La Grande’s Leon Fuller grapples with Jesus Barrera of Ontario in the 195-pound bout of the Tigers’ duel Thursday night. La Grande won the duel, 48-16. CASEY KELLAS/The Observer
by CASEY KELLAS / The Observer
The La Grande wrestling team continued its domination in duel meets Thursday night, defeating district rival Ontario 48-16 on senior night.
“The team is really coming on,” LHS head coach Klel Carson said. “I think their work ethic is really showing.”
While the final score may indicate a blowout, the early stages of the duel were back and forth.
Ontario won three of the first five matches to take a 10-8 lead after Eric Nunez defeated Tyler Isaacson at 126 pounds.
But that’s when the tide turned in favor of La Grande.
In the 132-pound bout, Ryan Middleton beat out Edgar Nunez 5-1 to put LHS in front 11-10. That started a string of seven straight wins by LHS, including two by forfeit.
“I thought Jared (Neiss) kind of got us going,” Carson said after Neiss earned a decision win at 120 pounds. “Then Ryan’s win really sparked us.”
Travis Hardwick (138), Jake Girard (145), Caleb Woodworth (170) and Leon Fuller (182) followed Middleton’s victory with wins of their own, while Creed Smith (152) and Preston Armstrong (160) both earned wins by forfeit.
“We just have a really good duel team,” Fuller said. “It helps that we have a full lineup, so we don’t forfeit matches. And not getting pinned is big, too. But we have a lot of guys who can do a lot.”
Micah Fuller lost a second round pinfall decision to Juan Lopez at 195 pounds, and La Grande’s Gunnar Long edged out Will Pierce in double overtime at 220 pounds to round out the night.
“I thought it would be closer,” Carson said of the team scoring. “I had it down to a few points. But all of the kids had great matches.”
Prior to the match, La Grande’s three seniors were recognized. Leon Fuller, Smith and Long all wrestled in their final duel of their high school careers.
“It’s great to go out with a win,” Fuller said.
Carson said all three seniors have come a long way in their careers.
“It was just a great night for the seniors. All three of those kids are tough. They hung in there and made it to the end. It’s a great lesson for us all.”
La Grande will host the district tournament scheduled to start Feb. 15 at the LHS gymnasium.
Nine teams from around the area will compete for the district crown.
Carson thinks his team is in a good place going in.
“I think they feel really good. We’ve out-worked everyone this year. Our district is tough as always. We just have to keep working hard this week in practice. I’m excited to see what we can do.”