Tigers roll to Earl Gillis title
Depth has been a strength of the Newberg wrestling team the past several seasons, carrying the Tigers to big wins at the district meet and fueling a pair of top-three finishes at the Class 6A state meet in 2016 and 2017.
But that depth is also important during the season, when a grueling schedule often contributes to injuries and illness, opening up holes in the lineup that need to be filled.
That was certainly the case last week as Newberg was coming off a winter break in which it competed in 28 dual matches, yet faced a pair of Three Rivers League duals Jan. 4, as well as its own annual tournament, the Earl Gillis Invitational, on Friday evening.
Once again the Tigers' depth shone through as several backups stepped into the varsity lineup to help Newberg sweep West Linn and Lakeridge and roll to the Earl Gillis title.
"We have some kids sick and some kids hurt, but that's everybody this time of year, so we're dealing with it," NHS coach Neil Russo said. "The next guy in line is ready to go when his number gets called, so I'm excited about that. We put some kids out there today that haven't had a whole lot or any varsity experience and they got out there and got it done."
The Tigers opened the week with a 48-32 road win over West Linn on Jan. 4, getting pins from Micah Worthington, Christopher Strange, Cody Fettig, Jonah Worthington, Jack Evans, Taylen Reid, Hunter James and Tristan Osborn. Newberg faced much less resistance from Lakeridge in a 63-12 rout also at West Linn High School.
The Tigers turned around to host the Earl Gillis the next day, kicking things off with a 60-11 win over McNary.
Things were a bit tighter in a 50-16 victory over Century in the second round, as the Jaguars did not let Newberg jump out to a big lead in the lower weights. The Tigers did take three of the first four matches, but Womack and Strange were limited to decisions at 106 and 120 pounds, respectively, giving the home team a 12-3 lead.
Century actually took the lead, 13-12, by winning the next two matches, but Evans, Reid and Rowan Gallardo answered with three consecutive falls from 145 to 160 pounds to make it 30-13 Tigers. The Jaguars earned a decision victory at 170 pounds to end the run, but Newberg won the last four, including three by fall, to put a stamp on the victory.
The championship match versus David Douglas was also close in the early going, with each team earning a decision and a fall to make it 9-9 after four matches.
Strange secured a fall 1:01 into his match at 120 pounds to get the Tigers on the board, but Newberg was without Cody Fettig at 126 pounds, as last year's state champion at 106 pounds was out sick.
Freshman Marshall Allen, however, filled in admirably, gutting out a 6-4 decision in his varsity debut.
"He's done a lot of wrestling and has some great feel. We had to move him up a weight class," Russo said. "If you go back and look through that dual, it might be the difference in the match. It got everybody excited. Everybody always gets excited when a guy gets his first opportunity and has success, so it was fun."
The Scots won two of the next three matches to pull ahead 20-13, but Reid brought the Tigers back to within a point by pinning Xavier Massad at 152 pounds to make it 20-19. Gallardo followed up with a 10-1 major decision at 160 pounds to regain the lead 23-20.
Oliver Myers needed just eight seconds to earn a fall at 170 pounds to make it 29-20 before James and Osborn added falls at 195 and heavyweight, respectively, to make the final score 41-29.
"Our big guys, Hunter and Tristan, are doing a great job," Russo said. "Everyone is competing well. I don't have any issues with our fight and our competitiveness. We've got some wrestling things to fix, but that's easy. Those guys come to fight, to practice every day. They're fun to be around and I'm really enjoying myself right now."
The Tigers will host Lake Oswego in a league dual meet Wednesday before heading to the Oregon Classic Friday and Saturday. With a shortened season, Newberg will have just two more league duals and one more tournament, the Reser's Tournament of Champions, before the district tournament.
"We feel really good," Reid said. "Our backups are really stepping up and filling the slots that are missing. We're going to get those guys back toward the end of the year and we're going to be really good. We're going to be a real tough team."