Wrestling: Woodburn looks to make splash at districts
The Woodburn wrestling team was nigh unbeatable in January, winning a pair of league duals against Silverton and Corvallis while finishing at the top of three tournaments.
The opening week of February has been less kind to the Bulldogs, who dropped a league dual to the Dallas Dragons on Feb. 1, 42-20. But the team bounced back with an impressive performance at the Bill Geister Invitational at Clackamas High School over the weekend. The Bulldogs finished fourth out of 18 teams to head into the district championships looking to qualify a number of wrestlers for the state championships at the end of the month.
"I couldn't be any happier with the results we've had," assistant coach Jose Hernandez said. "This sport is tough to grasp, and our wrestlers are grasping it real well. We are looking more solid every week and I'm excited to see us at the district tournament."
At the tournament, the team was led by a combination of veteran and young wrestlers.
Senior Karson Christiansen (170 pounds) and freshman Wesley Vasquez (106) each won their respective weight brackets, while senior Rafael Vasquez rebounded from a tough loss in the semifinals of the 152-pound bracket to finish third overall.
"In this tournament our team looked aggressive and hungry," Wesley Vasquez said, noting that the Bulldogs still have room for growth before the district tournament this weekend. "Our team did great in this tournament with some very tough teams, but it wasn't great enough and I know that this team has potential and I know that we can go somewhere far."
Wesley Vasquez had a difficult road to travel for his bracket title, going 4-0 against competitors from 6A schools Hillsboro, Century, Cleveland and David Douglas. He opened with a third-round pin over Hillsboro's Jesus Moreno and followed with a 7-0 decision in the quarterfinals against Century's Tanner Morris.
In the semifinals, Wesley Vasquez picked up another decision by a 7-4 margin over Cleveland's Klo Lwae and finished the tournament with a 9-6 victory against Max Hodge of David Douglas. The 106-pounder has been one of the best wrestlers to come out of Woodburn's freshman class this season and is looking to make a run at the state championship tournament by finishing among the top four in his weight class at districts this weekend. The Bill Geister Tournament was an important tune up for him as he prepares to face his Mid-Willamette rivals at Corvallis High School Friday and Saturday.
"Individually I knew that it was going to be a very tough tournament because there were some teams that we had never faced at all this season," he said. "For me this tournament was exciting and tough, but now I have to work hard for districts this next week."
For Christiansen, the Geister tournament had an extra element of drama leading up to the championship match in the 170-pound bracket, where he faced Sunset's Garrett Lewis. The two had previously faced off this season in the Northwest Duals in December, where Lewis dominated the match to the tune of an 18-8 major decision victory. The second time around, Christiansen was determined to finish on top, figuratively and literally, pinning Lewis late in the first round.
"Today I wrestled as a whole new person," Christiansen said. "I learned a valuable lesson today, it doesn't matter what seed you are, what seed your opponent is or if you've wrestled your opponent before. All it takes is one move to win, despite what the score may be. In my finals match I believed this to be true and I went out there with the right mentality and was blessed to be given the opportunity to apply the preparation that I have done."
Lewis opened the match with a quick double leg takedown and successfully defended against Christiansen's attempt to reverse. Christiansen was able to counter late in the period, turning into Lewis as Lewis was pushing back, giving Christiansen the leverage to throw Lewis on his back for the pin.
Prior to the championship match, Christiansen scored a 6-2 decision over Cleveland's Skyler Palakiko in the semifinals and pinned Milwaukie's Jesse Salazar in 3:31.
Woodburn's next-best placer, Rafael Vasquez, took a tough 8-3 loss to Century's Ty Simko in the semifinals, but bounced back to win his final two matches by decision to place third overall in his weight bracket.
"The tournament was really fun to wrestle in," Rafael Vasquez said. "Despite losing in the semis, I felt grateful for being able to wrestle a couple more matches before I walk into the district tournament."
Rafael Vasquez defeated Sunset's James Morsberger 9-2 in the consolation semifinals and took down Clackamas' Dakota Delgado 11-4 for third place.
Rafael Vasquez heads into this weekend's district tournament looking to repeat last year's magic, when he scored multiple upset victories to claim the district championship. Wesley Vasquez, Rafael's younger brother, certainly took notice and the two will be working hard to bring home district titles as a family.
"The joy of seeing my brother and practice partner tear it was a great feeling," Wesley Vasquez said. "Overall, leaving the tournament confident and ready as a team is what we need for the district tournament. I'm really excited to show our league what Woodburn is capable of."