PENDLETON — Amid all the excitement of the 2003 Intermountain Conference district meet, one Hood River Valley wrestler stood out in his quest to reach this weekend’s state competition.
Senior 145-pounder John Harvey overcame a first-round loss, a partially separated shoulder and a case of bruised ribs to win five straight matches and qualify for his second consecutive state meet.
“After losing to a JV kid in the first round, I wanted to prove to myself that I was better than that,” said Harvey, who was one of eight state qualifiers for the Eagles.
“My coaches told me what people were saying and that ticked me off. So I just forgot about the pain and the hurt, and proved that I didn’t belong in the loser’s bracket.”
Harvey completed his run in grand fashion, pinning Markus Dunfee of Pendleton late in round three.
“The more I wrestled, the more determined I got,” he said. “I knew this was my last chance to go to state, and nothing was going to stand in my way.”
Senior 189-pounder Nate Dethman was equally determined in his final district competition, earning his first state berth with an overtime win over Redmond’s Jon Martinez.
“I wasn’t worried because I knew I could get away from him in OT,” Dethman said. “I just had to stay focused and remember that my number-one goal all year has been to go to state. It really means a lot.”
Just ask Zach Bohince. The sophomore 103-pounder admittedly came out of nowhere to snag the district title and his first trip to state.
“I’m on top of the world,” he beamed. “I said I was going to come out with a vengeance at district, and I did.”
Bohince said that a lack of respect from the other IMC teams motivated him to prove everyone wrong.
“That Hermiston guy (Kevin Rubio) is too cocky and he thinks he’s bad,” Bohince said. “So I was like, ‘take that!’ No one thought I would be in the finals, and that’s what really got me going.”
Bohince, the No. 2 seed in the 103-pound bracket, defeated Rubio, the No. 1 seed, by a score of 20-8, and joined teammate Rocky Level atop the medal stand as the Eagles’ only two district champions.
Level, a 140-pound junior who has lost just one match this season, defeated Crook County’s Garrett Allen by an 8-6 count in overtime to win his second district title in three years (first at 119 in 2001).
“I was pretty confident in OT, because I feel like I’m in better shape than anyone I wrestle,” said Level, who is ranked No. 8 in the state. “I don’t want to be anywhere else but on top of the podium, and I’m just going to keep outworking everyone so I can be there at state.”
Level, Bohince, Dethman and Harvey will join seniors Tommy Owyen (third at 275), Jacobe Krizman (second at 171), and Trent Shelton (second at 152); and junior Nigel Bond (second at 215) at the OSAA state meet, which begins Thursday at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum.
Like Level, Owyen (No. 6) and Krizman (No. 4) are ranked among the top 10 in state in their respective weight classes.
Both Owyen and Krizman had difficult draws at district, but both felt as though they should have taken first place.
“I probably could have beaten (Tyler) Hartsteen in the semis,” Owyen said, “but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. It would have been nice to win a district title, but in a tough conference like this, I’m happy just going to state.”
Hartsteen, the No. 3-ranked heavyweight from Hermiston, went on to win the title over Pendleton’s Sean Orr, who was previously ranked No. 1. All three will battle it out for state supremacy this weekend.
“How you do at state depends a lot on where you get seeded,” said Owyen. “But I like my chances because I’ve already wrestled a lot of the top guys.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise — borderline disappointment — for the Eagles at district this year was Krizman’s second-place finish at 171 pounds. The senior state contender had lost just once this season to his finals opponent, Cody Larwin of Mountain View.
Krizman took a 1-0 lead into the final 15 seconds of round three, but made a mental error that allowed Larwin to earn a takedown and a steal away the title, 2-1.
“Jacobe went for the touchdown instead of settling for the field goal,” coach Mark Brown said.