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Crook County High School Cowboys look to play football, basketball and wrestle

Crook County High School three-sport star Hogan Smith has signed a letter of intent to play football at Willamette University.

Smith, who played both quarterback and defensive back at Crook County, is expected to play defensive back at Willamette. Smith is planning on playing defense despite being named the offensive player of the year in the Tri-Valley Conference this past season.

"The coaches saw a lot of things in me that I couldn't see in myself yet," Smith said. "The relationship they built with me in their recruiting made me want to go there and also their proximity to the capital building and their academic reputation."

The proximity to the capital building is important to Smith because he plans to major in Political Science.

Willamette University is an NCAA Division III school, so gives no athletic scholarships. However, Smith said that he does have academic scholarships.

"I think it's a great opportunity," he said. "Before the season, I didn't expect to be given this opportunity, so it's just lots of hard work paying off."

Smith, who also plays basketball and golfs at CCHS, is exploring the option of also competing in golf at Willamette.

Smith said that, due to COVID, he wasn't expecting to be recruited, so he was proactive, sending game film to as many coaches as possible, something he recommends that other athletes who hope to play in college should do as well.

Crook County High School senior Kevin Sanchez has signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Wenatchee Valley Community College in Wenatchee, Washington.

Sanchez, who also played soccer at Crook County, was the Intermountain Conference player of the year as a junior in the 2019-20 season, and again led Crook County in scoring this past season.

"I chose there because of their reputation," Sanchez said. "Their coach knows a lot of DI and DII good midmajor college coaches and right now they are on a tear and are a very successful program."

Sanchez has not made up his mind what he is going to study yet.

The Wenatchee Valley coaching staff does not promise players scholarships until they earn playing time at the school, so Sanchez will not know until at least November whether or not he has a scholarship, but he is happy to take that risk.

"The coach likes to make players work for their scholarships," he said. "It's an opportunity. A little opportunity like this can be a big opportunity later on. This has been my dream to play at the next level, and with COVID my window was very small, so I'm just excited for the opportunity."

Cayden Lowenbach has signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Linfield University in McMinnville, Oregon.

The 6-6 senior post player plans on majoring in Chemistry.

As a Division III school, Linfield does not give athletic scholarships, but Lowenbach, who was the class valedictorian, has an academic scholarship and also applied for several local scholarships.

"I reached out to the coach and he got back to me," Lowenbach said. "We were talking and decided that it was the best place for me. Just the way they play, the coaching staff and I've met all the players and it just seems like a great program."

Lowenbach, who also played golf at CCHS, was this season's Player of the Year in the Intermountain Conference, proving a strong offensive and defensive presence inside for the Cowboys. He led the league in rebounding as the Cowboys finished 16-0.

"I'm excited for the opportunity," he said. "With COVID, I was afraid I was losing it, but I kept faithand I just said it will work out. I'm definitely satisfied."

Crook County High School wrestler Trevor Martin recently signed a letter of intent to wrestle at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande.

Martin, who wrestled at 138 pounds, plans on studying biology with the goal of becoming a nurse practitioner.

The senior has a mix of academic and athletic scholarships at the university.

Martin originally planned on going to another school, but a chance meeting with another Eastern Oregon recruit changed things. Working out at a wrestling camp, Martin was able to defeat the recruit. Word quickly spread and eventually Martin received a call from Eastern's head wrestling coach.

"Coach called me himself and I love their program there," Martin said. "It's super high energy. Everybody is extremely kind. It's a change, but it's a change I've been waiting for for a long time. You know I went there with low expectations because I had plans set for a different college already, but they surprised me, they blew me out of the water, their facilities, their coaching staff, their admin there."

Martin will join former CCHS wrestlers Kyle Knutson and Zach Morris at Eastern Oregon.

"The camaraderie was unmatched to anything I have ever seen," Martin said. "Zach Morris and Kyle Knutson, I grew up in mat club with them, they are both Crook County-raised. Their team has seen how hard they've been working over there and the success that they've had, so I think they are excited to see another guy from Crook County."

Martin has gotten the scholarship despite being injured most of his sophomore season, and the end of his junior year. This year, Martin was leading in the semifinal match in state before tearing ligaments in his ankle. Martin said the injuries he's sustained, along with the pandemic putting his senior season in peril, have been tough to deadl with.

"I just want to thank everyone that's helped me get here. It's been a long long road, but at the same time very short and exciting and it's been very fun," said Martin.

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