West Linn wrestlers crown four champions, place second at TRL district tourney
The West Linn wrestling team didn't get everything it wanted at the 2019 Three Rivers League district tournament.
The Lions, after going unbeaten in the 2018-19 TRL regular season, wanted very much to add a district championship to their trophy case.
That didn't happen — the Lions finished second to Oregon City in the tournament — but West Linn still performed very well at district and may get the last laugh on the Pioneers at state.
West Linn crowned four district champions at the tournament — held Friday and Saturday at West Linn High School — saw another four wrestlers finish second and looks primed for a solid performance at state. Those four West Linn champions were sophomore Ricky Bell at 106 pounds, freshman Ethan Goff at 113, sophomore Cael Brunson at 145 and senior Sean Harman at 170.
The Class 6A state tournament is set for Friday and Saturday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Friday with quarterfinals starting at 1:03 p.m., and continuing at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with semifinals set for 9:45 a.m., third- and fifth-place matches for 1:51 p.m. and championship finals for 7 p.m.
"First of all, I thought the kids performed really well," said West Linn coach Doug Samarron. "We're taking nine kids to state — that's a pretty strong performance."
While Samarron and the Lions really wanted that district title, they plan to come back strong at state.
"I think second place doesn't really reflect the potential that we have at the state meet," Samarron added. "I think we have the potential to place fairly high at state. I think we may even have two or three kids seeded first out of this group."
Oregon City, which crowned two district champions and will send six wrestlers to state, won the district tournament with 313.5 points, followed by West Linn at 276.0, Tualatin at 272.0, Canby at 216.5, Tigard at 188.0, Lakeridge at 172.5 and Lake Oswego at 48.0.
Leading the way for the Lions was Harman, a district champion at 170 pounds after posting a 19-4 technical fall victory over Oregon City's Mannix Perry on Saturday night. With the victory, Harman secured his fourth straight TRL title and can now set his sights on a third straight Class 6A crown after winning at 152 in 2017 and 160 in 2018 (he also placed second at 145 as a freshman).
"It's a little weird to think that I probably won't ever wrestle here again, but it's cool," Harman said. "It feels pretty good. … The goal was to be a four-time state champion — that was the main one — but I lost my freshman year so I had to adjust. It's not a big deal. There are roadblocks everywhere you go, so I just had to power through it and figure out where I wanted to be."
Harman opened his tournament with a first-round pin of Canby's Austin Comer, pinned Lakeridge's Pierce Boucher in the first round of their semifinal, then raced past Mannix in the finale. Harman led 7-1 at the end of the first period, 17-3 at the end of the second and ended the match early in the third.
"No wrestling match is ever easy," Harman said. "You've got to make sure you're ready to go because anything can happen. That's why you wrestle all six minutes, because anything can happen and that's why I love the sport so much.
"I just told myself, 'Hey. This is your last one. Just let loose, have a good time and just do you.'"
Brunson made his mark at 145, winning a second straight TRL crown (he took third at state a year ago) by beating four straight opponents. He opened with a first-round pin of Oregon City's Cody Tarbet, followed up with another first-round pin against Lakeridge's Jack Rittenberg, won a forfeit over Canby's Cash Montgomery in his semifinal, then beat Lakeridge's Ryan Boucher 5-1 in the title contest.
In the win over Boucher, Brunson got a first-round takedown, added a penalty point and another takedown in the second round to lead 5-0, then rode out most of the third period before Boucher got a late escape.
"Overall, it was perfectly executed, in my opinion," Brunson said. "I wish it would have been a little more exciting, but my style of wrestling is so boring. I could tell by the crowd's silence that they weren't too pleased, but a win's a win. I think I wrestled really well."
While he won comfortably, Brunson said he never took Boucher for granted.
"I was a little worried going into the match because that kid is really good and he's super-strong," he said. "I usually have trouble with really strong kids, but I ended up succeeding."
At 106, Bell stepped up to take his first TRL crown after placing fifth at district a year ago. Bell opened with a bye, pinned Lakeridge's Hamza Said-Al-Naief in the first round of their quarterfinal, won with another first-round pin over Tigard's Atticus Waddell in their semifinal, and then stopped freshman teammate Jordy Tawa at 1:31 of their championship match.
"Last year, I finished fifth, not making it to state," Bell said. "This is much better. A lot better."
That said, it wasn't easy to beat his talented freshman teammate.
"Jordy Tawa was really tough in the final. That was a good match," Bell said. "We don't really wrestle in practice so I didn't really know what to expect and I just went out and got my attacks."
Goff won his team's other district championship, coming in as the third seed but knocking off the first and second seeds along the way to victory. Goff opened the tournament with a bye, posted a 7-2 win over Oregon City's Christopher Tyler in his quarterfinal, dropped second-seeded Jonathan Zuriaga of Canby 10-8 in overtime in his semifinal, and then upset top-seeded Cameron O`Connor of Tigard 10-6 in the finale.
In the win over O'Connor, Goff scored all of his points on takedowns — two in the first round to lead 4-2, another in the second round to push ahead 6-4, and two more in the third round to put the match away.
"(The key was) just not getting tired," he said. "I just kept telling myself, 'I'm good. Keep going.' It was just one more match, six more minutes, then four, then two and I just had to keep going."
When it was over, Goff could finally relax and enjoy his accomplishment.
"Winning district feels amazing," he added. "I knew I had a shot going in and I knew if I kept fighting, kept pushing, I could beat these older kids."
In addition to Tawa, West Linn's other runners-up were: senior Kaden Goff at 120 (he fell to Sage Brown of Oregon City 6-5 in their title match); sophomore Cole Peters at 160 (he dropped a 9-6 decision to Canby's Logan Doman in their finale); and sophomore Cade Miller at 182 (he fell to Cody Van Meter of Tualatin 4-2 in the title contest.
Also headed to state for West Linn is senior Adrian Sandoval, the third-place finisher at 220, and Michael Kearney, who took fourth at 113. Sandoval came back from a semifinal loss to pin Carter Dennis of Tigard in the first round of their third-place match, while Kearney won a wild card berth to state.
Other West Linn placewinners included: Jake Heinonen, fifth at 126; Jack Wall, fifth at 138; and Josef Betty, fifth at 285.
Jim Beseda contributed to this story.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)