Milwaukie wrestlers pin down NWOC district team title, qualify 16 to state
All the hard work that the Milwaukie High School wrestling team had invested over the course of a mostly up-and-down season finally paid off in a big way Saturday.
Chazz Amundson, Matthew Lee, Noah Ramirez and Bryant Smith won individual titles and four other Mustangs also earned their way into Saturday night's finals as Milwaukie clinched the Northwest Oregon Conference district championship at Putnam High School.
It was the first district team title in 31 years for the Mustangs, who will send 16 wrestlers to the two-day OSAA Class 5A wrestling state tournament beginning Friday at Portland's Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
"We had never had everybody come together at the same time this season, and finally we got to the district tournament and peaked at the right time," Milwaukie coach Brian Duhrkoop said. "We had a few things fall our way as well, but everybody wrestled really well.
"We said at the beginning of the year that was wanted to be league champions. We believed it could happen if everybody showed up. It took a lot of hard work and a lot of team unity in what was really a difficult year with injuries and other issues, but we got it done.
"It definitely was a team effort, for sure."
Of Milwaukie's 23 wrestlers entered in the tournament, 14 advanced to the semifinals, eight reached the finals, and four won titles -- Smith at 132 pounds, Lee at 145, Amundson at 195, and Ramirez at 220. The Mustangs finished with 334 points to runner-up Wilsonville's 302.5, while nine-time defending champion Sandy finished third with 246.5 points.
"Our goal was to get a district team title, so we all came in and busted to get it," Smith said. "Definitely a lot of beating our heads in a lot of hard, tough practices and just a lot of hard work as a team went into it.
"There were definitely a couple matches that our guys had to push through to get the victory, which was really awesome, and I think everybody that qualified for state earned it."
Said Amundson: "I think the team title is the biggest one for me, because our team will always be remembered as district champions. It came down to not only our studs, but our secondary wrestlers, too. We had a lot of people that ended up placing third and fourth that helped out a lot."
Milwaukie's Devin Greeley finished second at 106, Brandon Pomeroy was second at 113, Dennis Chubok placed second at 182, and Kaiden Durheim finished as the runner-up at 220 after conceding the final to his teammate, Ramirez.
The Mustangs scored third-place finishes with Zach Lemari at 106, Jacob Ashley at 126, Logan LaPine at 160, Vinny Pederson at 170, and Daniel Berezhinskiy at 285, while Jaden South placed fourth at 113, and Jon Lee was fourth at 132.
"I was thinking if we didn't wrestle well, we have eight kids going to state," Duhrkoop said. "And I thought if we did wrestle well, we'd have 14. Now, we're taking 15, plus one girl (Fiona McConnell) who placed fourth in the girls' state qualifier, so we have 16 going to state, which is even better than I expected.
"I wouldn't say we overachieved, but I definitely think we were close to where we can be at full strength."
The Mustangs still have some work to do.
"We had two goals this season," Durheim said. "One of them was to be district champs. We fulfilled that. The second is to take home a team trophy with a top-four finish at state.
"We're going to have to wrestle as well there as we did here to make that happen, because there are some tough teams that are a little bit better than us right now. But it can definitely happen."
Smith, the Mustangs' junior who won the 126-pound district title as a sophomore, scored an escape with 1:45 remaining in the third round and edged Sandy's Hunter Rickman 3-2 to claim the 132 title.
"It was a tough match," Smith said. "I knew I'd have to work hard either way, so the plan was to just go in and attack"
At 145, Lee repeated as district champion with an 8-1 decision over Putnam's Drew Urben, who was wrestling on an injured knee and was reluctant to engage after nearly getting pinned in the first round.
"He (Urben) didn't push into me at all, which really frustrated me," said Lee, a senior. "I like when people push in so I can do some slick moves and look cool in the finals and show off a little bit, but … it's all good.
"A second district title is cool, but it's really just about getting a better seed at state. And what happens at state, happens at state. I know 145 is going to be stacked and I'm excited."
At 195, Amundson, also a senior, used three takedowns and a near fall to open an 8-2 lead over Wilsonville's Cheromino Simina before scoring a pin with 33 seconds remaining in the first round.
"I was surprised I got him," Amundson said. "I struggled pinning that guy before. He's good off his back. I just wanted to wrestle a solid match and get ready for state."
Putnam put seven of its 13 wrestlers into the semifinals, and four reached the finals with junior Jonathon Hernandez taking top honors at 126 and senior Giovanni Hernandez repeating as district champion at 160.
Jonathon Hernandez won by fall in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, and then edged Hillsboro's Cole Siemon 7-5 in the final after scoring a reversal with 42 seconds remaining.
"Cole is just a tough kid," said Jonathon Hernandez, who was in the bottom position when he drew a stalling warning in the third round with the score tied 5-5. "I tried to keep calm, but when that stalling call came into play, I knew I had to move. I went for the reversal and luckily came out on top."
Giovanni Hernandez was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament in the 152-285 weight classes after scoring an 11-3 major decision over top-seeded Max Topliff of Sandy in the 160 final.
"I had a lot riding on this match," Giovanni Hernandez said. "Topliff beaten me earlier in the season and he was the reason I dind't make it to state my sophomore year.
"I came out and did what my coaches told me and wrestled like I know how to wrestle -- no big, flashy moves, just take my time and if a shot opens up, take it. That's all I did tonight and got the 'W.'"
Leading 2-1 after two round, Giovanni Hernandez added an escape and a takedown to open the third round, Topliff came back with a reversal, and then Hernandez closed with an escape, a takedown, and a three-point near fall -- the final six points all coming in the final 20 seconds.
"I'm feeling confident looking ahead to stay," Giovanni Hernandez said. "It's my senior year and I can't afford to have any little mistakes, because it could haunt me the rest of my life if I do. I want to go out wrestling smart, no regrets, and leave everything out on the mat."
The Kingsmen will take the Hernandez brothers and Urben at 145 to the state tournament along with senior Justin Bean (second at 170) and junior Damien Baldwin (third at 195).
"We were hoping to send seven, but lost one to injury and another to poor wrestling," Putnam coach John Telesmanich said. "We can't complain. The kids wrestled really well and the five we're taking are pretty quality kids and I think we have a chance for the podium at all those weights."