Wrestling: Vasquez leads Woodburn with finals run
Woodburn sophomore Wesley Vasquez entered the 2018 State Wrestling Championships as an unseeded 113-pounder after barely making the cut at the district tournament the week before.
He nearly left a champion.
Vasquez became the first Woodburn wrestler in 10 years to advance to the finals at the state wrestling tournament, placing second in the 5A 113-pound match to lead the Bulldogs to a 14th-place finish with 44 points on Saturday.
"This state tournament was phenomenal for me," Vasquez said. "It was a really great experience to wrestle in this tournament because I got to wrestle some of the best wrestlers in the state."
Vasquez was one of three Woodburn wrestlers to finish on the podium, joining teammates Giovanni Bravo (5th, 138 pounds) and Chris Serrano (6th, 170 pounds), as the Bulldogs sent seven total athletes to the state tournament over the weekend.
The sophomore scored a surprise upset of No. 2-seeded freshman Caleb Wilde, a district champion of Wilsonville, in the first round of the tournament to forge a quarterfinal bout with Thurston's Zane Stewart.
Stewart put up an upset of his own in the first round, knocking off No. 7-seed Austin Anderson of Redmond by 7-3 decision.
In the quarterfinals, the two giant-killers went toe to toe, with Vasquez emerging on top after scoring a takedown in overtime to secure a 6-4 win by sudden victory.
On Saturday, Vasquez opened the semifinals with his best match of the tournament, needing just 52 seconds to pin No. 5 seed Gavin Sherrill of Thurston and punch his ticket to the finals. Vasquez was the lone unseeded 5A wrestler to make the championship round on Saturday and became the first Woodburn wrestler to do so since Kipa Piatkoff placed second for the Bulldogs in the 130-pound bracket in 2008.
"It was an incredible feeling to be in the state finals," Vasquez said. "I know that my teammates and I gave it our all in every match but there were some results that we weren't expecting."
The unexpected trip to the finals mirrored his older brother Rafael's district title in 2016, when the older Vasquez entered districts as an unseeded 138-pound junior and reeled off a series of upsets to become the district champion.
Vasquez had a familiar foe in the championship match, going up against Crescent Valley No. 4 seed freshman Drew Roberts, who had upset the top-seeded Tanner Ulrey of Crater in the semifinals. Roberts had pinned Vasquez in the semifinals of the district tournament the week before en route to the district title and would not be denied in the rematch.
Roberts took down Vasquez 30 seconds into the match, parlaying that into a 3-point nearfall toward the end of the round to take an early 5-0 lead. Roberts expanded his lead to 7-0 after scoring a reversal midway through the second.
The Crescent Valley freshman put the match away in the final round, scoring a takedown and two nearfalls in the span of 45 seconds to go up 14-0. After Vasquez managed to escape to register his only point of the match, Roberts scored a quick takedown to make it 16-1 and secure the state title with a technical fall victory.
"I couldn't do this without the support and motivation of my coaches, family, teammates, and friends so big thank you to everyone," Vasquez said. "For me it was great way to leave 5A and let 4A know who's coming."
Giovanni Bravo — 5th, 138 pounds
Bravo was unable to return to the state semifinals like he did in 2017 but the Woodburn junior was able to finish with a medal for the second consecutive year after going 4-2 to finish fifth in the 5A 138-pound bracket.
Bravo opened the tournament with a victory over Redmond junior Trae Bolken in 1:50 to advance to the quarterfinals, but was stopped by No. 3-seed Nick Peterson of Hillsboro on the losing side of a 6-4 sudden victory decision, moving him to the consolation side of the bracket.
There he faced No. 7-seed John Cole of Mountain View, taking down the senior by 6-2 decision to move on to the quarterfinals of the consolation bracket.
Bravo qualified for the placement round with an 11-2 major decision over No. 8-seeded freshman Clayton Rock of Crater, but was stopped again by Sandy's Levi Rotzien in a 6-4 decision.
Bravo finished his day with a rematch against Bolken, winning by 13-2 major decision.
Chris Serrano — 6th, 170 pounds
Like Vasquez, Serrano gave Woodburn a second unseeded upset in the first round of the state tournament.
Going up against No. 5 seed Wyatt Gross of Redmond to open the tournament, the two seniors wrestled to a 1-1 stalemate throughout the entire match before Serrano scored a takedown as time expired to take the 3-1 upset.
He was stopped in the quarterfinals, however, falling by 3-1 decision to No. 4 Kalen Roach of Thurston to drop to the consolation side of the bracket.
Needing a win to move on to the second day of competition, Serrano was up against No. 8 Jared Coxen, a sophomore from Dallas who was the lone wrestler to defeat Serrano in the district tournament the week before.
Serrano made up for loss, taking down Coxen by a 10-4 decision to advance to the consolation quarterfinals against No. 7 Logan Lowder of Crater for the opportunity to move on to the placement rounds.
Serrano beat Lowder by 11-4 decision, but was pinned by Lebanon's No. 3 seed Joseph Blisseck in the consolation semifinals, dropping down to the fifth-place match.
Serrano finished the tournament with a rematch against Roach, falling by 2-1 decision to wrap up his senior season with a sixth-place finish at state.
"These two days were tough, a real test to see where the team will go in the future," Serrano said. "Overall I think it was a success we all wrestled good, we gave it our all but next year we have to come back stronger and better then ever. We have a tough road ahead but we'll come out on top."
One of two district finalists for the Bulldogs, Garcia was unable to get past the first day of competition after falling in a first round upset to Sandy sophomore Ford McKinnis by 5-2 decision.
Garcia rebounded in the first round of the consolation bracket, where he faced another seeded wrestler, No. 4 Sean Stewart of Hermiston, who was himself beaten unexpectedly in the match after Garcia's.
With both top-ranked wrestlers fighting to avoid an 0-2 day, Garcia won out by pinfall in 4:20, advancing to the second round of the consolation bracket.
Unfortunately, his rally ended there against a familiar foe — senior Bryce Jordan of Dallas. The two had met in the district semifinals, with Garcia winning by late pinfall. But in the state rematch, Jordan needed just 20 seconds to get his revenge, knocking Garcia out of the tournament.
Sergio Mendez — 120 pounds
The Woodburn junior went winless in his first trip to the state championship tournament, opening the day with a 2:27 loss to No. 4 Ryan Zeller of Hood River Valley. He wrapped up with an 8-3 loss by decision to Ishmael Blas of North Eugene.
Hernandez opened with a tough draw, facing defending state champion and top-seeded Beau Ohlson of Mountain View in the opening round and falling by 3:16.
Hernandez followed with a 4-2 loss decided by sudden victory against Thurston's Dylan Averill to finish his trip to Portland.
William Sandoval — 132 pounds
Like his teammate, Hernandez, Sandoval opened the tournament against the top-seeded opponent in his bracket, taking on defending 126-pound champion Jason Shaner of Hood River Valley.
Sandoval fell in 2:14 to drop to the consolation side of the bracket, where he lost to No. 8-seeded junior Alec Nolan of North Eugene in 48 seconds.