Juan Karlos Hernandez stuck to his guns, never breaking from the style that got him to the state championship tournament to begin with.
Ultimately it got the first-time state qualifier a third-place finish, the highest of any HRV male wrestler at the OSAA state wrestling championships at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland last weekend. The Eagles had four other placers in the boys tournament. Andrew DeHart took fourth at 132 pounds, David Brunk fourth at 152 pounds, Nick Morgan fourth at 182 pounds and Cesar Zarate sixth at 145 pounds.
That was good enough to get the Eagles ninth -- one point back from eighth -- out of 34 5A teams represented at the meet.
"We are a young team and the rest of the state did not expect this of us," HRV coach Trent Kroll said. "We are going to bring back some trophies the next few years … This was a building year for us and we still had five state placers."
For the HRV girls wrestlers who took the mat for their championship matches in between the boys consolation finals and championship finals, Katie Eddy won a third state title while Jessica DeHart won her first.
Hernandez advanced to the semifinals at 220 pounds before losing to eventual champion Ben Rebishke of Dallas. He then had to win a match in overtime in the consolation semifinals before Kaden Olson of Summit 4-0 in the third-place match.
"I just want to take it slow and not do anything to get myself into trouble," Hernandez said after a first day of wrestling which saw him win his first-round match 3-1 and his second-round match 4-1.
In all of his wins, Hernandez simply waited for his opponent to make a mistake, and then took advantage.
In his first-round match against Keaton Scavone of Lebanon, Scavone got an escape point to start the third round, but then gave a point back when he was called for stalling. Hernandez followed that with a takedown for all the points he would need in the 3-1 win.
The strategy also worked to perfection in his second-round match. Hernandez scored two points in the first round on a technical violation call on D.J. Gray of Springfield. That would be all the points he would score until the last second of the match, when he got a two-point takedown to seal the 4-1 win.
Even Rebishke could not throw Hernandez off his game despite beating the HRV junior.
Unlike the other wrestlers Hernandez faced, Rebishke went after Hernandez from the start, getting takedowns in the first and second rounds. Hernandez got a reversal on one of Rebishke's few mistakes with 30 seconds to go in the match to get within two points, but Rebishke got two reversal points of his own in the final five seconds.
Hernandez quickly recovered. He got some revenge for teammate Jeremy Breedlove by beating Riley Sipe of Dallas in overtime. In Sipe's previous consolation round match, he knocked Breedlove out of the tournament in a match with a 1-0 final score.
The match between Hernandez and Sipe was just as close.
Both wrestlers scored an escape point in regulation; Hernandez in the second round, Sipe in third, setting up overtime. Neither wrestler scored in the first two overtimes. In the third, both got a chance to rest briefly after a timer error when the clock failed to start. After running the clock down to 18 seconds, they started again. Hernandez promptly got an escape and stayed out of trouble in the closing seconds to get the win and move to the consolation finals.
In his final match, Hernandez turned in his best all-around match of the tournament against Olson.
After a scoreless first round, Hernandez got an escape early in the second, and then got two takedowns in the final five seconds of the round. He got another escape point midway through the final round, and got the 4-0 win.
"It's a great honor," said Hernandez of his finish. "My teammates also did some great work. It feels really good and now we've got a good chance to get into the finals next year."
In the girls matches Eddy easily won her third consecutive title, beating Brianna Jantzer of Nestucca Valley on a fall 3:54 into the match.
DeHart also got a fairly dominant win over Katie Mealey of Corbett. DeHart got takedowns in the second and third rounds and won 5-0.
"We've got a powerhouse building in Hood River," Eddy said. "Jessica has a really bright future."
Eddy now moves on to wrestle for the NAIA champion Oklahoma City University's womens wrestling team.
"I'm extremely excited," she said. "I can't wait."
DeHart has big goals for next year, too.
"If I don't place in the boys tournament next year I would like to be girls champ again," she said.
Frannie Ybarra returned from injury to attempt to win a third consecutive girls title, but lost 3-2 to Alexia Ward of Westview in a tightly contested match.
The four Eagle boys other than Hernandez who also reached placing matches had tough roads to get there.
At 132 pounds, Andrew DeHart suffered a controversial 2-1 first round loss to Kyler Ayers of Mountain View. After Ayers got a two-point reversal in the final 10 seconds to go up 2-1, DeHart pulled himself free at the buzzer, but the referee ruled it was not in time to get the escape point to tie the match.
DeHart responded by destroying Dorien Stough of Liberty on a 16-1 technical fall 4:02 into the match and eventually reached the consolation finals, where he lost on a fall in 46 seconds to Dylan Holcomb of Pendleton.
Zarate advanced to the championship semifinals but after losing a tough 8-7 match to Joe Potts of Churchill, ran out of energy. He lost to Lupe Delgado of Hermiston in the consolation semifinals, and then to Brennan King of Crescent Valley in the fifth-sixth match.
Brunk also advanced to the championship semifinals at 152 pounds to Chase Kearney of Churchill.
After beating Connor Rueth of Summit 9-4 in the consolation semis he lost 9-1 to Josh Christenson of Dallas in the finals.
After losing to No. 1 seed Johnny Wilkerson of Eagle Point in the second round of the 182-pound matches, Morgan breezed through the consolation bracket for the right to face Wilkerson again in the consolation finals. Wilkerson defeated Morgan for the second time, 5-3, to give the HRV wrestler the fourth-place medal.
Among the other HRV wrestlers in the tournament, Nic Kavanaugh made it into the second round of consolation wrestling at 145 pounds and Forrest Broddie made it into the consolation quarterfinals at 160 pounds after getting falls in each of his first two consolation matches.
Ramon Ramirez was eliminated in the first consolation round.
Breedlove made it to the second championship round after a thrilling last-second 5-4 victory over Nathanial Machado in which he got a takedown just before time expired. He later advanced to the consolation quarterfinals before being beaten 1-0 by Riley Sipe of Dallas.
At 285 pounds, Brandon Dominguez made it to the second championship round before losing by fall to Will Dawson of Churchill. He then lost to Juan Ocampo of Liberty in his first consolation match.