NHS places third overall, but first among 6A teams at Tournament of Champions

HILLSBORO — Although Newberg didn't produce an individual champion and could not keep pace with runaway winner Crook County, the Tigers were a confident bunch after placing third at the annual Reser's Tournament of Champions on Saturday. SETH GORDON - Oliver Myers completes a takedown during his 7-1 win over Sandy's Max Topliff in the fifth-place match at the Reser's Tournament of Champions Saturday in Hillsboro. Myers was one of seven Tigers who made the podium.

That's because unlike a year ago, when coach Neil Russo's team also placed third, Newberg emerged as the top 6A team in the field with 148 points. Roseburg was fourth at 138.5, David Douglas fifth (130), Sprague eighth (117) and Three Rivers League rival West Linn 11th (98).

"I think we could've won, but we had three or four guys missing," senior heavyweight Tristan Osborn said. "That would have really helped us because at least three of them would have placed."

Russo certainly would have liked to have 120-pounder Cody Fettig as the state champ at 106 pounds a year ago was out sick, as well as injured stalwarts like Joey Moody and Zach Irving, but was pleased with how his team competed against a field that is in many ways tougher than the 6A state meet because it has most of the best individuals from all classifications.

That included runner-up performances by Osborn and junior Christopher Strange.

Osborn avenged a loss from earlier this season to Hermiston's Beau Blake with a 3-2 victory in the semifinals before falling 3-1 in sudden victory overtime to Sandy's Iosefa Polamalu in the championship bout.SETH GORDON - Junior Christopher Strange grapples with Culver's Lorenzo Vasquez in the 113-pound title match at the Reser's Tournament of Champions Saturday. Strange rallied late, but could not overcome an 8-1 deficit, eventually losing 10-8.

"It was a good match," Russo said. "For him, it was a productive weekend for sure. Obviously, he wants to win the tournament, but he did a great job."

Although Osborn (34-6) won't get a rematch this season because Hermiston is in 5A, he realized he took the wrong approach to the match.

"I think if I ever wrestled him again, I'd beat him," Osborn said. "I just didn't pace myself very well. I should have gone a lot faster because he wouldn't have been able to take it."

Strange, who placed second at Reser's a year ago as well and was the top seed at 113 pounds, also regretted some early mistakes that allowed Culver's Lorenzo Vasquez to go up 6-1 after the first period.

"He's a good wrestler and I tend to be a little too aggressive if I wrestle good kids," Strange said. "I didn't take my time to set it up right. He got a take down and got a turn somewhere. I let him stack up too many points in the first round."

Strange (36-3) surrendered a takedown in the second period to fall behind 8-1, but quickly turned things around to cut the gap to three at 8-5. Crucially, however, Vasquez scored a reversal to head into the third up 10-5.

Strange earned an escape early in the third and broke through with a takedown in the final 30 seconds to make it 10-8, but from there was unable to get the turn he needed to tie or win the match.

"If it was a normal match, I could have afforded to let him get that reversal off there, but I'd given him too much of a lead," Strange said. "It's disappointing. I'll have to do better next year."

Newberg had seven wrestlers medal at the tournament, including a third-place showing by Hunter James (31-9). He bounced back from a tight 3-2 loss to Terrell Jacks of Roseburg in the semifinals, prevailing 3-1 in sudden victory overtime over Culver's Cylus Hoke.

Also winning their final matches to place fifth were Micah Worthington (34-9) at 106 pounds, Jack Evans (22-12) at 138 pounds and Oliver Myers (34-11) at 160 pounds. Jonah Worthington (20-15) also earned a medal after taking sixth at 126 pounds.

Newberg has just one dual match remaining, a home match versus Sherwood at 7 p.m. Wednesday, then will have 10 days to rest up before heading the district tournament Feb. 2-3 at Tualatin High School.

The Tigers have believed themselves to be state title contenders all season and the results over the weekend have only strengthened their conviction.

"I'm really looking forward to the team being able to win it," Strange said. "I feel like this is our year."

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