Wrestling: Stigall wins at Tournament of Champions
It's widely considered the toughest tournament in the state, and at its conclusion, North Marion junior Russel Stigall was the last man standing in his bracket.
Stigall went undefeated in five matches at the Reser's Tournament of Champions on Saturday, winning the 132-pound bracket en route to leading the Huskies to a 13th-place finish at Liberty High School.
He was one of three members of the Huskies wrestling team to place at the state's premier wrestling tournament, joining teammates Brandon Gibson (138 pounds) and Ramon Organiz (220) on the podium at the end of the day.
Gibson also advanced to the championship match of his bracket, falling to David Douglas senior Kyle Beal by 10-1 major decision to place second overall. Organiz won his first three matches of the day, but was forced to medically forfeit his last two matches after a 4-2 loss to Aloha's Brett Nicholson in the semifinals and went on to finish sixth overall.
Stigall's championship win came after a tense battle in the semifinals against 5A 126-pound state runner-up Bryant Smith. The two wrestlers finished regulation tied at 5-5 before Stigall advanced to the finals with a takedown to beat Smith by 7-5 sudden victory.
In the final, Stigall took down Crook County's Colton Morgan by 12-4 major decision. Leading up to the final two matches, Stigall went largely unchallenged, winning by technical fall, major decision and first round pinfall.
Gibson's road to the finals began with a 9-0 major decision over Marshfield's Peyton Forbes, followed by a first round pin over Newberg's Jack Evans to advance to the semifinals. Gibson defeated Hermiston's Aidan Villarreal by 5-3 decision before falling to Beal, the 6A 138-pound state runner-up in 2017.
In the junior varsity tournament, Saul Tarula went unbeaten in five matches, defeating Roseburg's Riley Rose by pinfall in the third round to claim first place in the 145-pound bracket.
The successful trip to Liberty High School came on the heels of a tense home dual on Jan. 17 against the Estacada Rangers. The two teams had met four days prior at the 2018 Oregon Classic, with North Marion taking a 49-30 win. But the second match was much closer, as North Marion needed a pin by Angel Bedolla in the final match to rally for a 36-34 victory.
The Huskies were without Stigall for the match and forfeited the 132-, 220- and 285-pound weight classes, putting the team behind 31-27 with three matches remaining and 106-pounder Justin McConkey on deck against Landin Vittetoe.
Vittetoe scored a quick victory over McConkey at the Oregon Classic, winning in less than a minute. But the rematch belonged to the North Marion freshman, who battled his way to a 9-7 victory to pull his team within 31-30 with two matches left.
In the 113-pound match, Estacada's Seth Wenlund picked up a 10-4 decision over Martin Pacheco to build the Rangers' lead back to four points with one match left. Bedolla needed to win by technical fall or better to give North Marion the win, but quickly scored a pin over Mary Carter in the first round to squelch any thought of an Estacada victory.
With the 2017-18 season coming to a close, the Huskies will travel to Eagle Point in southern Oregon on Thursday in their lone event this week. The team will then take part in the Oregon West Conference duals on Feb. 3 in its final competition before the Regional Championship at Sweet Home on Feb. 10.