GRESHAM — The HRV wrestling team last weekend proved something the Mt. Hood Conference already knew.
“We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!”
The Eagles capped a dream season Saturday by wrestling away their first 4A district title at Sam Barlow High School. In fact, HRV’s dominance in Friday’s preliminary rounds made Saturday’s result a forgone conclusion.
“We wrestled our butts off this year,” said senior Jason Macioroski, who scratched and clawed his way to a second-place finish in the 171-pound class.
“It wasn’t just one or two guys either. We stood out as a team. And as a senior, this is a great way to go out,” he said.
But Macioroski and 10 of his teammates aren’t done yet because the Eagles will send an unprecedented number of wrestlers to the OSAA state championships, which begin Thursday in Portland.
“This is the best feeling in the world,” said junior Jacobe Krizman, who won the 160-pound title with a hard-fought 6-3 decision over Barlow’s Steven Carter.
“But I’ve still got something left. My goal is to place, but I’m going for No. 1 at state,” he said.
And that’s been the prevailing attitude all season for this Eagle squad. No one ever felt as though his work was done.
Even now, after they accomplished their season goal of winning a district title, this group of warriors is hungry for more.
“This is the hardest working team I’ve ever been on,” said senior Felipe Magaña, who settled for second place in the 140-pound class after a controversial match against rival Dan Medford of Gresham.
“We fought hard all year and we deserve it. But this is just the first step. We’re going to continue to battle at state,” he said.
Although disappointed, Magaña was able to shrug off a difficult 9-8 decision in his championship match — one that will forever be debated.
With Medford up 8-7 and less than one minute to go, Medford continually backed away from Magaña and stepped out of bounds, which typically results in a stalling violation. However, Medford wasn’t penalized a until the final 15 seconds and avoided overtime.
“It would have been different if he didn’t keep running away,” said Magaña, who was also denied takedown points earlier in the match. “But I’ve had people I don’t even know come up to me and say that I won, which feels good. I know in my heart and in my mind that I’m the champ.”
Magaña wasn’t the only HRV wrestler to take his final match to the bitter end. Nearly every championship and third-place match was decided by two points or less — three in overtime.
Esteban Avila’s 119-pound final against Barlow’s Jeff Taylor reached double overtime, and literally slipped through his fingers. With less than one second remaining in the second OT, Taylor freed himself of Avila’s grasp and earned an escape for the 2-1 win.
Another match that came down to the wire was David Posey’s 130-pound final against Centennial’s Josh Buker. After earning a takedown with 15 seconds left in regulation, Posey was unable to prevent Buker’s lightning-quick reversal just five seconds into OT.
HRV did come up on the winning end of an OT match later in the evening, however, as sophomore Nigel Bond took down 189-pound opponent Alex Thorpe of Parkrose in sudden death to win third place and a berth at state.
“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Bond said. “I had a goal for top three coming in, and I overcame some difficult luck early on to get it done. I just kept battling and it paid off.”
Staying with the close-match theme was sophomore 135-pounder Rocky Level. After falling behind 5-0 to Gresham’s Drew Callicotte, Level dug deep and narrowed the gap to 5-3 in the first 30 seconds of round three. Then, after a Callicotte escape, Level slammed him to the mat for another two with 20 seconds left. But time became Level’s nemesis and he had to settle for second place.
The final championship match of the night for HRV was Macioroski’s 171-pound war with Brandon Ely of David Douglas. Down 3-1 after two rounds, Macioroski earned an escape to close the deficit to 3-2. But Ely managed to get a reversal late in round three to win the match 5-3.
“It’s always a battle with Ely,” Macioroski said. “But I let myself down a bit. I made some mental mistakes and probably should have won.”
Although HRV finished with just one individual district champ (Krizman), the team may have even surpassed its own expectations by sending 11 wrestlers to state.
Joining Krizman, Macioroski, Magaña, Level, Avila, Posey and Bond at state will be third-place finishers Josh Van Ek (112), John Harvey (140), Trent Shelton (145) and Tommy Owyen (275).
Just missing the cut were Ray Muñoz (4th, 215 pounds), Caleb Smith (5th, 125 pounds), and Jorge Lujano (5th, 275 pounds), who all earned a spot on the medal stand to give HRV a whopping 14 district place winners. The only two weight classes without HRV representation were 152 and 103 pounds, but the class of this program overshadows any medals or state berths.
“We’ll all act like champs no matter what,” Macioroski said.