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The Cowboys are back on the hunt for a state title after placing third in the unofficial state tournament last spring.

PMG PHOTO: LON AUSTIN - Crook County senior Tucker Bonner, top, pinned freshman Justin England in their 120-pound match at the Blue & Gold event. Bonner placed second at the unofficial state tournament last spring.The Crook County High School wrestling team held its annual blue and gold scrimmage, dinner and auction on Saturday.

After being unable to hold the scrimmage a year ago due to COVID regulations, head coach Jake Gonzales was pleased with the support he saw from the community.

"You never know what is going to happen, but it's a great event that has been going on forever," Gonzales said. "It's a huge support system here at Crook County and I'm grateful for it and thankful for all the support that they gave. I'm glad to have it back and I think our guys competed pretty well."

The event, which is the primary fundraiser for the wresting program, was well attended, earning the team well over $10,000 for travel and other costs.

Perhaps more importantly, the Cowboys showed their team depth during the scrimmage. For the past couple of years, the team has been unable to fill every weight class at either district or state. However, this year, the Cowboys showed that they will be able to field at least two competitive wrestlers at each weight class, including heavyweight.

"We've got some heavyweights, so that is good, and I'm excited about that," Gonzales said. "Up and down the lineup we are pretty solid, so I am excited. It's a good thing to have, especially those number two guys who are going to develop. I think we can get them ready for that district meet."

Wrestling started with a pair of freshmen at 106 pounds, where Alber Flores edged Duke Wentzel 3-1, in one of the closest matches of the night. At 113 pounds, freshman Landon Lavey pinned sophomore Mason Lacey early in the second round. That victory was especially impressive when you note that Lacey scored points at the unofficial state meet last spring.

The 120-pound match saw senior Tucker Bonner, who placed second at the unofficial state meet last spring, pin freshman Justin England in the second round. Then came one of the shortest matches of the evening as senior Mitch Warren, who placed third at this spring's unofficial state meet, earned a first-round fall over sophomore Mason McCallister at 126 pounds.

At 132 pounds, junior Cash Wells, who finished first in the unofficial state tournament last spring, also made quick work of his match, pinning sophomore Robert Lacey, who scored points at last year's state tournament. The 138-pound match saw perhaps the biggest surprise of the night as junior Ross McKinney came from behind to pin senior Wyatt Wood, who placed fourth at last spring's state tournament.

"I think Ross and Wyatt Wood, that was a surprise," Gonzales said. "I thought it would be a tight match, I didn't know that Wyatt would get pinned. A returning state placer, but that happens and he will be all right."

PMG PHOTO: LON AUSTIN - Kyree Willis, bottom, defeated Kaleb Goozee in a matchup of 160-pounders at the Blue & Gold event.Junior Garrett Cobb, who competed at last year's tournament, pinned freshman Dave Manhke in the second round of their 145-pound match before Gavin Sandoval pinned fellow freshman Caleb Buffington in the first round of their 152-pound match. Then, at 160 pounds, senior Kyree Willis earned a second-round fall over junior Kaleb Goozee.

At 170 pounds, senior and returning state placer Gage Hanson led throughout the match, before taking a solid 7-2 win over freshman Brennon Allen.

The 182-pounds battle saw another short match as senior Brayden Duke, a three-time state qualifier, pinned sophomore Elias Powlison in the first round. At 195 pounds, senior Ray Solis, who placed third at last year's tournament, pinned freshman Preston Duke in the first round.

In the final two matches of the night, junior Jubal Brumble pinned freshman Mauricio Ambriz as 220 pounds and Mason Yancey pinned Coy Mathiasen at 285 pounds.

Not every returning state qualifier wrestled at Saturday's blue and gold scrimmage. Jackson Wainwright, 106, Collier Buffington, 145, and Jeffrey Schuler, 152, all competed at last year's tournament, but did not wrestle Saturday. In addition, MaKenna Duran competed at the unofficial girls state tournament this past spring.

Gonzales noted that the team has had just a week to practice prior to the scrimmage, which made the results even more pleasing.

"The practices are pretty good," he said. "They know that the expectations are pretty high in that room so we started pretty hard and we are going to continue to train pretty hard and get those guys ready to go."

The Cowboys are a young team, with just seven seniors on the roster. In addition, 10 freshmen competed in Saturday's scrimmage. Still, Gonzales is confident in the team's abilities.

"Our freshman class is pretty young, but they are pretty tough," he said. "They will be tested, so we will see, but I think they are going to be all right."

Gonzales is also pleased with the leadership he has been seeing from the seniors.

"It's a small group of seniors, but they have really stepped up," he said. "You know, anytime you lose seniors it's hard, so I will miss those guys too, but we will just focus on this year. I'm getting great leadership from my seniors."

The Cowboys placed second to Crescent Valley at the 2020 state tournament, then were third behind Crescent Valley and Thurston at the unofficial spring 2021 tournament.

Expectations are that the team will once again contend for a state place. However, Gonzales in not as concerned with where the team places than he is with the process.

"The goal is to continue to get better," he said. "Continue to train. Continue to improve as a person and be good people and everything else will take care of itself. Go Cowboys."

The wrestling season officially kicks off on Saturday, Dec. 4 as the Cowboys travel to Cascade High School to compete in the Perry Burlison Wrestling Tournament.

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