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Crook County believes they are slowly closing the gap on the No. 1 ranked Raiders

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Brayden Duke attempts to control Crescent Valley's Basillio Colon during their 145-pound match on Saturday. Duke won the match 5-2, but Crescent Valley won the dual 47-15. For the second time in eight days, the Crook County Cowboys have wrestled the No. 1-ranked Crescent Valley Raiders.

"It's great," Crook County head coach Jake Gonzales said of the opportunity to host the Raiders. "Part of my job is promoting wrestling, so we want to make it a big event. Any Saturday dual we have I'm going to put the stage up and try to make it big, because that makes it where it's exciting for the kids, for the fans, and you want to make it an exciting match. Win or lose, I want to promote wrestling."

Wrestling under a spotlight on the stage in front of a large and boisterous crowd, the Cowboys fought hard against the Raiders, but for the second time in a row, the Raiders came out on top with a decisive victory.

After whipping the Cowboys 50-21 in the finals of the Oregon Wrestling Classic, the Raiders rolled into Prineville Saturday night and cruised to a 47-15 victory over the No. 2-ranked Cowboys.

"They are a first-class team," said Crook County 182-pound senior Kyle Knudtson, who was spotted hugging his opponent from Crescent Valley following the dual. "We try to be like them. The outcome didn't come out the way that we wanted it to, but good sportsmanship just makes it a better environment for everybody. It's insanely important. It says that you can take a whipping like we did tonight and still have respect for the other guys like we did tonight."

The Cowboys kept things close early, but in the end were unable to keep pace with the Raiders.

The match opened with No. 1-ranked D.J. Gillett, a freshman, of Crescent Valley, taking a hard-fought 7-2 victory over No. 2-ranked sophomore Tucker Bonner, of Crook County, giving the Raiders a 3-0 lead.

Crook County briefly took the lead as freshman Cash Wells received a forfeit at 113 pounds, giving the Cowboys a 6-3 lead.

When No. 1-ranked Gabe Wisenhunt, a sophomore, earned a technical fall over No. 5-ranked Tannon Joyner, a senior, at 120 pounds, the Raiders led 11-6.

The Cowboys continued to keep things close as No. 3-ranked Zach Mauras, a senior, picked up a 7-4 victory over Daschle Lamer, a freshman, who is ranked third at 120 pounds.

"It's important to wrestle that level of competition because that is the level of competition we are going to be wrestling when it comes to the state tournament, and the better kids you wrestle, the better you get," Mauras said. "Iron sharpens iron. That's why I wrestle — those big matches with tough opponents. All the respect in the world to those opponents. I mean, they are good. Coming in as a freshman and hanging out with the seniors, that's saying something. He's tough and it's cool. I love it."

The victory by Mauras once again gave the Cowboys a lead at 9-8. However, that was the last lead they would have.

When No. 1-ranked senior Chance Lamer pinned unranked Wyatt Wood at 132 pounds, the Raiders led 14-9.

A fall by No. 1-ranked junior Hunter Eveland, of Crescent Valley, over No. 15 senior Jace England, of Crook County, moved the score to 20-9.

The Cowboys got on the board again when No. 6-ranked Brayden Duke, a sophomore, edged seventh-ranked Basillio Colon, a freshman, at 145 pounds, making the score 20-12.

However, Crescent Valley won the next three matches to put the dual out of reach.

First, second-ranked Tyson Resko, a junior, edged sixth-ranked Ben Sather, a senior, 6-1 at 152 pounds.

Then, No. 3-ranked Jackson Rosado, a junior, pinned unranked Crook County sophomore Ray Solis. When No. 1-ranked Hayden Walters, a freshman, slipped past fifth-ranked Gavin McLean, a sophomore, 4-0, the Raiders led 32-12.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Zach Mauras takes down Crescent Valley's Dashle Lamer during their 126-pound match on Saturday. Mauras won the match 7-4, but Crescent Valley easily won the dual meet, winning all but four matches. The Cowboys picked up their final win of the night at 182 pounds when Knudtson, a senior who is ranked second, pulled out a late win over James Rowley, a sophomore who is ranked No. 1 at 160 pounds.

The two wrestlers were tied 2-2 late in the third round before Knudtson picked up a late reversal to take a 4-2 win, making the score 32-15.

"He's just so good," Knudtson said of Rowley. "He's so technical on his feet, and he's really strong. He's probably going to be ranked No. 1 in the nation when he's a senior and be recruited by Division 1 schools, but I caught him out of position a couple of times. He's a heck of a wrestler."

Crescent Valley then closed out the match with three consecutive victories.

First, No. 1-ranked Santos Cantu, a senior, pinned No. 8-ranked Gabe Saenz, also a senior, at 195 pounds. Then No. 7-ranked senior Lane Byer edged, 11th-ranked Hayden Hilderbrand, a junior, 2-1 at 220 pounds, before Garrett Olbrich, a senior, pinned sophomore Joey Miller at 285 pounds to close out the night.

"We performed," Gonzales said. "I think we are inching closer, but we still have work to do. We still have about a month left, so we will start fine tuning some things, and I think we will be all right. Thanks to Crescent Valley for coming over."

The Cowboys wrestled without Hunter Mode, who is ranked No. 1 at 138 pounds, and Steven Ware, who is ranked No. 2 at 113 pounds.

Mode had been sick, and Ware has been nursing a nagging injury and took the night off to rest.

Still, even at full strength the outcome would not have changed.

"You want Hunter Mode in there, but I believe in my guys, so you just sub the next guy in there and expect him to compete," Gonzales said. "And it's a great opportunity for Jace. It allows him to compete and battle. I think it was good."

The Cowboys edged Crescent Valley 33-30 in the junior varsity match, primarily because Crescent Valley couldn't fill all the weight classes.

Still, the Cowboys are confident that they can compete with Crescent Valley at the state tournament.

"I think there is no doubt that we are getting tougher as a team, and we are starting to realize that we can hang with these tougher teams," Knudtson said. "I don't necessarily think we can beat them in a dual this year, but I definitely think that we showed them we will compete with them at state."

Mauras agreed.

"On the scoreboard it doesn't show, but I feel like we closed the gap," he said. "The way we wrestled and the physicality that we used we definitely are getting closer. Our kids are starting to believe in themselves a lot more, and I think that's a key aspect when it comes down to the state tournament. I personally believe that at the state tournament our JV lineup is going to be there, and we are going to push past Crescent Valley on the scoreboard there."

Crook County competes tonight at Culver in the Cowdog Classic with wresting slated to start with the JV match at 6 p.m.

The Cowboys then travel to Hillsboro on Friday and Saturday for the Reeser's Tournament of Champions.

Following Saturday's tournament, which features the top 24 teams in the state, the Cowboys have just one more match before the Intermountain Conference Tournament.

Crook County will host Roseburg on Saturday, Feb. 8, in a match that was originally scheduled for mid-January but was postponed due to snowy conditions on the passes.

Crescent Valley 47, Crook County 15

Saturday, January 25

At Crook County

106 —D.J. Gillett, CV, by decision over Tucker Bonne, CC, 7-2. 113 —Cash Wells, CC wins by forfeit. 120 —Gabe Whisenhunt, CV, by TF over Tannon Joyner, CC, 18-2. 126 —Zach Mauras, CC, by decision over Daschle Lamer, CV, 7-4. 132 —Chance Lamer, CV, by fall over Wyatt Wood, CC, 1:10. 138 —Hunter Eveland, CV, by fall over Jace England, CC, 1:20. 145 —Brayden Duke, CC, by decision over Basilio Colon, CV, 6-2. 152 —Tyson Resko, CV, by decision over Ben Sather, CC, 6-1. 160 —Jackson Rosado, CV, by fall over Ray Solis, CC, 4:53. 170 —Hayden Walters, CV, by decision over Gavin McLean, CC, 4-0. 182 —Kyle Knudtson, CC, by decision over James Rowley, CV, 4-2. 195 —Santos Cantu, CV, by fall over Gabe Saenz, CC, 1:35. 220 —Lane Byer, CV, by decision over Hayden Hilderbrand, CC, 2-1. 285 —Garrett Olbrich, CV, by fall over Joey Miller, CC, :54.


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