Woodburn senior wrestlers take center stage
Woodburn High School packed the house on Wednesday, Jan. 29, for its final home wrestling event of the season, welcoming programs from Tillamook, Estacada and Banks for a league three-way.
And while the Bulldogs split their duals on the night, beating Banks 56-18 before falling 61-15 to the defending 4A championship Cheesemakers of Tillamook, it was the celebration in between the matches that brought the crowd to its feet.
Woodburn paid tribute to its eight senior wrestlers, allowing them to take center stage with their families while head coach Dusty Price spotlighted each one.
The seniors — Grant Morales, Bryan Ramirez, Steven Villasenor, Jose Sanchez, Keven Mendoa, Hector Paniagua, Freddy Hernandez and Wesley Vasquez — each took an opportunity to write out memorable moments from the season and their wrestling career that Price shared with the crowd.
"Wrestling has taught me that I am much stronger than I seem," Morales said. "Through failure comes a strong lesson that must be learned to improve and become better than before."It was a common sentiment echoed among the graduating members of the Bulldogs, each of whom gave credit to the sport, not just for the thrill of the physical competition, but for the life lessons it provided them between matches.
"If it wasn't for wrestling, I wouldn't be the same person I am today," Mendoza said.
"Wrestling has taught me to be committed to the things I want to achieve and do everything 100 percent," Hernandez said. "It has also taught me to be mentally tough."
Hernandez is among the top wrestlers on Woodburn this year and is looking to return to the state championship tournament after advancing to last year's 126-pound semifinals en route to a third-place finish.
Hernandez credited the experience as the best memory of his high school wrestling career and appreciated the big showing on senior night for the support as he strives to make a run at a state title.
"I want to give special thanks to the people who are here supporting me, because today is probably the most support I've had in my four years of wrestling," he said.
Many of the wrestlers, like Pangiagua, gave thanks to their parents and family for supporting them through their commitment to the wrestling program.
"I want to give thanks to my family — especially my mom — because she knows that when wrestling season starts, I put all my attention into it," he said.
Several Woodburn wrestlers mentioned their pride in being members of the Guts Club — an exclusive group whose membership requires 100 percent attendance to every practice and every competition, regardless of outside circumstances.
It's a matter of pride for Woodburn wrestlers to become a Guts Club member at the end of the season and often has a direct correlation to performance on the mat — as evidenced by Vasquez, a returning state champion and four-time Guts Club member.
Vasquez was one of two Woodburn wrestlers to win both his matches on Wednesday, defeating Jackson Lyda of Banks before taking down Tillamook's Tyler Moncrief in 1:53.
Junior Kaden Christiansen joined him, pinning Banks' Tyler Smith in the first round before taking a 10-3 decision over Gilbert Whitlatch of Tillamook in the second match.
Juan Velasquez was the final Woodburn wrestler to take a victory over the Cheesemakers, pinning Aiden Sumerlin in 1:13.
Tillamook is among the championship favorites this year after winning three individual titles in 2019 and placing 12 wrestlers among the top six.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are looking to improve upon last year's impressive seventh-place finish that largely came on the backs of championships from Vasquez and departed senior Giovanni Bravo.
Woodburn's season continues this week when the Bulldogs travel to Astoria on Wednesday in their final contest before the district championships at North Marion on Feb. 20-21.
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