PASCO, Wash. — In the sport of wrestling, success depends on how well a competitor can bounce back from adversity.
If a wrestler gets pinned one night, he has to move beyond it and prepare himself mentally to battle the next night.
Likewise, if a team gets trounced one night, each member of the team has to swallow his pride and return to the mat the next night with a renewed sense of desire.
That, in a nutshell, is what happened to the HRV wrestling team after last Thursday’s 51-20 defeat at the hands of Intermountain Conference rival Hermiston.
The Eagles banded together over the weekend and proved that they are one of the best teams in the Northwest, taking fourth place at the annual Best in the West tournament in Pasco, Wash.
“Our three-day road trip ended on a very positive note,” coach Mark Brown said, “and yes, HRV can compete in the IMC.”
In just three days, the Eagles had wrestled Hermiston twice, Pendleton and Mountain View, along with Pasco and Kennewick high schools. They posted a 3-3 dual meet record, and finished just behind Pendleton (third), Hermiston (second) and Newberg (first) in the 24-team Best in the West field.
“Is there any question which conference is the toughest in Oregon?” Brown asked. “Three of the four top teams in the West are from the IMC. That should tell you something right there.”
HRV defeated Kennewick 49-27 in the first round, and Pasco 39-29 in the second round to move onto the semifinals against the same Hermiston team that had handed them their lunch in Thursday night’s dual meet.
But Saturday’s face-off was a much different affair, as HRV battled Hermiston down to the wire before losing 35-31. Jason DeHart (171) and Jacobe Krizman (189) each wrestled up a weight class and won their matches, while Nigel Bond (215) and Tommy Owyen (275) each won to put HRV within four points.
If it weren’t for a forfeit at 160 pounds, the Eagles may have pulled it off, but in the end, the team was proud of its performance.
“We made a huge improvement at Best in the West,” said junior Jorge Lujano, who split varsity time with Owyen in the heavyweight division. “Everyone thought we wrestled poorly on Thursday, and the effort we gave over the weekend proved to us that we’re still a really strong team.”
After an inspired performance against the Bulldogs, HRV then took on another IMC rival, Pendleton, in a battle for third place. HRV reeled off four straight wins between 160 and 215 pounds, but Lujano lost by fall at 275, sending the Eagles to an eventual 34-31 setback.
Brown said he was extremely proud of the Eagles’ effort and pointed to performances by junior Rocky Level (140), who went 6-0 in three days, senior Josh Van Ek (119), who went 5-1, and sophomore Zach Bohince, who won four of his six matches at 112 and 103.
“Zach had a terrific weekend,” Brown said. “He wrestled tough and never complained once. He got the job done when the team needed him to. After that performance, he can truly call himself a wrestler.”
Also performing well for the Eagles on the three-day road trip were Krizman, who won five of six matches, DeHart, who won four of six matches, and senior Nate Dethman, who won three of five matches at 189 pounds.
“Overall, I’m very pleased,” Brown said, “but there are still some kids on the team who need to realize their importance to the team. By not coming to practice and not committing themselves to the team goal, they are letting everyone else down.”
The Eagles will continue to practice every day over the holidays to gear up for a home rematch with Pendleton on Jan. 3, and the annual Jan Anderson Invitational on Jan. 4.
“Remember what you’re training for,” Brown told his team at Monday’s practice. “We’ve got to face tough teams all season, and that’s why we’re going to work hard every day.”
Brown announced that former HRV district champ, Scott DeHart, has joined the coaching staff for the 2002-03 season.