A year ago, the La Grande Tigers were sweating entering the finals of the Muilenburg Invitational, part of a close race for the team title.
No worries this year.
Boosted by four champions, two runner-ups and a slew of placers, the Tigers cruised to the team title in their home tournament Friday and Saturday at La Grande High School.
“We did great,” Nathan Reed, one of the Tigers’ champions, said. “We were able to win it as a team again, and I’m super excited.”
La Grande scored 376.5 points, well ahead of runner-up Weiser, Idaho, which had 242, while Pendleton, which took third, scored 224.
Reed capped off the dominant run for La Grande with the Tigers’ third-straight win — and fourth of the finals — a close 5-2 decision over Hon Rushton of Baker at 182 pounds. Reed had a 3-0 lead entering the final round before he gave up a two-point reversal, but he was able to hold off an arm bar for much of the round before a late reversal secured the win.
“I’ve been wanting to win (the tournament) since I was a little kid,” said Reed, who reached the finals a year ago.
His win followed back-to-back first-round pins by Parker Robinson (160 pounds) and Grayson Livingston (170).
For Robinson, it was a second consecutive championship at the Muilenburg, but one that came a lot easier than in 2017 when he needed a late takedown for the decision. This year, it took him just 1:51 to pin Trae Gluch of Weiser.
Robinson credited his coaches for helping him elevate his performance on the mat.
“They were able to get me to that next level and not wrestle down to the wire,” said Robinson, who had four pins and a technical fall on his way to the top.
Livingston followed Robinson’s win with a 97-second pin over Pendleton’s Ian Bannister in the shortest match of the finals. It was the first title for the senior, who said knee injuries had prevented him from competing in the tournament in previous years.
“In past years, (watching) kids in the finals who I had wrestled before and maybe beaten (while) sitting on the sides really lit a fire in me,” Livingston said, adding that he promised himself he’d do his best when he got the chance to wrestle in the Muilenburg tournament.
Ezra McIntosh (120) had earlier claimed the Tigers’ first championship in the finals, coming away with a 15-7 major decision over Burns’ Kevin Peasley. McIntosh actually trailed 6-5 after the first round, but he scored a second-round reversal for two points and the lead, then dominated in the third.
“Being here at home, it’s awesome. You have the crowd,” he said. “(Even with) the scrambles I was in, I felt comfortable, and I liked it. It just gets the crowd really amped up. That’s the best part about being at home.”
La Grande had two runners-up in addition to the four champions. The most thrilling match of the finals came at 126 pounds between Braden Carson and Weiser’s Kooper vonBrethorst. Carson led 3-1 entering the third round before vonBrethorst tied the score with a two-point reversal. Carson took the lead with a one-point escape, but the Weiser wrestler regained the lead and seemed set for the win with a two-point takedown with just 10 seconds left. A stalling call on vonBrethorst gave Carson a point to send the match to overtime, where vonBrethorst scored a takedown for a 7-5 victory. Carson finished the tournament 3-1.
Chris Woodworth (195), who went 4-1, also took second for La Grande. He was forced out of his title match against Bishop Kelly’s Kash Anderson midway through the second round due to injury.
La Grande added four third-place finishers to the docket in Casey McCall (5-1 at 145), Keith Oswald (4-1 at 152), Spencer Gerst (4-1 at 220) and Gabe Shukle (4-1 at 285). Taking fourth for La Grande was Alex Kehr (4-2 at 138) and Lincoln Clark (4-2 at 220). Cody Hibbert (3-2 at 113) and Hayden Shafer (3-2 at 170) placed fifth, and Braxton Bisenius (145) and Joel Rogers (285) came in sixth.
Robinson, though, wasn’t the only local wrestler to repeat as a Muilenburg champion.
Enterprise’s Shane Lund, who claimed the top spot in 2017, repeated by taking first at 132 pounds Saturday.
The senior, who had three pins on his way to the finals, locked up his second title in the tournament with a 12-8 decision over Baker’s Alex Duran, using a two-point reversal and three-point near fall to help him to a 7-2 lead through one round. It was a margin he extended to 12-4 after two rounds before locking up the win.
“Winning it two years in a row is indescribable,” Lund said. “To come in here and claim it (and) defend the throne, I guess, is really cool to be able to say.”
Winning the tournament a year ago, he said, gave him an advantage going into the repeat attempt.
“There was a lot of confidence going in. You have a little mental edge,” he said.
Lund’s effort lifted Enterprise to a 14th-place finish with 78 points, the top score for the smaller local schools.
Just two other Outlaws wrestlers placed. Klint Norton (285) came in fourth with a 3-2 record, and Trace Evans (138) was sixth at 3-3. Evans, though, won arguably the match of the weekend in the consolation bracket, going to the ultimate tiebreaker — the fourth and final overtime round — where he scored an escape for a 9-8 decision over La Grande’s Cole Isaacson.
Imbler’s Logan Butcher (145) took a heartbreaking loss in his championship bid for the Panthers, but his second-place effort helped the team to 52.5 points and 15th place. Butcher, who went 4-1, dropped a close 7-6 decision in the final to Wyatt Epling of Burns. The wrestlers were tied at 5-5 with a minute to go in the third before Epling notched a two-point takedown for the lead. Butcher scored a point on an escape but couldn’t pull ahead in the final seconds.
Zach Brown (220) came in sixth for Imbler, going 4-2.
It was also a unique weekend for Imbler wrestler Kraiger Muilenburg who reached the consolation finals at 126. He is the great-grandson of Anna Muilenburg, whose late son, Bryan, is whom the memorial tournament is named for.
Union/Cove placed 17th with 23 points, with the Bobcats’ lone placer, Carter Blackburn (145) taking fifth with a record of 4-2.
Elgin placed 18th with 16 points. Reece McConnell (138) had the top weekend for the Huskies, going 3-2.
Elgin, Enterprise, Union/Cove and Imbler are all back in action Friday at the John Rysdam Memorial Tournament in Elgin, while La Grande heads to the Garner Ivey Invitational in Hawaii Friday.
Eagles place ninth at Culver
Zeb Ramsden and Gus Ramsden both finished in third place to lead the Joseph/Wallowa wrestling team to 95 points and a ninth-place finish at the Culver Invitational Friday and Saturday.
Zeb Ramsden (132 pounds) finished with a 5-1 record for his third-place effort. He reached the tournament semifinals and eventually pinned Glide’s Gabe Syverson in the third-place match.
Gus Ramsden (160) also went 5-1 on the day. He reached the quarterfinals before winning four consolation matches, including the third-place match by fall over Glide’s Isaiah Jordan.
Guylen Snyder (152) posted a 3-3 record, reaching the semifinals before dropping three matches in a row to come away in sixth place. Steven Beckman (120) also took sixth, winning his first match before forfeiting the next three by injury default.
Jonah Staigle (195) also came away in sixth place with a 3-3 record, reaching the consolation semifinals following three straight wins.
Austin Brockamp (182) finished with a 3-2 record, and Ruben Hunt (285) went 2-2.
Joseph/Wallowa returns to action Friday at the John Rysdam Invitational in Elgin.