LA GRANDE — The Eastern Oregon University men’s wrestling team had two solid performances and two tough ones in its final home duals of the season Friday and Saturday.
On Friday, the Mountaineers won just two matches in a 33-8 loss to Clackamas Community College. Saturday, EOU turned it around with wins over North Idaho College and Warner Pacific by scores of 29-16 and 45-10, respectively, before ending the two-day marathon with a 34-9 loss to Providence.
Three of the matches for the 18th-ranked Mountaineers were against top-10 opponents, as Providence is the No. 9 team in the NAIA coaches poll, and NIC and Clackamas are ranked third and fifth, respectively, in the NJCAA coaches poll.
“I didn’t actually plan it out that way. It was good though. We definitely needed that test going into the end of the year,” EOU head coach Dustyn Azure said. “Now it’s just going back and fine-tuning how we’re going to prepare for next time” on the mat.
Friday night, the Mountaineers’ lone wins came from Josh Pine, who had a pin over CCC’s Hale Enos at 165 pounds, and from Keegan Mulhill’s 9-2 decision over Dax Bennett at 174.
EOU was on the short end of two close matches, too, with Blake McNall dropping a 2-1 decision to Marckis Branford at 141 and Marco Retano falling 4-2 to Romeo Manue at 184.
Each team lost a point for unsportsmanlike conduct in the dual.
The Mountaineers rebounded from the tough night Friday to roll past NIC and WPU Saturday, efforts that pleased Azure.
“It was a good turnaround for them,” Azure said. "Something we preach a lot is to have a short memory. Push that loss aside or push that win aside."
Eastern surrendered 16 early points to NIC before turning the match with John Bittinger’s 16-6 major decision over Conner Koch at 157 pounds. A win by forfeit from Pine and a pin by Mulhill at 174 over Alan Bradley evened the score at 16-16. Retano (184) claimed an 18-5 major decision over Hunter Gregerson, and Cade Woodward (197) gave EOU the match with a pin of Micah Tynanes. Noel Orozco (285) added a 7-3 decision over Cohle Feliciano for the final score.
“We lost to them earlier in the season, so it shows progression in the program,” Azure said. That's what this sport is about is continuing to develop every weekend.”
The coach added EOU did better at closing out rounds early Saturday than it had the night before against Clackamas.
“We were going out there and putting points on the board instead of letting them,” he said.
Eastern had four wins by forfeit against Warner Pacific and picked up wins by fall from McNall (141), Pine (165) and Mulhill (174). Orozco (285) added a 7-0 decision over Cortez Rodelo to wrap the match.
Eastern collected just three wins in the final match against Providence, one that saw it fall behind the Argos early 10-0 and never recover. McNall edged Gavin Gies by a 4-1 decision to get EOU within 10-3, but the Argos took command after three wins in a row, with Pine’s 11-4 loss to Jordan Komac at 165 making the score 22-3. Mulhill (5-1) and Retano (11-10) both eked out wins before two losses by fall capped the evening.
The win in the final match wrapped a 4-0 weekend for Mulhill.
“Keegan had a great performance this weekend,” Azure said. “He has been pretty steady.”