Cougar freshman Alexys Zepeda enjoying strong debut after winning Pan-Am Gold in August

The Gervais wrestling team sent a small contingent of athletes to the Bill Hagerty Invitational at Nestucca High School on Saturday, placing two of six to finish 12th in the final standings.

The Cougars were led by freshman Alexys Zepeda and junior Jonathan Cruz, who have been the team's top two wrestlers through the first month of the season.

Zepeda advanced to the championship round of the 126-pound bracket en route to a third-place finish. The freshman opened the tournament with a bye past the first round, followed by a second-round pin over Vernonia's Kameron Powell to advance to the bracket semifinal.

She earned a 3-2 decision against Ilwaco's Ghannon Wheldon to earn a trip to the championship match, where she fell by 6-0 decision to Rainier's Isaiah Vasquez. She followed with a forfeit against Scio's Hunter Zeiher in the second-place match to finish the day.

Zepeda enters the Gervais program after an impressive middle school career and is coming off of a gold medal-winning performance at the U.S. Schoolgirl Pan American Championships in August. She was one of six U.S. girls to win a goal medal in their respective bracket, taking the championship in the 52 kg weight class, and was named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler.

Zepeda has used the Pan-Am performance as a springboard into her high school career, where she has opened with back-to-back third-place finishes in December. Prior to Saturday's performance at the Bill Hagerty Invite, Zepeda made her high school debut at the Scio Holiday Tournament on Dec. 9.

After falling by 11-1 major decision to Amity senior Aaron Runion in the first round, Zepeda rallied with three straight decisive victories —one by 13-2 major decision and two by pinfall — to claim third place at the tournament.

But Zepeda has not been the lone success for the small Gervais team this year. Junior teammate Cruz has also placed in every match he's been in this month, including a sixth-place finish in the 145-pound bracket on Saturday.

Cruz opened the season with a first-place finish in the 148-pound junior varsity bracket at the Perry Burlison Invitational on Dec. 2 and followed with a fourth-place finish at the 145-pound varsity bracket in Scio a week later.

On Saturday, Cruz went 3-3 on the day, rebounding from a first-round loss in the quarterfinals with back-to-back victories via pinfall to advance to the consolation semifinal. He lost in the second round to Ilwaco's Allen Chetwood to drop down to the fifth-place match against Siletz's Tanner Clark, whom he beat to open the tournament. But Cruz had reached his daily limit and was forced to forfeit the match, finishing sixth overall.

Sophomore Alex Giron went 2-2 in the 170-pound bracket, while teammate Fabian Santos was 1-2 at 170 pounds. The two were coming off a successful trip to Scio where they each advanced to the consolation semifinals.

The rest of the Cougars were rounded out by Reynaldo Marrufo (0-2, 145 pounds) and Zamir Cortes (2-2, 145).

Phil Hawkins can be reached at 503-765-1194 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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