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Crook County returns seven state placers as well as several more wrestlers with state tournament experience

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Hunter Mode, right, and Trevor Martin work on takedowns during practice on Wednesday. Mode is a defending state champion, while Martin placed at state two years ago, but did not compete at the state tournament last year due to an injury. The Cowboys open their season tomorrow at the Perry Burlison Classic, which will be held at Cascade High School.The Crook County Cowboy wrestling team is loaded with talent.

The team returns seven state placers from last year's second place team, as well as several more wrestlers who have state tournament experience.

"I think it's all about just getting better every day," second-year head coach Jake Gonzales said. "We have a couple of competitions marked on our calendar that we peak for, but it's all practice, it's all getting ready for our state qualifier, our district tournament, and then Feb. 28 and 29 (the state tournament). Everything up until then is practice."

Gonzales added that practice is going well for the Cowboys.

He likes the effort that he is seeing in practice, as well as the talent level in the wrestling room.

"I guess I'm biased, but I think our team is super tough, from our seniors down to our freshmen," Gonzales said. "It's a great atmosphere. It's a great team right now, so we just have to build on it and keep moving forward."

Last year's state tournament went down to the final match, when Crescent Valley's heavyweight pinned his opponent to win the individual state championship, it also gave the Raiders a 1.5-point win over the Cowboys for the team title.

This year's Cowboy team wants to avenge that narrow defeat. However, Gonzales is quick to point out that the team still has a lot of work to do.

In order to improve the team's depth, Crook County is doubling up on some of its tournaments, with the varsity team going to one tournament while the JV team goes to a second varsity tournament on the same weekend.

The first time that will occur is this weekend, when the varsity team will head to Cascade High School for the Perry Burlison Classic while the JV team will travel to Bend for the Central Oregon Officials Tournament.

"We have everyone wrestling this weekend," Gonzales said. "We are getting everyone as many matches as we can so that we can start looking at areas that we need to work on. When they go to a tournament, a dual or whatever, when you wrestle another team it's always good because you get to see where we need to get better at."

Gonzales added that the team is getting good leadership from the team's seniors, including defending state champions Hunter Mode, Zach Mauras and Kyle Knudtson.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Brayden Duke works to take down Ben Sather during a drill at Wednesday's practice. Both Duke and Sather qualified  for last year's state tournament.Other key returners include Steven Ware, Trevor Martin, Tucker Bonner, Tannon Joyner, Jace England, Trentyn Maryanski, Brayden Duke, Victor Rodriguez, Ben Sather, Gavin McLean and Hayden Hilderbrand, who all have state tournament experience.

Gonzales added that Cowboy wrestling fans should expect some surprises from some of the team's younger wrestlers.

"It helps when you have a great leadership group like the Mode and the Mauras," Gonzales said. "And then when you have a good freshman class, I think it's up and down the lineup. I'm not going to mention any names, but I think there will be some surprises in those young guys. It will make more depth and it will help the room. You've got guys thinking maybe they have a spot, but then you have this freshman that will be battling right with them, so then it ups the intensity. It ups the competitiveness in the room, so it's good. They have to keep working and fighting for a spot. We challenge every week."

Once again, the Cowboys have a tough schedule.

Following this weekend's matches, the varsity team travels to Nevada for the Reno Tournament of Champions on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13-14, while the JV team will head to Culver for the Culver Invitational.

The varsity team will travel to Couer d'Alene, Idaho, for the Tri-State Wrestling Tournament, while the JV team will compete in Bend at the Adrian Irwin Memorial Tournament.

The first chance to see the Cowboys at home won't come until Wednesday, Jan. 8, when the team will host Redmond in a dual meet.

Other home meets include a dual with Roseburg on Saturday, Jan. 11, the Mike Shinkle Memorial on Thursday, Jan. 16, and a dual with Crescent Valley on Saturday, Jan. 25.

Gonzales said that after three weeks in the mat room, the team is ready to finally get to wrestle someone other than teammates.

"We are excited," he said. "Go Cowboys."


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