning the upcoming TRL/Mt. Hood Conference regional championships.

“We have a good tournament team,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of kids with the potential to place [at regionals] and make it to state. I feel good about regionals. We already beat Canby and West Linn in tournament-style competition — the Pacific Coast Tournament.... I do think we’ve got a shot at winning regionals.”

The Pioneers close out the TRL dual season with meets with the league’s two weakest teams, wrestling Lake Oswego on the road this Thursday and hosting Lakeridge on Thursday, Feb. 6. The 11-team regional tournament is Feb. 21-22 at Reynolds.

Oregon City hosts an invitational tournament beginning at 9 a.m. this Saturday. Teams from Estacada, Beaverton, Cleveland, Colton, Forest Grove, Hermiston, Hood River, Lake Oswego, Lebanon, Pendleton and West Salem are invited to participate.

Clackamas battles West Linn (2-0) on the road this Thursday, and the Cavaliers have an away meet with Canby (2-0) on Wednesday, Feb. 5.

“I feel like we have a pretty good chance [of beating West Linn],” Nguyen said. “We wrestled them earlier in the season [a 36-27 Cavalier loss] and we’ve improved a lot since then. We’re in better shape and we’ve got more kids at weight. I think we have a chance of winning. I know we’ll give them a good run.”

Fischer excels

at Reser’s tourney

Wrestling at 120, Devin Poppen upped his school record for career falls to 103 (18 on the 2013-14 season) at last weekend’s 24-team Reser’s Tournament of Champions, a two-day tournament hosted by Liberty High School.

But it wasn’t all good news for Poppen, who sports a season record of 25-3. He finished third in the tournament, dropping his first match to an Oregon opponent in the championship semifinals, losing by 10-4 decision to Crook County’s Kurt Mode.

Poppen won four of five matches at the tournament — three by fall, and he pinned Morgan Holcomb of Pendleton in 1:10 of his third-place final.

Tanner Fischer (170) was Oregon City’s only varsity champion at Reser’s. He pinned Pyper McCallum of Pendleton in 1:23 of their finals match, after advancing through first-round falls of Bryndyn Gardner of Cascade and Michael Gaskell of Hillsboro, and a second-round semifinal fall over Spencer Barrett of Sandy.

Fischer, who sports a 25-1 record and has not lost to an Oregon opponent this season, received the Reser’s Tournament’s prestigious Gregorian Award, which is given to the winning wrestler who spends the least amount of time on the mat. With his four falls, Fischer spent just six minutes and 39 seconds wrestling.

Oregon City scored 77 team points and placed 11th at the Reser’s Tournament. Crook County (274), Roseburg (224), Hillsboro (158), Dallas (128-1/2) and Hermiston (112-1/2) were the tournament’s top five teams.

Oregon City had one champion in the second varsity division of the Reser’s Tournament. Gabe Ellicott won all five of his matches and claimed first place at 170, pinning Mitchell Lincoln in 5:15 of their finals match.

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