The Hermiston wrestlers — the recent big brothers of not just the Columbia River Conference but all of the Class 5A Oregon high schools — proved Thursday that they still are the team to beat.
The Bulldogs made it 3-for-3 in conference duals by knocking around their rivals from Pendleton for a 45-18 victory on the mats on Warberg Court.
The Dawgs haven’t dominated teams with the force that drove their previous five straight state titles, but Thursday’s domination will go a long way mentally toward helping them get back there, senior Bulldog Joey Delgado said. The next wrestling action for both teams will be at the district tournament in Portland on Feb. 17.
Delgado won his match over Pendleton’s Alex Ferder at 145 pounds with an 18-2 technical fall, a match in which Delgado used Ferder’s arms like his own weapons, torquing and twisting his opponent at will.
The day’s action got started with the 132-pound match of Dylan Holcomb and Skyler Clements. A state title winner last year, Holcomb flung Clements in the air for a quick takedown before spiking him for a pin.
The first points of Pendleton’s day would also be their last for the next six weight classes.
Before the Bucks knew what bit them, the Bulldogs had moved to a 33-6 advantage. That included a Pendleton forfeit at 170 pounds.
Just before that, Abraham Rodriguez was able keep the hot streak going, cradling Laramie Boston for a pin in the 160-pound match. Rodriguez scored three quick takedowns in the first round, each time forcing his way behind Boston and grasping the Bucks’ arms behind him.
It was all part of the plan, Rodriguez said, baiting Boston to try and defend the move again. Instead, he stayed in front pulling Boston’s right leg up to his forehead and rolling him onto his shoulder blades for the clincher.
“I like to beat the guy mentally before I beat him in the match,” Rodriguez said.
Pendleton’s Jack Ezell tried to break through he Hermiston fire storm in his match with Kendall Shurts. The 195-pounders spent the first two rounds feeling each other out, notching a takedown here or an escape point there. That all changed in the final 45 seconds of the match.
Tied at 3-3 Ezell was able to take Shurts to the ground, scoring in a flurry. Ezell was then called for an illegal hold when he had the Bulldog on the ropes, moving the action to a reset.
With another takedown and the outcome likely decided with a score of 4-11, Ezell moved in for the kill, rolling Shurts upside-down and verging on a pin. The clock ran down to zero allowing Hermiston to escape with a 3-point hit instead of 6 for the Pendleton’s team score.
“I was so close,” Ezell said, elongating ‘so’ to many syllables to prove just how close. “I really thought I had a pin in him.”
Those three points felt monumental to Ezell at that moment he said, but wound up a non factor. A few matches later as the weight classes rolled back around to the 106-pound wrestlers, Hermiston locked up the victory with time to spare.
Even as Pendleton’s Colton Skeen held on for a 5-2 decision in that weight class, the Dawgs clinched the dual. Skeen — and the remaining three Buckaroo grapplers after him — would have needed straight pinfalls to move the dual into a tie.
Instead, the Bulldogs won two of the final three matches for a total of nine weight classes and one dual won on the night.