LA GRANDE — The strength of the Eastern Oregon University men’s wrestling team in duals the past three seasons has been at the lower weights.
On Friday, it was the middle and upper weights that triggered a key four-match winning streak to lift the Mountaineers to a 22-15 victory over rival Southern Oregon at Quinn Coliseum.
“After the break (following the 157-pound match) they bounced back. They saw we were losing, (and) our upper weights went out there and battled,” head coach Dustyn Azure said. “We wanted to get out there and put on a show for our crowd, and we had a great crowd tonight. It was probably one of our best ones.”
Eastern trailed 12-6 at the midway point of the dual after a pair of wins by SOU’s Matt Peterson at 149 pounds and Jeremy Talavera at 157, who earned a 6-3 decision and 6-2 decision over Jared Brant and Jesse Camacho, respectively.
The dual turned during Josh Pine’s match at 165 pounds against Nick Peterson. He used two near falls in the first round to build a 6-0 lead, then took control with a four-point near fall in the third to take a 10-2 lead on his way to an 11-3 major decision.
“He didn’t come away with a pin, but he got a full match, which was important. It was fun to see him go out there and see what he could do,” Azure said of Pine.
Keegan Mulhill followed with a dominant effort at 174 pounds, wearing down Fabian Miranda-Walls on the way to a 19-4 technical fall that gave EOU a 15-12 lead. In the match, Mulhill, who scored seven takedowns — including five in the final round — built an 8-0 lead after two rounds and finished the match with a takedown from a neutral position in the final seven seconds to increase the margin of victory to a technical fall.
Mulhill’s third-period domination showed one of the strengths of team — fitness.
“Something we also pride ourselves on is our conditioning,” Azure said. “Get them into the third period, we want to be the ones who are being the first to the line, first one wrestling when the whistle blows and the last one wrestling. We need to continue to build on that.”
Marco Retano (184) and Ryan Redford (197) followed with an 8-4 decision and a 9-1 major decision, respectively, in consecutive matches to extend the Mountaineers’ lead to an insurmountable 22-12 with one match to go.
The Mountaineers' other wins on the night came from Monte Zufelt, who had a 10-7 decision over Beau Shatto at 133, and Blake McNall, who eked out a 3-0 win over Justin Coon at 141. In all, EOU won six of the 10 matches.
“The last three years our little guys have carried the team a little bit,” McNall said. “The upper weights stepped up. (We have) way more depth. The guys we got are a lot better, tougher, and I think our team is on the same page. We go in the room each day and work our butts off.”
Hunter Nees dropped a match by fall at 125 and Cade Woodward held his own at 285 before dropping a 5-3 decision to Tanner Clark.
The victory was the second of the day for Eastern, which earlier Friday defeated Umpqua Community College 33-9.
EOU won five of the eight contested matches and added two wins by forfeit in the Umpqua matchup. Pine and Redford needed just 2:27 between them to earn a pair of first-round pins. McNall (5-0), Camacho (7-6) and Retano (8-4) each added victories by decision.