Hillsboro, Century wrestlers provide highlights at the prestigious Reser's Tournament of Champions

Brennan Baccay entered last week’s Reser’s Tournament of Champions as the No. 8 seed at 126 pounds.

He left it as HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Century junior Brennan Baccay celebrites his victory over Hillsboro's Joey Rodriguez in the 126-pound finals at the Reser's Tournament of Champions on Saturday afternoon.

The Century junior’s championship highlighted a number of standout performances by Hillsboro-area wrestlers at the event, staged last Friday and Saturday at Liberty High School. The tournament pitted the state’s top two dozen programs — regardless of classification — against each other, making it one of the toughest high school wrestling competitions in HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Hillsboro senior Joey Rodriguez wrestles against Century‚'s Brennan Baccay in the 126-pound finals Saturday at the Reser's Tournament of Champions, held at Liberty High School.

In all, 14 wrestlers from Century, Glencoe and Hillsboro recorded top-six finishes and earned place-winner status. Baccay was the only Hillsboro-area individual winner, but the Spartans’ Andy Downer (132 pounds) and Joey Rodriguez — whom Baccay knocked off in the 126-pound final — also were finalists.

On the team front, Hilhi led the way with a superlative two-day performance. The Spartans finished third, a program-best during the Adam Reese era. Reigning Class 4A state champion Crook County won with 274 points, followed by perennial powerhouse Roseburg — winner of five of the last seven 6A state titles — with 224. The Spartans wound up with 158 points in third place. Century also landed in the top 10 at ninth with 84.5 points, and Glencoe took 15th (68).

Not only did Hilhi record its best team finish, said Reese, but his squad also set new program marks for number of placers (seven) and number of finalists (two).

“I was just telling the kids, it was a great tournament,” Reese said on Saturday. “I just didn’t like how it finished. We lost some matches there at the top level that it looked like we weren’t really ready to go.

“But as far as the tournament, I couldn’t be prouder of the guys. We set some records that are going to be tough to be beat. We showed we’re one of the not just top programs in 6A but top programs in the state.”

As for Baccay, he may have been the final seed in his weight class, but he was also the final competitor left standing, all the more impressive considering that no other titlist was seeded lower than third.

The title might have surprised some in attendance, but Baccay had his sights on victory all along.

“In my mind, I was telling myself, ‘I’m going to win this no matter what,’” Baccay said of his mindset going in.

After a first-round bye, Baccay pinned Glide’s Bryson Belloir and won by technical fall against Daniel Cruz of David Douglas. In the semifinals, Baccay turned back Levi Pomeroy of Eagle Point to earn a match against Rodriguez, the No. 3 seed.

In that match, the first meeting between the two wrestlers, Baccay outscored the Hilhi senior 8-2 in the second period. After allowing Rodriguez just one point on an escape in the third, he was able to hold his hands aloft on the center mat and celebrate a 10-4 decision.

Despite his self-belief, the title still left Baccay — who surely looks to improve upon his two-and-out showing at 120 pounds in last year’s Class 6A state tournament — in a bit of shock.

“I was like, ‘This is crazy,’” Baccay said about his reaction. “I didn’t think this would ever happen.”

While Rodriguez did not land the top spot on the podium, he did place at Reser’s after not having done so last year, and he rebounded nicely from a rough outing at the Oregon Wrestling Classic, staged the week before in Redmond.

Rodriguez entered the Classic with just a single loss but sputtered to a 3-3 record in an outing he called “a wake-up call.” Last week, he put that behind him and made a run to the final despite having battled illness — Reese said he sent him home early from practice last Thursday, the day before the tournament began.

After a first-round bye, on his run to the final, Rodriguez picked up an 8-2 decision against Jon Phelps of McNary, and he pinned No. 6 seed Saxton Schaffner of Culver. In perhaps his best performance of the tournament, in the semifinals he throttled No. 2 Tyler Thomas of Grants Pass in a 15-2 decision. That was a notable turning of the tables given that Thomas beat Rodriguez in a 2013 6A 120-pound state quarterfinal en route to a second-place finish.

“This year, it’s my last year,” Rodriguez said. “I gotta go out with a bang, place at this tournament, at least.”

Like Rodriguez, Downer improved upon his seed by making the final, which he lost by the narrowest of margins in a 4-3 decision to No. 3 Cole Van Anrooy of Roseburg.

The fourth-seeded Downer had a first-round bye before pinning Cascade’s Cole Cade and No. 5 Devin Freeman of Glide 10-7.

That put him up against Century’s Amari Sangsavanh, the No. 1 seed who sported an undefeated record entering the tournament.

But Downer put an end to that run with a 12-6 decision in the semifinals. Sangsavanh also lost his third-place match and wound up fourth.

“Everyone thought that I wasn’t going to win, that he was the one to win,” Downer said. “But I just brought it to him. I’m not scared of anyone. I decided I don’t have anything to lose. I’ve already lost this season.”

The semifinal victory also gave Downer another shot at Van Anrooy, who had pinned him the week prior at the Classic.

In the first round of the final, both Downer and Van Anrooy recorded a takedown and an escape for a 3-3 stalemate. The Roseburg junior then got the upper hand with an escape midway through the second period, which wound up the decisive point after neither wrestler could break through in the final round.

“I was in head-to-head with him,” Downer said. “It’s just I gassed in the third round, and that’s something I’ve been working on. I need to get my cardio up a little bit.”

Of course, while Downer and Rodriguez provided the Spartans’ individual highlights, plenty of others had something to do in getting Hilhi into the top three in the team standings. The team’s other place-winners were Ruben Rodriguez-Saenz, third at 106 pounds; T.J. Cavender, fourth at 182; Ben Kociemba, fourth at 190; Matt Peterson, fifth at 113; and Hunter Morse, sixth at 160.

In addition to Baccay and Sangsavanh, Ryley Bilderbeck (fourth, 145) and Lucas Scott (fifth, 190) placed for Century.

Glencoe’s Nate Johnson recorded the Crimson Tide’s best finish, matching his seed with a third-place result at 113 pounds. Ian Stettler (106) and Anthony Lambert (152) added fifth-place finishes.

All three teams were back in dual meet action Thursday, but results were not available at press deadline. Next Thursday, Century travels to Forest Grove for a dual and Hilhi entertains Glencoe.

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