Wrestling: Vasquez leads Woodburn at coast
After finishing runner up in the 113-pound bracket of the 5A state championships last season, Wesley Vasquez's fourth-place finish in an early season tournament on Saturday would seem a step in the opposite direction.
Not so, said Woodburn wrestling head coach Dusty Price, who looked past Vasquez's two defeats in the North Bend Coast Classic and instead focused on the way in which his top wrestler competed in context against some of the strongest kids he's likely to see this season.
"This is an incredibly tough tournament with 36 of the best 6A, 5A, and 4A teams from across Oregon," Price said. "In many ways, it is much more competitive than the state tournament."
Vasquez placed fourth in the 126-pound bracket on Saturday, going 4-2 on the day to lead the Bulldogs to 20th place overall. After opening the tournament with a first round pin over Canby's Caden Millar, Vasquez tasted his first defeat by falling to Cleveland's Elija Fishler in a 7-2 decision.
Looking to avoid elimination, Vasquez rebounded with a resounding 11-second victory over Century's William Musser and followed with a 54-second pin over Logan Childers of Grant pass to advance to the consolation semifinals.
There he faced Eagle Point's Freddy Barajas, winning by 13-4 major decision to qualify for the third-place match against Myrtle Point's Tyler Huerta, where he went on to fall by 12-6 decision. Looking back over the weekend, Price was impressed with Vasquez's ability to bounce back from a disappointing loss and keep competing with his back against the wall. It's exactly the kind of mettle needed at the state tournament in February where sometimes a strong mental fortitude is all that stands between a wrestler and an unexpected early exit.
"Wesley Vasquez was a definite standout this weekend and led the team with incredible intensity," Price said. "He wrestles really smart and is learning from his few losses. He will be exciting to watch this season."
Vasquez was the lone Bulldog wrestler to place at the event, scoring 21 of his team's 40.5 points on the day. But the Woodburn wrestling program isn't one that dwells on losses, other than as a way to improve, learn from mistakes and take on further challenges.
Senior captain Marcos Hernandez, who was not only competing against the opponents on the other side of the mat, but was recovering from an injury sustained in a recent car accident. Hernandez dropped his opening match of the day in a second round loss, only to recover with back-to-back victories — one by second round pin, another by 19-4 technical fall.
Hernandez fell in the first round in his next match, but got far enough up the 138-pound bracket to score 5.5 points, bumping the Bulldogs up a few places in the final standings. But Hernandez was more focused on his teammates after the tournament, and was encouraged to see how his fellow wrestlers stepped up to the mat and faced some difficult challenges.
"Overall this weekend was much better than anticipated for me," Hernandez said. "We took some of the new guys to one of the toughest tournament of wrestling in Oregon and they put up a great fight without backing down. They went in hungry and ready for war which to me was what made me feel proud this weekend, we still have much to improve on, but we will surely get to where we want to with hard work and patience."
Woodburn has had an up-and-down beginning of the season record-wise. The Bulldogs kicked off the 2018-19 wrestling schedule with a trip to Lebanon on Nov. 28 where the team beat former league rival South Albany 47-32, sandwiched between a pair of big losses to Lebanon (66-10) and Sweet Home (75-3).
The Bulldogs followed with a 9th place finish out of 21 teams at the Tyrone S. Woods Memorial Tournament in Oregon City on Dec. 1. Like the North Bend tournament, the Oregon City event was largely composed of 5A and 6A teams, and with the Bulldogs struggling to fill weight classes early in the season due to a combination of grades and weight, the team has been handicapped early on.
"Having to face Lebanon and Sweet Home let us know where the team is at, and we know that we're not where we want to be," Vasquez said. "But we'll get there eventually. This team is going to go up one step at a time, which means that we have to go harder every day up in that wrestling room."
But the Woodburn coaching staff is confident that as the team rounds into shape and puts more athletes on the mat, all the work the Bulldogs are doing in the mat room will begin to pay off to the tune of individual and team victories.
"We are still putting some pieces together and expect to have a more competitive team as the season progresses," Price said. "These are the types of athletes that we love to work with. Absolutely committed, coachable, and very driven."
The Woodburn wrestling team will host a four-team home dual on Wednesday at 4 p.m.