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Wrestlers crush league foes but then come up against powerful Newberg and lose 74-0

LON AUSTIN - Ben Sather of Crook County drives into Hood River Valley's Abraham Tinajero during a May 19 three-way dual wrestled outside at Ward Rhoden Stadium. Weighing 180 pounds, Sather moved up to challenge the 220-pound weight class. He won this match by pin.

The disparity between the top wrestling teams in Oregon and everyone else has never been larger.

Whether it is COVID, or something else, the gap between the top and everyone else is huge.

If this week proved nothing else, Crook County High School has a ways to go before they can lay claim to being one of the top wrestling squads in the state, but they are still the team to beat in the Intermountain Conference.

On Friday, the Cowboys ran into Newberg and the Tigers mauled them, winning 74-0.

Two days before, the Cowboys thrashed three league opponents in dual matches in an event that was held outside at Ward Rhoden Stadium in an effort to make sure that more spectators could attend.

The Cowboys blanked The Dalles/Dufur in the opening match 84-0, blasted Hood River Valley by the same score, then easily defeated Pendleton 63-14 to close out the night.

"More than anything I want kids to fight and battle and be tough, and I think we are seeing that," Crook County head coach Jake Gonzales said. "Winning or losing, that is going to happen, but we are just wanting these guys to improve every day and not worry about losing. And, I do think they are getting better. That's the biggest goal."

One of Crook County's strengths on the wrestling mat this year is depth. Gonzales noted that teams are having fewer athletes than in past years due to COVID.

"COVID hurt a lot of teams, and even Crook County," he said. "But we are fortunate with numbers and we have some tough kids and I have all the confidence in my team and my guys and my coaching staff."

Due to other teams not having full rosters, the Cowboys won a number of matches by forfeit on Wednesday. However, the Cowboy lineup has also been impacted. Heavyweight Eric Schmidt, who went to state a year ago, is not wrestling this year, while 220-pounder Haydn Hilderbrand who also competed at state a year ago, has missed the last six matches. As a result, some Cowboys are wrestling up a weight class or more from their actual weight.

Regardless of what weight they are competing at, the Cowboys are being dominant. Of the 22 individual matches the Cowboys won on the day, 20 were by fall and one by technical fall.

At 132 pounds, Steven Ware won all three of his matches by first round fall. At 138 pounds, Trevor Martin did the same, as did Gage Hanson at 170 pounds and Ray Solis at 195 pounds. At 106 pounds, Jackson Wainwright won two matches by forfeit before losing by technical fall to Dawson Temper of Pendleton.

At 113 pounds, Mason Lacey won his opening match by fall and his next two matches by forfeit. At 120 pounds, Robert Lacey received forfeits in all three matches. At 126 pounds, Tucker Bonner defeated Conner Blair of The Dalles with a second-round pin, won his match against Hood River Valley by forfeit, then defeated Owen Golter of Pendleton by technical fall. At 145 pounds, Watt Wood won his first two matches by forfeit, then lost a hard-fought battle against Jack Lieuallen of Pendleton, who finished third at last year's state tournament.

Lieuallen led 7-0 early, but Wood forced an obviously tiring Lieuallen to stall from midway through the second round, earning a pair of points from stalling calls, and was on top of Lieuallen the entire third round of the match, nearly putting the Pendleton grappler on his back on multiple occasions before finally falling 7-2.

"Wyatt got him there, got some stalling calls and ended the match up on top, so he was right there in the mix," Gonzales said.

At 152 pounds, Collier Buffington won his first match by forfeit, then pinned wrestlers from Hood River Valley and Pendleton in the first round. At 160, Alex Vail received a forfeit against The Dalles, pinned his Hood River opponent and won an 8-0 major decision against Collin Primus of Pendleton.

Brayden Duke won his matches against both The Dalles and Hood River Valley by first round fall, before receiving a forfeit against Pendleton. In perhaps the most intriguing match of the day, Ben Sather, who weighs just 180 pounds, moved up to 220 pounds. Sather won his matches against The Dalles and Pendleton by forfeit, but was able to pin a much larger Abraham Tinajero of Hood River Valley early in the second round of their match.

At 285 pounds, Jubal Brumble won by forfeit against both The Dalles and Hood River, although he wrestled two exhibition matches against The Dalles. Brumble was then pinned by Jacob Griffin in the final match of the evening.

Gonzales, who has missed the last two weeks due to a family medical emergency, had high praise for what his assistant coaches have done in his absence.

"Ultimately, that's what you want, is if I can't make it for whatever reason that the program can still perform and keep improving and getting better," he said. "The coaching staff, I owe them a lot. I work hard with the scheduling and practice plans, so whether I'm there or not, I think the athletes are still getting instruction. They are still getting the workouts and they are getting the support they need."

Based on Wednesday's matches, the Cowboys looked like one of the teams to beat as they wrestled in the Friday Night Light's Dual extravaganza on the football field at Redmond High School on Friday.

However, the matches showed just how much work the Cowboys still have left to do.

In the surprise of the night, the Cowboys fell 74-0 to Newberg in the opening match of the night. Crook County rebounded to defeat Cascade 76-3 in their second round, then defeated Ridgeview 54-24 in the final match of the night. Complete coverage of those matches will be in next week's Central Oregonian.

The Cowboys do not wrestle again until Thursday when they host Newberg and Mountain View. Crook County and Newberg are scheduled to wrestle at 4 p.m. Newberg and Mountain View wrestle at 5 p.m., then the Cowboys and Mountain View close out the evening with a match at 6 p.m.

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