PENDLETON — The wrestling teams from Hood River Valley and Pendleton high schools have developed a mighty intriguing rivalry over the past two seasons, with each team capturing a dual meet victory at some point along the way.
But a large HRV graduating class in 2003 changed the complexion of the matchup, which is now mostly focused on individual matchups than team scores.
Knowing that the Buckaroos returned more than half of their lineup from last year, the Eagles were focused on district seedings more than team scores on Saturday night, when the two teams faced off in an Intermountain Conference dual meet.
“I figured we would get five wins and we got four, so it was about what we expected,” coach Mark Brown said of his team’s 53-17 loss to the Bucks. “Their lineup is pretty strong from top to bottom, but we are still better than them at a few weights.”
Senior heavyweight Jorge Lujano proved that he deserves a top district seed by earning a second-round fall over Sean Orr, while No. 4-ranked Rocky Level earned a 14-6 major decision over Cody Campbell at 140 pounds.
Also posting victories for HRV were senior Jason DeHart, who handled Tanner Smith at 160 pounds, and junior Zach Bohince, who won his season debut at 112 pounds over Nick Brizendine.
DeHart’s 9-3 decision over Smith helped him avenge a loss at last year’s district tournament, while Bohince’s 14-2 major decision over Brizendine kept him undefeated in the new year.
“I figured I would have a better chance of getting to state if I dropped down to 112 for the rest of the season,” said Bohince, who swept the 119-pound division at last week’s home tournament.
“A lot of the top guys at 119 are really 130-pounders who are cutting weight. But because I have faced some bigger guys this season, that should give me a big advantage at 112,” he said.
Of all the Eagle wins, however, the most important in terms of district seeding was Lujano’s pin of Orr, the third-ranked heavyweight in the state.
“This win gets me back on track after the Hermiston loss,” Lujano said. “I knew if I just hung in there for a couple rounds, he would get frustrated. I could tell he was getting annoyed with the pace of the match, so when he stuck his arms in deep to make something happen, I threw him and pinned him.”
Besides the four match winners, Saturday’s dual meet was another learning experience for the Eagles, with some wrestlers building confidence, and others realizing how far they have to go before the district tournament.
Senior 215-pounder Nigel Bond has already been to state twice, but after losing a narrow 1-0 decision to Joe Williams of Pendleton, he will have to win his remaining IMC matches to earn a top-three seed at district.
Also putting in a solid effort Saturday was freshman Race Fischer, who lost a 6-3 decision to junior Andrew Rosenburg at 135 pounds.
But Bond and Fischer represented the only close losses for the Eagles, whose weaknesses were evident after a long layoff.
Junior Leo Gonzalez lost by a 17-0 technical fall at 125 pounds to start the match, while senior Mike Allen lost by fall in the first round of his 145-pound match against Jeremy Marshall.
Erik Flory (152) and Sal Ledezma (189) also lost by fall, and the remaining weight classes (103, 119, 130, 171) were left open.
“We have a solid group of young wrestlers that are getting better with every practice,” assistant coach Jess Flem said of underclassmen such as Ben Eddy (103), Derek Larson (171), Alex Titus (189), Fischer, and Ledezma.
“We are still going to be building next year, but we have a ton of good sophomores and freshmen who are going to keep this team competitive. It’s just going to take a little time.”
The HRV junior varsity team also competed Saturday, losing 33-18 to the Bucks. Posting victories for the JV’s were Kevin Dye, Tim Hampton, Richard Rawlings (fall) and Titus (fall).
Next up for the HRV wrestlers is a home double dual on Friday against Redmond at 5 p.m. and Bend High at 7 p.m. Crook County awaits on Jan. 30.