PORTLAND — Senior Night at David Douglas High School was supposed to be a festive occasion for the wrestling team.
The Scots were brimming with confidence, boasting a buff 6-0 conference record and some of the state’s premier wrestlers, including No. 1-ranked 215-pounder Justin Snoderly.
They had an early 13-point lead over league rival Hood River Valley. They had momentum, experience and a raucous crowd to back them up. Wednesday (Feb. 6) was to be their night.
But instead of joining the party, an equally amped HRV squad chose to play spoiler, winning seven consecutive matches to put away David Douglas by a score of 31-23.
“There was a lot on the line tonight,” said junior Trent Shelton, who wrangled his 152-pound opponent to the mat in just 32 seconds. “But the real season starts tomorrow. The dual meets are just preseason for us. Everyone on this team has their sights set on the district title.”
Though Shelton and the Eagles wanted to complete the conference season undefeated, each wrestler understands that the team’s work has only just begun.
“Nothing else matters,” Shelton said. “It seems like this is our last chance because we’re changing leagues next year and the IMC will be a lot tougher. We want to win the MHC this year for all the seniors and coaches who have helped us get here,” he said.
The seniors were noticeably geared up for Wednesday’s meet as well, but the win was a true team effort.
Despite falling behind 16-3 after five matches, the Eagles remained focused and got on an unbelievable roll to win the next seven decisions.
David Posey got things started at 130 pounds, nearly earning a pin over Andy Hill in the first minute of round one. Although he was unable to convert the six points, Posey owned the match from the outset and went on to win a 14-3 major decision.
That brought up sophomore 135-pounder Rocky Level, who was equally dominating in the first minute of round one. Level persevered and was able to subdue Matt Wakamatsu with 21 seconds left in the second for HRV’s first six of the night.
No longer down and out, the Eagles put their faith in 140-pounder Felipe Magaña to tie the match at 16. Magaña started off slowly, but seized control late in the third round with a takedown and a nearfall for a 5-1 win over Charles Scott.
All of a sudden, the Scots had a match on their hands and looked to 145-pound Ben Dukleth for a lift. But HRV junior John Harvey had other plans. After falling behind 7-3 early in round three, Harvey earned an escape and a technical point to narrow the deficit to 7-5 with one minute remaining.
Harvey kept a clear head and forced Dukleth to come to him, resulting in a two-point takedown with less than 30 seconds that sent the match to overtime. Owning the advantage, Harvey became the aggressor in OT and slammed Dukleth to the mat 30 seconds in to give HRV the lead.
“Down 7-3 with a hurt shoulder, things weren’t looking very good,” Harvey said. “But I’ve begun to understand that 90 percent of wrestling is mental, and I overcame it.”
Normally a 140-pounder, Harvey was wrestling up a weight class while the team’s top 145-pounder, Shelton, competed at 152. But like Harvey, Shelton wasn’t intimidated. Looking like a world-class calf-roper, he applied a three-quarter stack to opponent Jamie Cuniff and pinned him in a season-best 32 seconds.
“I haven’t lost at 145 yet this year, so to come in and beat someone at 152 like that gives me a lot of confidence heading into districts,” Shelton said.
Shelton’s pin gave HRV a comfortable 25-16 lead with four matches remaining. And with two of the team’s fiercest competitors — Jacobe Krizman and Jason Macioroski — coming up, the Eagles knew they could start thinking “undefeated.”
It wouldn’t be easy, however. Krizman, the No. 1 district seed at 160 pounds, wrestled a physical, hard-fought match against John Wiseman and won a 7-5 decision to put HRV within three points of guaranteed victory.
All Macioroski had to do was win his 171-pound contest and the celebration could begin. So the classy senior beared down and escaped with a narrow 6-5 decision over Brandon Ely to secure the meet and the team’s first-ever undefeated season.
The night’s final two matches were merely a formality, and although Nigel Bond (189) and Ray Muñoz (215) lost, both wrestled with tremendous heart and should be factors at the Feb. 15-16 district meet.
“Ray has come a long way this year,” Krizman said. “He’s a smart wrestler and he’ll step it up at districts. We have a lot of depth and our whole team is looking strong. I can’t wait,” he said.