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Eagles strike fear into state’s best teams

REDMOND — Last weekend’s Oregon Wrestling Classic could be divided into two distinct classes: the “haves” and the “have nots.”

Thirty-two of the best high-school teams in the state made the trip to the Deschutes County Fairgrounds, but only eight of them could call themselves a quarterfinalist — or, one of the “haves.”

After manhandling the competition in the tournament’s first two rounds (48-15 over Lebanon and 46-21 over David Douglas), Hood River Valley could officially say it was among the top eight teams in the state.

Then, after putting a scare into eventual champion Roseburg and beating No. 7-ranked Century, the Eagles could also say they “have” a lot to be proud of.

“I am extremely proud of our performance this weekend,” coach Mark Brown said of his team, which finished the tournament on Saturday with a narrow 33-31 loss to Intermountain Conference rival Crook County.

“We didn’t have the depth of some of the teams, but we still competed hard and left everything on the mat. The kids just kept wrestling the whole time, and not one of them wanted to quit.”

That collective fire was evident in each of the Eagles’ five matches. After winning 11 of 13 bouts against Lebanon (one forfeit), HRV took on former conference rival David Douglas and started out down 18-0.

But the resilient Eagles promptly rolled off eight straight wins, including three pins, and won 10 of the last 11 matches for a 46-21 victory and a berth in the quarters.

“We’re strong from 140 pounds up,” said junior heavyweight Jorge Lujano, who went 1-1 for the tournament.

“(Josh) Van Ek and the new guy (Efrain Garcia) are also tough to beat. We’re a little inexperienced in a couple areas, but I think we’ll contend for the IMC title.”

Van Ek, a senior 119-pounder, and Garcia, a 112-pound sophomore, both finished the weekend with records of 4-1, along with senior John Harvey (145).

Three others — junior Rocky Level (140) and seniors Jacobe Krizman (171) and Tommy Owyen (275) — finished the weekend undefeated.

“We wrestled really tough this weekend,” said Harvey, whose only loss came in the last match against Crook County. “It makes us better to wrestle the top guys, and we’ll be much better prepared for districts and state.”

One team the Eagles will likely run into at state will be Roseburg, their quarterfinal opponent last Friday night. The No. 3-ranked Indians, whose lineup is brutal from top to bottom, went ahead 16-0 before HRV could even assess their strength.

When the Eagles finally figured out how to wrestle them, they were down 26-7, with little margin for error for the final six matches. Krizman began the comeback effort with a pin at 171 pounds, and after Nate Dethman lost a 4-0 decision at 189, junior 215-pounder Nigel Bond gutted out a 4-3 decision to keep HRV in the hunt at 29-16.

Lujano nearly earned a pin over heavyweight Justin Troxel to put the Eagles within striking distance, but had to settle for a 10-7 loss, which effectively gave the Indians the victory.

“Roseburg is definitely the best team we’ve wrestled so far,” said Harvey, who won his match by a 14-4 major decision. “I think it would be closer next time, but you have to give them credit. They’re one tough team.”

The Eagles weren’t going to let the 38-25 defeat at the hands of Roseburg deflate them, however. They returned to the mat on Saturday for a consolation quarterfinal match against No. 7-ranked Century, and won the back-and-forth battle 36-32.

After falling behind 29-26 with three matches remaining, Jason DeHart won a 19-6 major decision at 160 pounds before Krizman sealed the deal with a 26-second pin at 171 pounds. Those 10 points put HRV up 36-29, and gave Century no chance of coming back in the final match.

The win ensured HRV of at least one more match and a chance to compete for fifth place. They did everything they had to against Crook County, winning eight of the 14 matches, but were unable to get past the Cowboys.

“That one stung a bit,” said Brown. “We know we should have beaten them, the same way we knew we should have beaten Pendleton at Best in the West. We just need to figure out a way to get a few more points next time.”

HRV will get its chance at revenge when the Cowboys ride into town on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m.

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