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Lions knock off one of their TRL challengers with a solid, start-to-finish effort

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - West Linn junior Cael Brunson smiles after pinning Oregon City's Maxwell Kniebuehler at 152 pounds during the Lions' 49-24 win at Oregon City High School on Thursday, Dec. 12.Now, just two weeks into the 2019-20 season, the West Linn wrestling team is already showing its strength.

The Lions, who opened their year with a three-match sweep in the David Douglas Dual Tournament, came back strong in their Three Rivers League kickoff, powering past Oregon City 49-24 at Oregon City High School on Thursday, Dec. 12.

"We were expecting to go in and have a tough dual, get some close matches and we got exactly what we expected," said West Linn's Ricky Bell, a junior who finished second at state last winter and posted a first-round pin at 120 pounds against OC.

"I had a really good time. I love wrestling at Oregon City because I have a lot of friends there so it's fun to go see them and then beat them up," said West Linn junior Cael Brunson, the reigning Class 6A state champion and a winner by fall at 152. "Oregon City is doing really well. They've upped their attitude a lot. … Last year, they weren't very team-oriented, but now they're getting excited about their team and I think that's one of the deadliest things you can have."

With the win, the Lions improved to 1-0 in TRL action and 4-0 overall, while the Pioneers — another of the TRL favorites for 2019-20 — fell to 0-1 in league after earlier placing eighth among 23 teams at the Tyrone S. Woods Memorial.

West Linn 49, Oregon City 24

In their dual meet, the Lions and Pioneers split the night's first six matches, with West Linn opening with an 11-0 major decision victory by sophomore Andrew Shelofsky over OC's Emma Baertlein at 106. After that, Bell pinned Carl Najjar 51 seconds into their match at 120, and sophomore Ethan Goff pinned Pioneer Kaeden Avery with 1:25 to go in their bout at 126 to give the Lions a 16-6 lead.

In his win, Bell notched a takedown just six seconds into the first period, followed with a pair of near-falls over the next 33 seconds and pinned Najjar with 1:09 to go in the round.

"I felt great coming back," Bell said, referring to a practice injury that kept him out of the team's first tournament. "I couldn't wrestle at the David Douglas tournament, but I feel stronger than ever."

The Pioneers answered with wins at 113, 132 and 138, however, and cut the West Linn lead to just 16-15. OC's Mason Perry pinned West Linn sophomore Aaron McCoy with one minute left in the third period at 113, Refugio Morales Ayala edged Lion sophomore Michael Kearney 11-10 at 132, and Pioneer Sage Brown pinned WL freshman Logan Owens with 58 seconds to go in the first round of their match at 138.

But West Linn came back with a vengeance, winning six of the final eight weight classes to put Oregon City away, the Pioneers' only wins coming at 170 and 285.

At 145, West Linn senior Jack Wall posed the fastest pin of the night, taking down Quinton Foster just five seconds into their match and pinning him seven seconds later. At 152, Brunson got after OC's Maxwell Kniebuehler with three takedowns and a nearfall in the first period, then another takedown and a pin 22 seconds into the second. And at 160, Lion freshman Justin Rademacher led Spencer Townsend most of the way to post a 12-5 decision that extended West Linn's lead to 31-15.

"I feel like I did pretty good," Brunson said. "I wanted to be more flashy because a lot of my friends were here, but Max is really good and I didn't want him to throw me to my back so I just kind of wrestled boring, my normal best."

Then, after Oregon City's Mannix Perry edged WL junior Cole Peters 5-4 at 170, the Lions tacked on forfeit wins by freshman Earl Ingle, sophomore Cade Miller and sophomore Cobie Daly at 182, 195 and 220 to extend their team's lead to 49-18 and seal their victory.

In the final match of the night at 285, Oregon City's Zachary Zumwalt took down West Linn senior Joe Betty and pinned him 59 seconds into their match.

As solid as their win had been, the Lions knew there was still much room for improvement.

"The place we need to get better the most … was giving up points at the end of rounds," Brunson said. "There were times when they were just three seconds left and we would give up a point — you can do anything for three seconds and not give up a point."

That said, West Linn also expects 2019-20 to be a very good year.

"I think as a team, we can have a really special year," Bell added. "Our lineup is stacked all the way through. We just have stud after stud after stud, and a lot of the freshmen coming up are looking really good. When we get our lineup solidified, we are going to look unreal."

Next up, the Lions host Canby in TRL action at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19.

Contact Sports Editor Miles Vance at 503-330-0127 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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