Some teams thrive at home, while others respond on the road. Then there’s the teams that perform well no matter what the surroundings.
The HRV wrestling team is one of those go-anywhere, win-everything teams. And, after another successful weekend, the Eagles are starting to raise a few eyebrows in the Intermountain Conference.
Six wrestlers won both their matches over the weekend at Redmond (36-29) and Bend (55-17) to help HRV raise its IMC dual meet record to 4-1 — good enough for first place in the standings.
“Coming to the IMC is the best thing that could have happened to us,” said junior 140-pounder Rocky Level, who won both his weekend matches, along with Zach Bohince (103), Trent Shelton (152),
Jacobe Krizman (171), Nate Dethman (189) and Nigel Bond (215).
“We get to wrestle the best guys in the state every night, and that’s really helped us reach a new level. If we had stayed in the Mt. Hood, we wouldn’t be as prepared to get where we want to be,” he said.
With just three matches remaining before the Feb. 14-15 district meet, Level and his teammates are now beginning to focus on the bigger picture.
“I’m going to go out with a vengeance at districts this year,” said Bohince, a 103-pound sophomore.
“Last year was a little shaky and I felt a bit intimidated at times. But I’ve learned a lot since then and my teammates have been behind me the entire way. Win or lose, this is the closest-knit team I’ve ever been a part of,” Bohince said.
Win or lose, that team unity has been evident in every match this season. The Eagles have lost just two matches decisively (Hermiston on Dec. 12 and Southridge on Dec. 19), and continue to add to their strength with every dual meet and every tournament.
“Just like we said at the beginning of the season, we’re a tournament team,” Level said. “The way I see it, if we can wrestle this well in dual meets, we should be able to do even better at tournaments like district and state.
“Individually, I know I’m not going to be satisfied with anything less than a district title. There are a lot of other guys who are looking to take it as well. And if a bunch of us advance to the late rounds, we’ll be right in the running,” he said.
Level has reason to be confident, too. He has lost just one match all year — a 14-7 decision to Jason Appleton of Southridge — and is gaining momentum with every match.
Likewise, Krizman continues to roll toward district supremacy, with his only loss of the season coming against Mountain View on Dec. 19.
“You just have to be ready to wrestle for three rounds every night,” he said. “Conditioning is everything this late in the season, and that’s where our team has an advantage. You just have to be better than your guy every match, and a lot of us feel like we are at this point.”
The next big challenge for the upstart Eagles is a home rematch with the Crook County Cowboys, who defeated them 33-31 at the Jan. 11-12 Oregon Classic in Redmond.
“Crook County is definitely our focus right now,” said senior heavyweight Tommy Owyen. “We want to get them back because that was a match we should have won. There’s a lot at stake, both for the team and for individuals.”
Because district seeding depends on head-to-head records, the Eagles will be thinking about more than just revenge on Friday. Every IMC loss counts, and if a wrestler loses a match he should have won, that could make for a far more difficult road at the district tournament.
“This match is going to be personal,” said assistant coach Jeff MacKay. “Every one of the kids wants to get revenge over Crook County. But they’re also thinking ahead to district as individuals, which should help the team achieve its goals.”
HRV will conclude the IMC dual meet season on Saturday during the Elks Invitational, when they face off against last-place Summit. The annual Elks tournament will be bracketed by weight class, but separate points will be kept for the Summit match.
“We have the potential to win 10 of the 13 weight classes,” MacKay said. “But we won’t worry about the Elks until we beat Crook County.”