The PIoneers used seven falls and one technical fall to knock off the visting Bruins in Thursday's Mt. Hood Conference match

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Oregon City's Emma Baertlein (right) won her high school wrestling debut with a second-round fall over Barlow's Dylan Walsh in Thursday's Mt. Hood Conference dual at Oregon City High.This early in the high wrestling season, most coaches are just beginning to figure out what their teams might look like in another month or two.

With hydration testing, minimum competitive weight assessments, descent plans, and other eligibility issues still playing havoc with many starting lineups, it was no surprise that Oregon City coach Bobby Bates went into Thursday's season opener against Barlow hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.

He came away pleasantly surprised as the Pioneers won eight of 17 matches with seven falls and one technical fall to score a 47-36 dual victory over the visiting Bruins.

Freshman Emma Baertlein sent a charge through the Oregon City lineup with a pin at 106 to open the match, but it was junior Lane Marshall's second-round fall in the night's final bout at 285 that clinched the decision for the Pioneers.

Oregon City went into the match without five key wrestlers -- four who were still in eligibility limbo after failing their initial hydration tests, plus sophomore Max Perry, who will be sidelined indefinitely after he sustained an injury to his right elbow during practice.

All five wrestlers scored points in last year's Mt. Hood Conference district tournament and are expected to make a significant impact this season, but their absence Thursday forced Bates to shuffle his lineup, bumping a number of wrestlers up a weight class, including Henry Villarreal at 152, Barrett Bicha at 170, and K.C. Walton at 220.

"I didn't really, truly know what to expect tonight," Bates said. "Some of those kids that are new to our lineup, you just don't know. You see them in the practice room and they look really good, but sometimes that doesn't always carry over into the competition."

Barlow coach Dave Head faced similar challenges in putting together his lineup, although he said none of the Bruins who sat out Thursday's match probably wouldn't have made a difference in the final outcome.

"A lot of my kids are young and inexperienced and that kind of showed tonight.," Head said. "I tried to patch together a lineup so we weren't coming over to watch a whole bunch of forfeits. I was hoping it would work out a little bi differently, but for some of the kids not knowing much about wrestling, I felt like they battled."

"Like I told my team, this is early. It doesn't matter how we start. It matters how we finish. So, we've still got a whole season to go and figure out things and get better."

Dynamic debut

Baertlein, the Pioneers' freshman out of Gardiner Middle School, was the aggressor in her match with Barlow's Dylan Walsh, even though she gave away several inches in height and at least 10 pounds in weight to the Bruins' junior.

Walsh countered Baertlein's attempt at a single-leg takedown to score the initial takedown in the first round, and then scored an escape in the first few seconds of the second round to take a 3-0 lead. Baertlein answered with a takedown and then used a near-side cradle to put away Walsh with 45 seconds left in the second round.

"I was nervous, because he (Walsh) was big, but he didn't really do anything to me," Baertlein said. "He just kept backing up, so once I realized he wasn't going to shoot, I knew I had to set up a shot and do something.

"I sprawled on him and I was trying to break him down. Then he turned to me, so I just went out to the front and saw the leg, so I grabbed it and got him into a cradle."

The home crowd erupted as the referee slapped the mat for Baertlein, who victory helped set the tone for the match.

"Emma is the first young lady that I've ever caoches and I was really nervouis for her match," Bates said. "When she pulled off the victory, I was very happy for her and very excited, because it started the dual off with a bang and we just kept it going from there."

Oregon City also picked up falls from sophomore Spencer Townsend at 113, sophomore Sage Brown at 120, senior Lucas Da Silva at 138 and sophmore Austin Canchola at 145, while Barlow's only points through the first six matches came on a forfeit at 126 and Logan Masoumpanah's fall at 132.

Swing points

At 152, Oregon City's Villarreal, a junior, used five takedowns and three three-point near falls to score a 19-3 technical fall over Barlow's Connor Ropp that pushed the Pioneers' lead to 35-12 with six bouts remaining.

Barlow won four of the next five matches with first-round pins from sophomore Nickolas Collins at 160, senior Houston Simmet at 182, senior Thomas Cousins at 195, and senior Brody Carlson at 220.

What may have been the swing match of the night was at 170 between Bicha, the Pioneer's junior, and Barlow sophomore David Luna, a returning state tournament qualifier. The two battled to a 3-3 tie through two rounds, and then Bicha, working from the top position to start the third round, put Luna on his back with 57 seconds remaining.

Oregon City had a 41-36 lead going into the final match, pitting Marshall, the defending district champion at 220 pounds, against Barlow senior Triston Stauffer, the defending district champion at 285.

After a scoreless first period, Marshall started the second round in the bottom position, got an escape, then used a throw to take Stauffer off his feet and to the mat on his back at 3:06.

"I knew it was going to be a battle and I was going to have to out and wrestle hard," Marshall said. "I think I went out a little too far right off the whistle and I gassed myself a little bit.

"I picked bottom to start the second round, I got an escape, and then Stauffer was pushing into me, so I threw him."

Said Head: "I know those were two good kids that were walking out there to compete and we fell the wrong way and that was kind of the difference in the match. It could have gone either way."

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