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Eagle wrestlers training to peak next week

By ADAM LAPIERRE

News staff writer

February 4, 2006

With the district wrestling tournament at Crook County High School exactly a week away, the Hood River Valley Eagles are working hard to break themselves down by the end of this weekend. As is the typical training regimen for wrestling, the boys will then practice light next week to recover, fine tune and rise to a peak at next weekend’s big show.

Their breaking-down phase this week comes from intense practicing, two dual meets and a tournament in a matter of five days. On Tuesday the Eagles traveled east to Pendleton to take on the Buckaroos. The team’s last dual meet of the season was at home Friday night against Bend High School (results not yet available). And finally, the Eagles host a barrage of teams from the state today during the annual Hood River Invitational.

“We’re really trying to work the kids hard,” Coach Rich Polkinghorn said. “We break them down and wear them out now, then let them recover so they’re in top shape at districts.”

The Eagles’ dual at Pendleton was a tough one. The Buckaroos took 11 of the night’s 14 matches, with Jose Ramirez, Erick Lujano and Alex Titus picking up the only wins for Hood River. Pendleton took forfeits at 119 and 130, adding 12 points to the final 53-10 stomping.

To put the loss into perspective, Pendleton recently finished third at the Reser’s Tournament of Champions, which is known to be one of Oregon’s finest prep wrestling tournaments each year. Crater and Hermiston edged Pendleton at the tourney for first and second. In fourth place was Crook County, meaning three of the top four teams at the top-notch tournament were from the Intermountain Conference.

The Buckaroos picked up pins at 103 over Gage Morris, 135 over Leo Gonzalez, 189 over Lucas Mondragon and 215 over Cory Miller. When combined with Hood River’s two forfeits, that accounts for 36 of the home team’s points.

After watching Morris struggle in the first match of the night, senior 112 pounder, Ramirez, thoroughly handled his opponent, finishing with a 20-3 technical fall. Brandon Nakamura followed at 125 with a well-fought match. His 5-0 loss preceded a forfeit and four wins by Pendleton.

Lujano stepped up and wrestled a solid six minutes at 160 to come away with a 5-1 win. Closing out the night on a good note for the Eagles was heavyweight wrestler Alex Titus, who came up with a 13-8 win.

“Lujano has had a real growing year,” Polkinghorn said. “Sometimes he wrestles like the sophomore he is, and sometimes he looks brilliant. He’s coming into his own as a varsity wrestler and he’s going to be a stud for us … Titus did what we’ve been wanting the kids to do all year. His was probably the most exciting match for the night because he stepped up and beat a returning state qualifier.”

Whatever the outcome at districts next weekend, the Eagles have shown great improvement in their physical and mental wrestling skills. Most wrestling coaches will acknowledge that the sport takes as much or more mental strength, conditioning and discipline as it does physical.

“The kids are buying into the idea of hard work and sacrifice,” Polkinghorn said. “And we’re starting to see the benefits of that on and off the mat.”

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