Madras wrestling hits milestone ahead of districts
Madras accomplished something as a team last Saturday it had not done in the past two seasons.
The White Buffalos had three wrestlers advance to the finals at the Cottage Grove Invitational in Tyrell Reynoso (152), Thomas LeClaire (170) and Harrison Manu (195), with LeClaire and Manu coming out victorious.
Those three were a significant reason why the Buffs were able to finish with 124 points, in seventh place and just 10 points away from moving up to fourth place, but Madras saw aggressiveness across its team, whether or not they placed. It is an encouraging sign at this point in the season for Madras, with just one event remaining before the Feb. 9-10 district tournament.
"Even in losses, we're competing, and that hasn't always been the case," head coach Cameron Mitchem said. "Kids are more aggressive. They're wrestling to win and not necessarily to not lose."
William Lemus (220) and Catalino LeClaire (160) rounded out the list of Madras placers, finishing in fourth and sixth, respectively.
Thomas LeClaire's first-place finish marked the first time in his high school career he'd won a varsity tournament, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the senior hoping to make a deep run at districts. Similar to Jan. 20, at the White Buffalo Invitational, LeClaire was efficient on the mat.
Three of his four wins were by fall, including the finals match against Connor Khon of Philomath, which he finished in 3:35. All combined, he totaled 29 points for the team, second only to Manu's 30 points.
"For him to get to the finals, get through the semifinals and win it is big coming into districts," Mitchem said.
Manu pushed his season record to 31-2, with yet another tournament win on the season. He marched into the finals with three straight pins, then faced a reigning state placer in Coquille's Collyn Potter. The two hadn't yet faced off this season. Manu had a chance to pin Potter, but ultimately won in a 9-2 decision.
Manu, also a senior, and the Buffs' one returning state qualifier, has improved in a number of areas this season, Mitchem said.
"I'd say the biggest difference from last year to this year is (his) bottom wrestling," Mitchem said. "Last year I don't think he was as confident being on bottom … He's a pretty complete wrestler; I don't think there's a bad position for him anymore."
For Reynoso, it was the second time he had reached the finals of a tournament this season. Although he won at the Rollin Schimmel Memorial in late December, Mitchem said his runner-up finish last weekend was his best tournament to date.
Reynoso's run included a 4-1 decision over Caleb Nylin of Corvallis, a dominant, 16-0 technical fall on Kobe Sanders of Creswell, and in the semifinals, a fall over Pleasant Hill's Logan Parris in 1:13. In the finals, Reynoso led early against Elijah Santana of Phoenix, but eventually was pinned in 3:02.
Catalino LeClaire wrestled a number of close matches, including a tiebreaker win over Glide's Rhett Syverson, a 6-4 decision loss to Siuslaw's Riley Jennings in the consolation semis, and in the fifth-place match, giving up a pin with just four seconds to go in the third round.
Lemus also kept his placing match within reach, but ultimately was pinned by Glide's Zach Vigil in 5:06 and settled for fourth place.
A couple others who didn't place were competitive in their losses — a mentality that Mitchem felt could be found in many places throughout his team.
Kody Zemke (182), for example, was in a close quarterfinals match against La Pine's Michael Heutzenroeder on Friday. Zemke tied the match at 4-4 in the third round, and was on top looking to turn his opponent, when he got out of position and ultimately gave up a reversal.
Heutzenroeder won in a 6-4 decision, but Mitchem told him as he was coming off the mat, "I can't fault you Kody; you were going for the win."
"Overall, that was kind of our mentality," Mitchem said.
Erik Boynton (120) battled in his bracket, but was ultimately eliminated after losing to Crescent Valley's Drew Roberts and Hunter Eveland, whom Mitchem called "a couple buzzsaws."
Madras will host Estacada and Molalla for league duals on Thursday at 5 p.m. The Buffs will then get a weekend free of competition to rest up and get ready for the district tournament, to be held in Molalla.