LA GRANDE — On the mat, the No. 12 Eastern Oregon University women’s wrestling team was better than No. 9 Southern Oregon Friday night.
The visiting Raiders, though, boosted in the score column by three EOU forfeits, managed to escape their dual against the Mountaineers in Quinn Coliseum, 22-20, in a battle of top 15 teams.
“That was a crazy dual,” head coach Mike Ayala said. “It was a whole lot of fun to be a part of and watch, even though we lost 22-20. That was the best we've ever wrestled Southern. I'm really happy with how we wrestled.”
In spite of the loss, the Mountaineers were encouraged — and even a bit shocked — by how close the dual was, considering they in essence gave SOU 15 points on the forfeited matches (a fourth match was a double forfeit). The Mountaineers won four of the six contested matches.
“Without forfeits, we beat them,” senior Jessica DeHart said. “We came out really strong and impressed a lot of people. Personally I didn't think it would be that close of a score, but we did really good. When we wrestle them in duals again, if we have a full lineup, we’re going to be able to really contend and beat them.”
The contest came down to the 170-pound match between EOU’s Dempsi Talkington, who was wrestling up a weight class against Tristyn Borden. The wrestlers traded two-point takedowns in the first round. Talkington went ahead 4-2 with a takedown with two minutes to go in the final round before Borden evened the match at 4-4 with her own takedown. Both wrestlers had an opportunity to score in the final moments and had the Quinn Coliseum crowd on edge before Borden notched one more two-point takedown for the lead with about 10 seconds to go and a 6-4 win.
The move to bump Talkington up from her original 155-pound match to 170 came late.
“It was a last-minute, ‘OK, Dempsi, you’re bumping up to wrestle because I think this is a better matchup for us,” Ayala said. “It proved that it was. It was really close. That was the right move to make. Dempsi’s tough. She wrestles our 191 pounders in practice all the time, and I knew I wasn't asking her to do something she already doesn’t do.”
The outcome pulled SOU within 20-17, and a forfeiture at 191 gave the Raiders the margin needed to steal the win.
The dual started with three pins in three matches by the Mountaineers to grab a 15-0 lead. DeHart (109 pounds) shook off an early takedown and 4-1 deficit to grab a lead with her own four-point takedown against Macie Stewart, then finished off her opponent seconds later with a pin late in the first round.
Amber Pair extended the Mountaineers’ lead to 10 with a pin at 116 over Carolina Johnson. Pair held a 4-2 lead most of the second and final round, then scored a takedown with about 45 seconds to go and worked the shoulders of Johnson to the mat for a pin with 15 seconds remaining.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Pair said of the team’s effort Friday. “I think we have a good team this year. Coming out in the beginning (and) working hard and seeing progress in each and every one of us, I think that’s exciting. This will benefit us later in the season too.”
Macy Higa scored the third win by fall, but she had to shake off a rough first set to do so. SOU's Tara Othman tallied two takedowns for a 6-0 lead after one round of their 123-pound match. Higa responded to tie the match at 6-6, using a pair of takedowns along the way, then finished off Othman with a pin with about a minute to go.
EOU's Cassidy O’Hara controlled Marissa Kurtz in their match at 130, earning a 7-1 decision to extend the lead to 18-1. The Raiders finally picked up a victory when Anesia Ramirez notched two late takedowns to secure a 9-3 decision over Morgan Shines at 136. Two forfeits brought the score to 19-14 to set the stage for the 170-pound clash.
“They have five all-Americans on their team,” Ayala said. “We gave them everything they could handle.”