Tigers just miss taking home a trophy at state

By Paul Harder, The Observer March 03, 2014 09:18 am

PORTLAND — According to La Grande head coach Klel Carson, it takes being good and a little luck to be successful at the state wrestling tournament. And, the Tigers had just the good part going their way at the Class 4A tournament at Memorial Coliseum in Portland Friday and Saturday.

La Grande finished six points out of bringing home a state trophy. The Tigers finished in seventh place with 57 points, while Elmira grabbed the final trophy for fourth with 63 points. Crook County dominated the tournament with 406.5 points more than 100 points better than the previous record of 303, set by 5A Hermiston in 2009. Henley was second with 159. 

“It was tough to see how everything ended,” Carson said. “The team had a great year, but some things just didn’t go our way at the state tournament.”

Actually, things started working against La Grande before the wrestlers even started packing their bags for Portland. Dylan Reece missed the tournament after breaking his shoulder in the district wrestling tournament. Reece took second, and was hoping for a top-five placing in Portland.

La Grande was hit with a little illness on Saturday. 

“(Ryan) Middleton was sick and throwing up,” Carson said. “He still gave it everything he had in the semifinals. He finished his career as a three-time state placer, which is a pretty amazing feat.”

Middleton was one of four Tigers to make it into the semifinals, but only Cole Rohan was able to move on. 

Middleton, a senior, moved into the semifinals with a win by fall against Cody Erhardt of Scappoose. He pinned his opponent 27 seconds into the second round. He picked up a win against Daxten Blackwell of Central in the opening round, recording a pin 1:47 into the match. But, the illness caught up to him against Lane Stigall of North Marion in the semifinals. Stigall moved on with a 20-12 major-decision victory, and would go on to win the state title. Middleton finished sixth after dropping all three matches Saturday.

Rohan escaped with a state title at 106 pounds. He defeated Francisco Barrera of Ontario 3-2. For Rohan, it was redemption from a 10-6 loss to Barrera at the district tournament a week before. 

Caleb Woodworth grabbed an 11-3 major decision win against Brydyn Gardner of Cascade in the quarterfinals. Woodworth, a senior, pinned Aaron Wagner of North Bend/Oregon Coast Technology with 11 seconds left to go in the first round. He fell to Ismael Rubio of Phoenix in the semifinals 10-8. Woodworth bounced back to finished fifth, beating Gardner again, but by a score of 6-4. 

Preston Armstrong moved into the quarterfinals with a win by fall against Wyatt Douglas of Mollala. Armstrong fell in his quarterfinal match at 160 pounds to Brandon Vega of Phoenix. Vega pinned Armstrong at the 4:21 mark. 

Taran Hardwick, Jon Gonzalez and Quentin Durfee all fell in the opening round Friday. The three wrestlers bounced back to win a match in the consolation bracket, but then kept the synchronized results going by falling in their next matches.

“Things could have gone better, but that’s wrestling,” Carson said. “We’ll keep working hard through the summer and try to keep getting better as a team.”