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Crook County crowns one individual champion and has 10 placers as they have another successful season

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Cash Wells works to earn back points during the 113 pound third place match at state. Wells won the match and was one of 10 Cowboys to place.Once again, the Crook County Cowboys have shown that they are one of the top wrestling programs in the state of Oregon.

The Cowboys placed in the top 10 at multiple major tournaments throughout the year and for the second consecutive season finished second to Crescent Valley at the OSAA/OnPoint Class 5A State Wrestling Tournament.

"I think overall it was a pretty good season," second-year head coach Jake Gonzales said. "The guys performed at the state tournament."

A year ago, the Cowboys lost by just a point and a half to a Crescent Valley team that had a perfect state tournament.

This year was a different story with Crescent Valley dominating wrestling in Oregon. The Raiders won the Reeser's Tournament of Champions, the Oregon Wrestling Classic, and outdistanced the rest of the field at the state tournament by more than 70 points.

"If we had a little bit better round in that blood round (the final consolation round before the placing rounds), we could have made it a little tighter team race for sure," Gonzales said. "We took 20 to state, 18 kids won matches and you've got 10 kids that pushed through and placed."

The Cowboys graduate four seniors that placed and a two more seniors who made it to the state tournament.

Those seniors — Hunter Mode, first, Zach Mauras, second, Kyle Knudtson, second, Jace England, sixth, Tannon Joyner and Gage Perry — provided leadership and toughness for the Cowboys.

"It's a great group and I'm thankful to have been part of their wrestling careers and to have been able to help them with becoming better wrestlers and better people," Gonzales said.

Although the five seniors will be missed, that still leaves 15 individuals with state tournament experience, more than any other team.

Still, the Cowboys have their work cut out for them if they have any hope of winning a state championship next year.

Crescent Valley crowned a record nine individual champions this past season, including seven wrestlers who return next year.

However, Gonzales believes that the Cowboys can compete with the Raiders.

"I think the key to success is going to be numbers," he said. I think they have everyone back except two wrestlers, but I think if we can get numbers and get 17 or 18 placers, we can get them."

That will require a lot of work in the off season but is not impossible. When Crook County set the state scoring record of 405.5 points in 2014, the team had 20 wrestlers place in the tournament.

Returning placers for the Cowboys include Tucker Bonner, second 106, Mitch Warren, sixth 106, Cash Wells, second 113, Steven Ware, third 120, Ben Sather, third 152 and Gavin McLean, third 160. In addition, Ross Mckinney, 113, Trentyn Maryanski, 126, Brad McLean, 132, Brayden Duke, 145, Alex Vail, 152, Gabe Saenz, 195, Hayden Hilderbrand, 220, and Erick Schmidt, 285 all return with state tournament experience.

Several other Cowboys placed at this year's Intermountain Conference District Tournament, just missing state tournament berths. In addition, Gonzales noted that he expects several members of the eighth grade wrestling program to step in and immediately contribute to the Cowboys' success next season.

"We have a couple of big hitters back, so we will be able to compete pretty well," he said. "We have a pretty good junior class and a good sophomore class. We had a lot of guys get way better this year. We just need to put in our time and continue to get better and we will be good. Go Cowboys."

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