The Olympians found an interesting path to the championship.
Sprague High School’s wrestling team used significant depth to win the team championship at the 6A Special District 3 tournament Saturday at Tualatin High School with 16 regional placers to upset two-time defending champion McNary.
The Olympians had two individual district champions – Kaleb Raber and Zach Zehner – but the team qualified nine wrestlers for the 6A state tournament, Feb. 22-23 at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum and had 16 wrestlers place at the regional meet.
“This tournament is won on the back half,” Sprague coach Kary Hadden said. “Our kids did a great job of coming back. Our depth has shown here.
“I’m really proud of the kids that hung in there and they took some lumps here earlier on and were able to fight their way back through the consolation side and score some big points for us. That’s fun. That was good.”
Sprague’s last championship at the district or regional level came in 2009 when the team won the Central Valley Conference district championship.
Raber recorded four pins in four matches, including catching McKay’s Humberto Santana in 3:40 in the final at 113 pounds.
“It’s pretty good, coming back from sophomore and junior year placing second,” Raber said. “To be a district champ feels really good.”
Zehner trailed all except the final few seconds of the 138 finals against West Salem’s Tristen Snow, but turned him over in the final seconds for a near fall and a 3-2 decision.
“You don’t see that too often,” Hadden said. “The book says cut him and go to your feet. The guy’s been warned for stalling. He stayed with that cradle and was able to use that to his advantage and turn him so that was awesome.”
McNary had a staggering seven district finalists and accomplished a more impressive feat of winning all six matches in which they had a district finalist with five of those coming by pin.
Senior Devin Reynolds pinned Tigard’s Mark Hall in 1:29 in the finals of the tough 145 pound weight class.
“If you asked me before that I didn’t think it was going to go like that,” said Reynolds, who won all four of his matches by pins. “I thought he was going to give me a tough match. I thought for sure I need to go out there focused or else this kid can catch me.
“I had to go out there ready to go and I was surprised when I got that half that deep and he went over. I expected it to be two, three rounds at least. It was a surprise to me, too.”
The 160 pound match featured McNary teammates Grant Gerstner and Rob Phelps. Gerstner recorded a pin in 1:31.
“I go all the way back to the seventh grade with Rob and he’s one of my best friends so it was a little weird out there,” Gerstner said. “We both knew what was at stake and we both agreed to wrestle our hardest.”
Also for McNary Louis Palos pinned McMinnville’s Brice Branson in 1:54 in theat 120, Zach Hammerschmith pinned McKay’s Darryn Anderson in 1:51 at 182, Cody Ratliff won a 10-4 decision against McKay’s Jeremy Husted at 195 and Mason Ross pinned Tualatin’s Kenny Walters in 2:51 at 220 pounds.
The Celtics had won the district or regional championship the prior three years.
“At first I was a little disappointed, but to see the growth that our team has made this year has been the best thing that’s happened to this team, I think,” Gerstner said.
North Salem senior Raymond Smith won a 5-0 decision in the 106 pound finals against Tualatin’s Jeff Whitaker for the Vikings’ first regional championship.
“It feels amazing, just being the first one to win a district title for my coach,” Smith said.
South Salem’s Raul Villareal was the only Saxon in the finals and made it count, beating McKay’s Jose Franco by a 2-0 decision in a match where the only points came on a reversal in the second round.
“It’s one step at a time,” Villareal said. “You have to look at every single person equally. When you’re up there and you’re No. 1 you can say you beat every person in your district.”
West Salem’s Kris Bjornson lost a close 7-6 double overitme match to McMinnville’s J.T. Barnes in the 152 pound final, the difference being Barnes’ reversal in the first half of the second overtime period.
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