Wrestling: Kennedy sends two to state tournament
Kennedy wrestling partners Carlos Saravia and Mateo Marrow almost weren't able to compete at the 2A/1A Special District 1 championship tournament on Saturday.
Now they'll be representing the Trojans at the state championships in less than two weeks.
The teammates each advanced to the championship match of their respective brackets at the district tournament hosted at Monroe High School, placing second overall and giving the Trojans their first state qualifiers in nearly two decades.
For Marrow, a freshman, the district tournament seemed like it was long shot heading into the final month of the regular season. The Trojans' most experienced wrestler coming into the season, the 106-pound Marrow had been medically held out of competition for most of January and was only cleared to compete in the days leading up to the district tournament.
"It was a race against time," Kennedy head coach Dewey Enos said. "We needed him to heal up and be in good shape and have the right mindset knowing that this could be the last show."
Throughout the season, it became clear that Marrow was Kennedy's best hope at qualifying for the state championship tournament in Portland, but was unable to practice against his teammates throughout most of the month leading up to districts.
"It was hard for him, because he didn't have anybody else to practice against," Enos said. "It was very lonesome for him and very hard."
But when Marrow was cleared to compete on Saturday, the freshman made the most of his new lease on the season by taking down Vernonia sophomore Patrick Fletcher in the semifinals of the 106-pound bracket.
The two had never wrestled before, and Fletcher entered the competition seeded second in the bracket with a 25-13 record. The small bracket added to the pressure. With just five athletes competing, only the top two placers would qualify for the state tournament.
"You lose one and you're pretty much done," Enos said.
Marrow showed his poise on the mat, beating Fletcher 7-5 to advance to the championship match against Ethan Ferris, a sophomore from Toledo who went 25-1 this season.
Ferris transferred to Toledo after wrestling at Newport his freshman year and has been nearly unbeatable this year, including in a pin over Marrow earlier in the season.
The rematch was the same result, with Ferris winning by pinfall in 1:20. The loss dropped Marrow to the second-place match to secure his trip to state, but because Fletcher had moved up through the consolation bracket to face Marrow again, Marrow was awarded the win due to already beating Fletcher earlier in the day.
Saravia faced a similar road to state in the 120-pound bracket. The Kennedy junior had difficulty finding room in his schedule to dedicate to the wrestling program due to commitments to his family's restaurant business.
"He missed a lot of practice," Enos said. "I told him you've got to be dedicated this last week in order to make districts. The bracket's small enough, and you're tough enough. If you have a solid week at practice, you're going to have a good shot at making state."
Like Marrow, Saravia had a small bracket to fight through with little room for error. Due to a late scratch in the bracket that left only three wrestlers, Saravia was moved up to the No. 2 seed, where he faced Vernonia junior Zachary Larke in the semifinals.
Saravia dominated the match, taking him down three times in the first round. He held an 8-3 advantage in the second round when he started on the bottom, escaped and took down Larke before turning him for the pin in 3:14.
Saravia went on to fall to Nestucca freshman Samuel Osias in the championship match. Because Larke was the only other wrestler in the bracket and Saravia had beaten him previously, the Kennedy junior didn't have to wrestle the second-place match and punched his ticket to state.
Marrow and Saravia became Kennedy's first two state qualifiers since Sean Garrison advanced to state in the 125-pound bracket in 2000.
With two weeks until the competition, Enos is looking to get his two state qualifiers to make one final push. Despite the relatively short amount of practice time, the Kennedy coach is confident Marrow and Saravia can still make great strides if they dedicate themselves and are more than capable of placing.
"To be honest, I can see both these guys going top four in state," Enos said. "I've seen kids go from district runner up to state champion in two weeks. It happens all the time."
The 2018 State Wrestling Championships will be held at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland on Feb. 16-17.