Strange year, familiar PIL wrestling champ
In a most unique season, the results of the PIL wrestling championships were business as usual.
The Cleveland Warriors won their 10th district team title in a row, and did it comfortably during the June 12 tournament at the Marshall campus.
Five Warriors won district titles and Cleveland piled up 349 points, more than double all but one of the other eight teams.
Warriors sophomore Logan Medford was named outstanding wrestler of the district meet. He claimed his second consecutive PIL crown with a pair of pins in less than 40 seconds followed by a 15-0 second-round technical fall win in the finals.
Cleveland's other repeat champion was senior Elija Fisher at 120 pounds, who claimed his third PIL title.
The Warriors' other district champions were junior Sean Lee at 106 pounds, senior Devon Forsberg at 132 and sophomore Garrett Cappalonga at 182 pounds.
Repeating as PIL district champions were sophomore Kai Tsugawa of Grant at 145 pounds and sophomore Gus Johnson from Ida B. Wells at 138.
The other PIL district champions: Franklin senior Iker Vigil (113 pounds), Lincoln senior Marco Farinola (152), McDaniel sophomore Lane Shaffer (160), Lincoln junior Patrick Barnette (170), Roosevelt sophomore DeMario Gonzales (195), Franklin junior Mipam Jampa (220) and Franklin junior Cooper Sevigny (285).
Wrestlers who placed in the top four at the PIL meet qualify to wrestle in a Class 6A championship meet staged by the Oregon Wrestling Association June 25-26 at Newberg High. Statewide meets for every classification are planned for this weekend, with the Oregon Wrestling Coaches, not the OSAA, staging events.
In the run-up to the district meet, wrestlers experienced unique challenges, including competing with masks on — something the PIL required even though the rest of the state was allowing wrestling matches to happen mask-free.
Cleveland coach Jeff Zerba, in his 31st season, noted that his team had a meet in Hood River held outdoors that was called because of rain. Another tournament was stopped because of heat. Outdoor meets are a challenge, not only because of rain, but because temperatures in the 70s are enough make the mats too hot.
"All in all, I feel really fortunate that we were able to have a season and a district meet," Zerba said.
Cleveland had 21 entries at the PIL meet. Franklin, which finished second, had 14 entries, as did fourth-place Grant.
Zerba said Cleveland usually has around 50 wrestlers. This season, 31 Warriors participated.
He noted that numbers were down across the state. Not having in-building classes made it difficult to connect with freshmen and others who might have turned out, a challenge Zerba said might have a lasting impact.
"We're going to have to work hard in the next few years" to rebuild participation numbers, Zerba said.
Coaches and volunteers are focused this week on staging "state" tournaments for each classification. Some will take place with limited or no spectators, depending upon the state mandated protocols.
In addition to the 6A meet at Newberg, here are the others scheduled, with wrestling Friday and Saturday unless noted (for updates, check the Oregon Wrestling Coaches Facebook page; for results, visit TrackWrestling.com:
Class 5A meet at Cottage Grove High; Class 4A meet at Cascade High in Turner; Class 3A meet on June 26 at Redmond High; Class 2A/1A meet June 25-26 at Sweet Home High.
A girls wrestling state tournament is planned for Thursday, June 24, at Cottage Grove High. A north regional girls wrestling meet is slated to be held in Tillamook on Friday, June 18, with wrestlers from PIL schools participating.
For everyone involved, these tournaments are the culmination of a strange, challenging season.
"What I learned more than anything is the resiliency of these kids … their ability to adapt was incredible," Zerba said.
Wrestlers were willing to haul mats outside for practices and to endure others requirements to have the opportunity to wrestle. At Cleveland, the climb to another PIL title started in the fall, when wrestlers practiced on a mat on the football field.
"The key this season was being flexible and fluid" to adapt to changing protocols, Zerba said.
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