The Lake Oswego wrestling team knew the odds were stacked against it last week.
The Lakers, hosting Three Rivers League-leading West Linn on Jan. 24, gave up nine forfeits and also had to deal with the talented Lions themselves, eventually dropping a 76-4 decision at Lake Oswego High School on LO's Senior Night.
"Of all the nights to win, this is the one," said Lake Oswego senior Hank Fillmore, who posted a major decision victory at 132 to stay unbeaten in the TRL. "I've been doing this for four years. I'm trying to finish strong."
"I've been struggling with sickness and injuries, but I'm getting off both of those so I'm feeling a lot better," said Lake Oswego senior Mason Ko, who battled Brunson — a 2018 TRL district champion and the fourth-place finisher at state — into the second round at 145. "Tonight wasn't my best match to come back on, but I'm hoping for a better future."
With the win, the Lions improved to 4-0 in Three Rivers League action with just two TRL matches remaining. Lake Oswego, meanwhile, fell to 0-5 in league competition.
"I think I did really good. My goal was just to go out there and shoot as much as possible," said West Linn sophomore Cael Brunson, a winner by pin at 145 pounds. "I'm just going out, shooting shots and putting myself in situations that I know I'm bad in so I will force myself to have to get better."
"I was just trying to have fun," said West Linn sophomore Jacob Quast, a winner by fall at 152. "I like to have fun and I also tried to work on some stuff I've been working on."
The Lions started their Jan. 24 match at Lake Oswego with a huge advantage, eventually taking forfeit wins at nine different weight classes — good for a total of 36 points. West Linn was plenty tough in the remaining five weights, too, winning four of those, including three of them by fall.
But Fillmore came through with a win for Lake Oswego — the Lakers' lone win of the night — in the first contested weight of the match. Fillmore notched an early takedown against West Linn senior Sam Sullwold and led 2-1 after the first round, scored on an escape, a takedown, a reverse and a three-point nearfall in the second to push ahead 9-3, then added two more takedowns in the third period to win 13-5.
"We've all been working super-hard and it came out on the mat tonight," Fillmore said. "I'm aiming for the district championship and I've really been working on applying what we've done in practice and putting it together in matches. I think it's all coming together at the right time and I'm getting ready to go win a district title."
The Lions came back with a first-round pin by junior Jack Wall at 138 — he stopped LO freshman Braden Mauch with eight seconds left in the period — and Brunson stepped up next at 145.
In his match against Ko, Brunson took charge with a takedown 42 seconds into the first round, then added another takedown and a three-point nearfall to lead 7-1 at the end of the period. Brunson took Ko down again 21 seconds into the second stanza, then pinned him almost immediately.
"The problem I have is once people figure out my thing — they know I can cradle and they see my long arms and sluggish footwork — they just don't fall for that," Brunson said, adding that he's enjoying his sophomore season more than his inaugural high school campaign. "Last year, I was just wrestling to win, but this year I've been wrestling to win and have fun. I felt like I didn't have enough fun last year and that's not the kind of sport it's supposed to be. That's the key to wrestling (this year) —everything's getting easier. Cutting weight is easier and wrestling's easier and practice's easier. It makes the whole experience so much better."
"I think I had a lot of hesitation going into that match," Ko admitted. "He was a weird wrestler and stopped a lot of the things I was trying to do. But I was able to calm down and get through the first round which I'm proud of."
Quast followed with a first-round pin over Laker senior Evan Graff at 152, but it wasn't all easy. Quast scored a quick takedown, saw Graff escape almost as quickly, took him down again 30 seconds into the match, then got reversed by Graff 17 seconds after that.
Finally, Quast got a reversal of his own with 18 seconds to go in the first period and pinned Graff with five seconds left on the clock.
"I was trying to work for the front headlock to the cradle and trying to shoot my shots more and just be tougher," Quast said.
West Linn sophomore Cole Peters then came through with the Lions' final contested win of the night, posting an 11-0 major decision over Lake Oswego junior Lucus Cuyuch at 160.
While the Lions expected to win against Lake Oswego, they have their sights set on bigger things ahead — namely a chance to win the 2019 Three Rivers League district tournament, set for Feb. 15-16 at West Linn High School.
"I think we're going to do pretty good at district," Quast said. "We've been doing pretty good so far throughout the year. I just think we need to be more mentally tough."
Next up, the Lions host Tigard at 7 p.m. Thursday, while the Lakers have a bye this week and return to action at Tigard at 7 p.m. Feb. 7.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)