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Garza, Buchanan and Rask all win tough championship bouts in Putnam for the Lions

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - St. Helens Mavrick Rask won 9-4 over No. 2-seeded Cody Van Meter of Tualatin. Thats Rask working from the bottom position in the final.

If the St. Helens wrestling team could finish in the top three at the Northwest Oregon Conference District meet, this season will be a smashing success.

The Lions have vaulted themselves as a respected, esteemed program with not only depth but top-line starters such as Gavin Schaer (106) Mavrick Rask (182), Narcizo Garza (120), Tristin Buchanan (132) and Dylan Scott (195) among plenty of other standouts. St. Helens possesses top-three NWOC potential. Where they fall in that top three remains to be seen with Scappoose surging and Hillsboro dominating. But the Lions are quickly becoming a handful to deal with. St. Helens has won four of its last five dual meets including a 47-33 win over Milwaukie. They have handled business during the week, then worked hard on the weekend, like usual, and performed. At the Pacific Rim Armed Forces tournament, St. Helens took fourth with 150.5 points. Schaer took first place overall, Rask placed second, Buchanan placed third as did Scott and 170-pound Ryan Burri.

The Lions took fifth at the Tigard Invitational and was the second-highest 5A team at the tournament, just behind Wilsonville, who St. Helens beat in dual action. Justin Garcia (152) won his bracket, beating Wilsonville's Austin Sharp by decision. Rask won his respective weight class with a pin. Blake Gohlmann (113) placed fifth and Garza took second as did Buchanan. Meric Bledsoe (145) placed third. Gannon Carter (170) placed sixth and Scott took fourth, wrestling at 220, as did 285-pound Garrett Cook.

Perhaps St. Helens' top tournament showing as of late transpired at the Joe Stewart Invitational in Putnam. The Lions finished with 180 points. Schaer, just in his sophomore season, won the tournament, pinning Juan Velasquez of Woodburn. Garza, just a sophomore as well, beat Cade McCallister by major decision in the championship bout. Buchanan also won his bracket in the 126-pound weight class as did Rask in the 182-pound division. Garcia came home with a second-place medal. Gohlmann placed third, Scott took fifth as did Cook.

At the Don York Invitational, St. Helens was seventh and again the second-best 5A team at the tourney, just behind Hood River Valley. Rask added another first-place honor to his ever-growing collection of accolades. Schaer and Buchanan both took third and Scott was sixth.

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - St. Helens star Tristan Buchanan won by 6-1 decision over Josiah Ingham of Tualatin. The Joe Stewart was St. Helens' last tournament/invitational of the regular season. All that remains on the Lions' ledger is two dual meets: one at Parkrose on Jan. 30. The other will be a doozy, as St. Helens hosts crosstown rival Scappoose at 7 p.m. on Feb. 6. Schaer, Rask, Garza, Garcia, Buchanan and Scott are big-time who can potentially beat anybody put in front of them. Meanwhile, Scappoose counters with one of the most talented heavyweights in the state in Cutter Sandstrom, another state title contender in AJ DeGrande (126), district title hopefuls Colton Frates (138), Trey Dieringer (170) and Trevor Jackson (160). Those 11 matches could easily end up nearly split down the center with St. Helens winning six and Scappoose taking five. That leaves four weight class bouts that will swing the balance of wrestling power in Columbia County. Both teams field full lineups with no forfeits. Each squad is stacked with district contenders and possible state places. The intrigue and talent on the mat should make for an evenly matched dual meet between the Seven Mile War entrants. The NWOC district championship is Feb. 21-22 at Wilsonville High School.

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