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Cowboys favored to win district
La Grande, Ontario, and Mac-Hi also expected to have strong showings
Alex Urrea is one of three Crook County wrestlers who won district championships a year ago. Urrea is expected to wrestle at 152 pounds at this year’s district tournament.
February 11, 2013
Ever since dropping to Class 4A in 2010, the Crook County Cowboys have dominated the Special District II wrestling championships.
This year is expected to be no different. When the regional championships end Saturday night, the Cowboys are expected to be the easy victors.
“We are trying to qualify as many athletes as we can to go to the state tournament,” said Crook County head coach Jake Huffman. “Which means in a 16-man bracket, we are trying to place our guys in the top four.”
Huffman added that the goal is to place at least 20 wrestlers into the state tournament.
If recent history is any indication, that shouldn’t be a problem for the Cowboys. The team returns 15 state qualifiers from last year. In addition, transfer, Gunner Crawford, also has state tournament experience.
The Cowboys are so deep this year that some of the returning state qualifiers may not even make it to the district tournament. With tournament entries not due until today, the team had five roster spots that were to be determined by wrestle-offs Monday afternoon. Those matches include some previous state qualifiers, who are scrambling just to make it to the district tournament.
Although the Cowboys are the prohibitive favorites to win the district tournament, Huffman was quick to point out that there are several other strong teams in the district.
La Grande, who has defeated Ontario, McGloughlin (Mac Hi), and Baker in dual meets this season, is expected to be the Cowboys’ stiffest competition.
The Tigers, who are hosting the tournament, return five state qualifiers from a year ago, including three who placed.
La Grande is expected to be especially strong in the lighter weights where Tyler Isaacson, Seth DeViney, and Ryan Middleton all placed at state last year.
Also expected to be a factor at the district meet are Ontario, who returns six state qualifiers from last year, and Mac Hi, who wrestled well at the Oregon Wrestling Classic earlier this year.
Francisco Barrera, Eric Nunez, Max Maeda, and Gabriel Gonzalez all placed at state last year for Ontario.
Although not expected to factor into the team scoring, Madras and Ridgeview also have some outstanding individual wrestlers.
Boomer Fleming, of Ridgeview, was the 6A champion at 160 pounds a year ago, while Miguel Vasquez of Madras took second at 132 pounds in the Class 4A tournament.
Baker, La Pine, and Sisters will also be competing at the district tournament, but are not expected to be a factor.
The Cowboys return three champions from last year’s district meet, Colbran Meeker, Brendan Harkey, and Alex Urrea.
Harkey has not wrestled in a match this year, after breaking his ankle during football, and Meeker has missed much of the season with an injury. However, both wrestlers are now back in action and are once again looking strong.
Also expected to challenge for district titles are Trayton Libolt, Grayson Munn, Ryder Shinkle, Dawson Barber, Dean Smith, and Jason Williams, who all placed second at district a year ago, as well as Crawford.
Other Cowboys who qualified for last year’s state tournament include Johnny Avina, Brad Howard, Clark Woodward, Curtis Crouch, Gunnar Robirts, and Trevor Rasmussen.
Several other Cowboys are also expected to be in the mix.
Aaron Swindle finished sixth at district a year ago and has wrestled well late in the season. Dylan Blasius is also expected to be a factor for the Cowboys in the upper weight classes, while Zach Smith could be a factor as well.
Several Cowboy freshmen are also expected to be in contention for state berths. Brent Bannon, Trey Shores, and Hayden Bates could all contend for district titles. Austin Severance, Ethan Burch, Kyle Ogbin, and Dean Blasius all have varsity experience and have looked strong during the season.
In addition to injuries, the Cowboys have also struggled with illness in recent weeks. However, Huffman noted that the team is currently healthy and he expects everyone to be ready for the district meet.
“I think that we are getting the necessary rest,” he said. “We are training hard. But the goal, the purpose is that we are going to be ready to go and peaking at the right time and I think right now we are doing things right to do that.”
The Special District II?wrestling tournament is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15-16, in La Grande. Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Friday and continue until late Friday night. Wrestling continues Saturday beginning at 10 a.m., with the championship round beginning at 7 p.m.
Teams competing at the meet include Crook County, La Grande, Ontario, Mac Hi, Madras, Ridgeview, Baker, La Pine, and Sisters.