558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Continuing a long tradition of excellence
A state championship, coach of the year honors and more
March 07, 2013
The recently completed high school wrestling season was one for the ages.
The Crook County Cowboys absolutely dominated the OSAA Class 4A State Wrestling Championships, with the third-highest total in championship history. The Cowboys had two individual champions, and 16 wrestlers who placed at the tournament.
The Cowboys were so dominant that the championship was basically decided by the time the first day of wrestling was finished.
However, winning a state championship wasn’t the only exciting thing related to Crook County High School wrestling that happened this year.
After winning the first championship of his young coaching career CCHS head coach Jake Huffman was rewarded by being named Class 4A coach of the year.
After receiving their state championship trophy, the Cowboys celebrated briefly before readying to leave the building. However, before they could go Huffman was stopped by an individual who asked him to go to the other end of the floor for a photo, not with the Crook County team, but with the head coach from tiny Lowell High School.
It turns out that Lowell and Crook County have something of a connection. While Huffman was wrestling at Oregon State University, there was an assistant coach named Jeff Cardwell. Cardwell had coached first at the University of Nebraska Kearney and then at Oregon State. After several years at Oregon State, Cardwell left collegiate wrestling and took the job at Lowell, a Class 2A school located southeast of Eugene.
For the last few years, both the Cowboys and the Lowell Devils have been contenders, but neither had been able to break through and win a championship. Lowell had three consecutive second-place finishes, while Crook County had a third and a fourth.
Then both coaches won their first state championship and their first coach of the year award on the same season. The two men embracing as they shared the moment was a priceless moment.
It was a fitting ending to a great moment in Crook County wrestling history. However, the state championships and the shared moment as coach of the year were not the only times Crook County wrestling were mentioned during the championship finals.
The evening started with the parade of champions as every placer from all five wrestling classifications filled the arena. Beside the current wrestlers there was also a large contingent of hall of fame wrestlers and coaches on the floor.
They included former Crook County High School wrestler, teacher, and coach, Chuck Holiday, who not only walked in the parade of champions, but later had the honor of handing out individual awards to the Class 4A place winners.
Also in the parade of champions was recently-retired Hermiston head coach Curt Burger.
A state champion wrestler at Crook County and a Pac 10 champion wrestler at Oregon State, Burger is a member of this year’s hall of fame class.
In 21 seasons as the head coach at Hermiston, he compiled a 294-68-2 record with 10 state tournament trophies, six state championships, and 33 individual champions.
If that wasn’t enough recognition for Crook County High School wrestling, the school was mentioned one more time during the championship round.
Midway through the evening, the scores from the first day of the National Junior College Athletic Association championships were mentioned. As seems to be a regular occurrence, Clackamas Community College was in contention for a national trophy.
Clackamas Community College went on to win a pair of individual titles at the tournament and came away with a third-place trophy.
And, you guessed it, the team has a solid Crook County tie. Head coach Josh Rhoden is another Crook County High School graduate. In seven years as CCC’s head coach, he has finished no lower than eighth at nationals while having 35 athletes win All-American honors.
It’s nice to see the past, the present, and the future of Crook County wrestling all recognized in the same place at the same time.
Cowboy wrestling has a rich tradition, which is clearly alive and well. The community should be proud.