Primed for Portland
By Grant Lucas
Numbers never lie, though they certainly can deceive.
They are as absolute as a victory by David Kerr, a La Pine 113-pounder who heads into this weekend’s wrestling state championships with a glowing 39-0 record. Yet stats cannot predict the unthinkable, like Kerr stealing last season’s Class 3A 106-pound state title by recording four points in the final five seconds of the championship match.
Beginning today, a whopping 80 Central Oregon competitors will take to the mats at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. As they prepare for a weekend filled with falls and sudden victories, upsets and celebratory back flips, and tears of joy and defeat, let the numbers tell you a story and perhaps provide you with fun-fact fodder.
Crook County is heavily favored (again) to take the 4A team state championship. The Cowboys have won three straight, giving their program a total of five.
History is a fan of the Crook County blue and gold. Of the top five team scores ever recorded at the OSAA state meet, three belong to Crook County, including the perhaps unbeatable (and still absurd) 405.5 points it racked up in 2014. During its three-year run as the king of 4A, Crook County has piled up 1,022.5 team points, a total that accounts for 46 percent of all the state-meet points awarded in all classifications during that time.
History also sets up the Cowboys for a fourth straight title. Of the 15 team state champions crowned over the past three years in the 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A and 2A/1A classes, 10 have boasted the most participants in their respective classifications. That includes Crook County, which has produced a combined 83 state participants over the past three seasons. While the Cowboys this year have fewer state qualifiers than in any year since 2011, their 19 wrestlers are tops in 4A. Leading the way is Carson Raymond, the No. 1 seed at 195 pounds, who has recorded the most falls (29) by a Central Oregon wrestler this season.
Also primed for a run at a title is Culver, which takes a 2A/1A-high 13 wrestlers to Portland in search of a ninth team state championship in 10 years.
Already a two-time state champ, 145-pound No. 1 seed Marco Retano is poised to become the fifth Bulldog wrestler to win three individual crowns. And with another six competitors who participated at state last season, Culver could move into fifth place for most state wrestling championships in OSAA history.
Only two other wrestlers in the state, regardless of classification, own a better record than La Pine’s Kerr. The top seed in the 3A 113-pound bracket, Kerr is undefeated this season, matching his sterling 39-0 mark from a year ago. Last season, Kerr joined his father as the only state champs La Pine has ever produced. With a title Saturday night, he would become the program’s first two-time winner. Oh, and as a team, the Hawks have 13 state participants — second-most in 3A.
Hermiston has long reigned supreme in Class 5A, winning eight of the past nine team titles. But maybe this is the year those Bulldogs are dethroned, perhaps by Sandy or Hillsboro or Dallas or … how about Redmond?
With 14 state qualifiers, the Panthers enter the state meet with the fifth-most wrestlers in 5A — not an overly impressive total, but it includes eight state wrestlers from last season. Of those, three are two-time state participants, including the 160-pound No. 1 seed, junior Mitch Willett, an individual champion last season. Fifty-seven long years have passed since Redmond’s lone team state championship. With 138-pounder Matthew McCain and heavyweight Jacob Brauchler returning to state after reaching the podium last year, perhaps a second team title could be headed to the Redmond High trophy case.
Other Central Oregon teams looking to make a little history for their programs is Mountain View. The Cougars have never had an individual state champion, yet they have been so close in recent years. Over the past four years, Mountain View has advanced five wrestlers to the championship finals. All five fell short. This season, it could be the Cougs’ lightweights who end the drought. Evan Mclean, at 106, and brothers Conner (113) and Caleb Duhn (120) have combined for a 103-20 overall record. Mclean and Caleb Duhn won district titles last weekend.
In a similar situation is Summit, which is still waiting to crown its first state champ. Heck, last season, Grant Leiphart became the first Storm wrestler ever to reach the finals. He is back at state for Summit, as the No. 5 seed at 152. The Storm also return Thomas Brown at 132, No. 5 Jacob Thompson at 195 and Noah Yunker at 220 — all participants at last season’s state meet.
Rounding out the city of Bend champion shortage is Bend High, which has not advanced a wrestler to the finals since its last state winner in 2001. Perhaps the Lava Bears’ best shot this year is Jacob Dupuis, the No. 6 seed at 170 pounds, who has gone 38-4 this season with 26 falls.
While the figures favor a ninth Class 2A/1A wrestling state championship for Culver, they do not guarantee one. While they may set up La Pine for a run at the 3A state crown, they do not lock up the title. While the numbers make it seem as though Mountain View is due for an individual state champ, that may not be the case.
But darn it all if those numbers don’t make it fun to speculate.