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Mat mastery

La Grande’s Tyler Isaacson will be hoping to bring home one of the championship belt buckles from the 36th  annual Muilenburg Tournament.
La Grande’s Tyler Isaacson will be hoping to bring home one of the championship belt buckles from the 36th annual Muilenburg Tournament.
 

Wrestlers flock to Muilenburg Tournament looking for belt buckles

La Grande will host its annual event beginning today, and running through Saturday’s championship matches underneath the spotlight after clearing out all but one wrestling mat — it’s Muilenburg time.

“It’s one of the things that makes this such a memorable tournament,” La Grande head coach Klel Carson said. “Everyone is watching one mat to see who’s going to be the champion.”

Last year Weiser, Idaho, won the big school title with 257 points, and La Grande came in just behind the Wolverines with 253 points. Enterprise brought home the title for the small schools, led by Matt Staigle.

The tournament, in its 36th year, continues to grow. After bringing 20 teams to the Grande Ronde Valley last year,  24 teams are expected to make the trip to La Grande this season. Teams will be coming from Idaho, Washington and the western side of Oregon.

“It’s probably going to be the biggest Muilenburg Tournament in the history of the event,” Carson said. “We just need the weather to hold up so that the people can travel to the tournament. It’s not just a great tournament for the large schools either. We have a lot of the best small schools in the area coming.”

Defending champion Weiser is set to attend again this season. Carson also said Caldwell, Idaho, will come back this season after a hiatus from the tournament.

The thing that makes this tounrament so special is the quality of competition. Wrestlers that place in the Muilenburg Tournament are contending for titles in the state meet.

“It’s a great preview of what is to come when it all counts at the end of the season,” Carson said. “It’s rare that a champion of this tournament isn’t placing at their state meet.”

While the wrestlers come for the quality of competiton, there’s extra incentive to win a title on Saturday.

“The tradition of the tournament has grown each season,” Carson said. “The winner of each weight division gets a $125 dollar PBR belt buckle. We have to thank Kehr chiropractic for sponsoring that again. So, there’s a big incentive for kids to do well at the tournament.”

“It’s a great place to see what’s going to be happening at the end of the season,” Carson said. 

“Typically the kids who are winning here will be placing at the state tournament as well. It’s a credit the quality of the competition that the tournament draws.”

“We had a great weekend last weekend in Estacada,” Carson said. “Dual wise we did very well, losing only seven matches. It’s looking pretty promising. We hope to improve this weekend.”

“It’s hard to tell who might make a run to the championship match for us,” Carson said. “We have four state placers coming back from last season, so we’re hoping to see them do well. We have some other seniors that have never made the Muilenburg finals and have their sights set on the finals.” 

Carson did throw out a few names of wrestlers he did think might make a run. Seth DeVinney at 132-pounds, Tyler Isaacson at 145-pounds, Ryan Middleton at 138-pounds and Caleb Woodworth at 170- or 182-pounds.

Carson also said big guys Dylan Reese and Micah Fuller have been looking really good.”

The Muilenburg Invite is named in honor of Brian Muilenburg, a 1976 graduate of La Grande High School who died in a tragic auto crash in August 1978. 

Muilenburg was a Tiger grappler who went on to wrestle collegiately at Oregon State University.

The action is scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m. Friday and will continue at 9 a.m. Saturday.

All matches are at the La Grande High School gymnasium.

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