Josh Van Ek had been to state in two of his first three years as a high school wrestler. All the while, his goal has been to place in the top eight.
But, due to a difficult draw at 119 pounds — regarded as the most competitive weight class in any district in the state — the senior 119-pounder won’t have a chance to realize that goal. Van Ek placed fourth in a three-horse race at the 2003 district meet, and will have to stay home this year.
“Kids like Josh Van Ek are the reason why we have high school wrestling,” HRV coach Mark Brown said. “It’s heartbreaking to see someone work so hard for so long and not get to go.”
Brown said the same thing about juniors Jason DeHart and Jorge Lujano, who placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in equally brutal draws at 160 and 275 pounds. Both will have their chance next year, however, as they lead a burly class of 2004 into battle.
“These guys are true champions, and they exemplify what this program is about,” Brown said. “Hard work, good sportsmanship and strong character.”
Despite the omissions of Van Ek, Lujano and DeHart, the Eagles still sent a healthy number of wrestlers to state (eight). They also had 14 district placers in their first year of IMC competition, matching last year’s total in the Mt. Hood Conference.
“We really picked it up as a team on the second day,” said sophomore Zach Bohince, the 103-pound district champ. “Our guys showed a lot of heart and never gave up.”
HRV, which took second in the IMC dual meet standings, finished fourth in the district behind Crook County, Hermiston and Pendleton. But the fourth-place showing didn’t have as much to do with the Eagles’ strength as it did their depth.
“What hurt us in the team standings was our lack of depth in the second lineup,” said senior Nate Dethman, who will represent HRV at state in the 189-pound class.
“But overall, we did really well as a team. Being in fifth after day one motivated us to get back to where we belong, which is among the top four teams in the IMC.”