By Sean McLean
for the Hermiston Herald
Salem Just how dominant was the top-ranked Hermiston Bulldogs in the inaugural 5A state wrestling championships?
How about claiming the team title even before the final day of wrestling began.
With a team total of 172 points and five individuals wrestling for state titles entering Saturday's consolation and finals matches, the Bulldogs had already mathematically claimed their second team state title and their first state since 2001.
In the end, after Brent Parks, Ben Jorgensen and Troy Kessell all claimed individual titles, the Bulldogs team total of 215 points was 59 ahead of state runner-up Crook County in the 5A team standings.
"We had a pretty good day, obviously, especially to get three state champions," Hermiston head coach Curt Berger, who was named 5A Coach of the Year, said. "Brent and Troy both had difficult matches, the guys really came after them, but they were be able to defend their titles. The support for them and this program really means we're really moving forward."
For Parks, the senior ended his stellar career by coming back in the final minute of the third period to defeat Craters Jake Vizzini, 8-4, in the 140-pound finals match.
Down 4-3, Parks scored a two-point takedown and a two-point near-fall to jump ahead of Vizzini in the score and would hold on to claim his second straight state title.
Earlier in the state tournament, he also accomplished the feat of passing former Hermiston and current Oregon State wrestler Kyle Larson's school mark for career individual wins with 160.
"I didn't even realize I was trailing till the last minute or so," Parks said. "At that time I wanted to keep my cool and just go after him, and it worked out for me. I didn't have my ultimate performance out there but I prepared better mentally today than the other day."
Jorgensen was the first of five individuals for Hermiston to wrestle for the state title on Saturday night, and cruised to a 5-1 victory over Zack Clark of Silverton in the 103-pound match.
A battle between two sophomores, Jorgensen held a slim 2-0 lead entering the final period, but remained poised and managed to finish Clark off.
"That last period I really wanted to build on the lead, but if I couldn't then just keep him down as best as I can," Jorgensen said. "It was the same approach as any other match, which is what the coach wants from us. To win this as a sophomore is a really great accomplishment for me."
Seniors Ryan Barton and Kevin Verwey followed Parks but both just fell short of also grabbing state titles.
Seeded first at 152 pounds, Barton and Corvallis' Bo Christianson were tied at one with just ten seconds remaining in the final period when Christianson made a quick move and earned a takedown and a two-point near-fall to upset Barton, 5-1.
Verwey faced top-seeded Barry Hood of Jefferson in the 171-pound match and after falling behind early could not recover in time, losing 9-4.
Kessell, however, concluded the Bulldogs' incredible 2006-2007 season on a very strong note by defeating Hillsboro's Caleb Kociemba, 8-2.
Looking to defend his state title from last year, the senior jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead in the first period by earning a pair of takedowns and a two-point near-fall.
He followed that by adding another two-point near-fall in the second period to take a commanding 8-2 lead.
It was a lead he would not relinquish, as Kessell held on in the final period to grab his second straight title.
"I was basically out to get him right from the start," Kessell said. "I was surprised he stayed up in the third period, gave me a reason to stall. He was a good leg rider and he almost got me a couple times, but overall me and the guys got the job done today."
Not only were the five individuals wrestling for state titles impressive, but the team depth it had wrestling in the consolations did its part in securing the title as well.
Twelve of the 13 Bulldogs that qualified for the state meet made the consolations or the finals Saturday.
In the consolations early Saturday, junior Randy Larson was Hermiston's highest finisher by placing third at 160 pounds.
He pinned Jonathan Platt of Eagle Point in the second period of the third place match to finish his junior season on a positive note.
Junior Chase Winters took home fourth place honors at 112 pounds, while sophomore Ethan Parks (140 pounds) concluded his season by finishing fifth.
Senior Garrett Later (215 pounds) fell by pin in overtime over Dan Lee of Mazama to end his high school wrestling career with a sixth place finish.
Brandon Adolf (125 pounds), A.J. Almaguer (130 pounds), and Josh Barraza (285 pounds) all received medals by securing seventh place performances.
For Berger, the state title his team earned was a testament to their hard work and the elite competition they faced all season.
"We have a tremendous community and great support from everyone, and we put a lot of work into this program," Berger said. "We've had a great group of really athletic kids who have faced a tremendously hard schedule wrestling some of the best teams in the nation."
Several young wrestlers who placed at state this year, including a state champion in Jorgensen, return, which also makes Berger optimistic for next year.
"It's exciting with Ben coming back, and we actually have a pretty young team," Berger said. "We do graduate a lot of good kids, but we have six state placers returning, so it's going to be exciting."
2007 5A Wrestling Championships
1. Hermiston, 215
2. Crook County, 156
3. Crater, 142.5
4. Hillsboro, 137.5
5. Thurston, 118
103: Ben Jorgensen (Hermiston) dec. Zack Clark (Silverton), 5-1;
112: Alex Panyasiri (Century) def. Sam Noah (Hillsboro), 6-4;
119: Eric Luna (Cleveland) def. Tarrence Williams (Jefferson) by fall, 1:19;
125: Justin Tracy (Thurston) def. Steven Quesada (Wilsonville), 5-3; 135: Kenny Melton (Pendleton) def. Mike Gast (Crook County), 4-2;
140: Brent Parks (Hermiston) def. Jake Vizzini (Crater), 8-4;
145: Jess Cruise (Crook County) def. Jeremy Dupont (Madras) by fall, 5:20;
152: Bo Christianson (Corvallis) def. Ryan Barton (Hermiston), 5-1;
160: Ryan Smith (Crook County) def. Wayne Stearns (West Albany) by fall, 4:49;
171: Barry Hood (Jefferson) def. Kevin Verwey (Hermiston), 9-4;
189: Troy Kessell (Hermiston) def. Caleb Kociemba (Hillsboro), 8-2;
215: Terrell Fortune (Parkrose) def. Daniel Leach (Woodburn), 7-5;
285: Tyrell Albert (Crook County) def. Demetri Enesi (The Dalles-Wahtonka), 5-4
103: Ben Jorgensen, 4-0, 1st; 112: Chase Winters, 3-2, 4th; 125: Brandon Adolf, 3-2, 7th; 130: A.J. Almaguer, 4-2, 7th; 140: Brent Parks, 4-0, 1st; Ethan Parks, 4-2, 5th; 152: Ryan Barton, 3-1, 2nd; 160: Randy Larson, 4-1. 3rd; 171: Kevin Verwey, 3-1, 2nd; Derek Harmon, 2-2, DNP; 189: Troy Kessell, 4-0, 1st; 215: Garrett Later, 3-3, 6th; 285: Josh Barraza, 4-2, 7th