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La Grande’s Taran Hardwick (left) tries to get away from Crook County’s Jonny Avina in the 113-pound title bout at the District 2 wrestling tournament Saturday. CASEY KELLAS/The Observer
by CASEY KELLAS / The Observer
La Grande wrestled its way to a second-place finish at the 4A-District 2 tournament this weekend, but it was Crook County who stole the show in the Tigers’ gym.
The Cowboys ran away with the team title, finishing with 518 points, while La Grande was nearly 300 points back at 229. McLoughlin placed third (183), Ontario finished fourth (171) and Madras rounded out the top five at 140.5.
“I think Crook County is one of the best teams at any level in the state,” LHS head coach Klel Carson said. “But I thought we wrestled well. We have a young team, and we didn’t know what to expect. I think our region is one of the toughest in the state.”
La Grande landed three wrestlers in the finals, but had nine qualify for the state tournament this Friday and Saturday in Portland.
In the 113-pound championship, La Grande’s Taran Hardwick got behind 7-0 in the first round to Crook County’s Jonny Avina. Hardwick rallied to get within one point late in the match but came up short, falling 9-8 to finish second.
“I’ve been really impressed with Taran lately,” Carson said of the sophomore. “He got in a hole early, but he’s wrestling really well.”
Ryan Middleton, who has finished third at the district tournament the previous two years, wrestled into the championship match at 132 pounds Saturday.
But the junior ran into two-time district champion Miguel Vasquez of Madras, who pulled out a 7-2 decision victory.
“I’m really excited for Ryan. He had a throw at the edge of the mat that if it wasn’t out of bounds, that match might have gone the other way,” Carson said.
The third Tiger wrestler to make it to the finals was senior Creed Smith. Smith took on Alex Urrea of Crook County in the 152-pound championship.
Smith took an early 2-0 lead before getting behind 6-2 after the first round. In the second round, Urrea was able to secure a pinfall victory at the 43-second mark to pull out the win.
“Creed looked really good this weekend. All three seniors did a fantastic job,” Carson said after seniors Leon Fuller took third at 170 pounds and Gunnar Long placed fourth at 220 pounds.
“They’ve worked hard for four years. They’re always at practice, always helping out. They are just good kids. I think all three have an opportunity to place (at state).”
The other four Tiger wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament include Cole Rohan (fourth, 106 pounds), Travis Hardwick (fourth, 138 pounds), Caleb Woodworth (fourth, 160 pounds) and Dylan Reece (fourth, heavyweight).
“I thought we were the best in-shape team here this weekend,” Carson said. “I felt good about our shape and technique all weekend.”