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Crook County obliterates Class 4A record
March 2, 2014Crook County High School
Published Mar 2, 2014 at 12:31AM / Updated Mar 2, 2014 at 05:51AM
PORTLAND — Jake Huffman admits he is no historian. The Crook County High coach is well aware that some great wrestling teams have come through the state of Oregon.
But he is fairly certain that no program has shown so much depth — so much dominance — at one state meet.
After Saturday’s display, it’s tough to argue against that.
Of the 23 wrestlers Crook County took to the OSAA Class 4A state championships at Veterans Memorial Coliseum this weekend, 20 of them placed on Saturday. Eleven were in championship matches. Five were weight-class winners. On top of all that, the Cowboys racked up an absurd 405.5 points, smashing the previous all-classification state mark of 303 points set by Hermiston in 2009 and leaving second-place Henley — and its 159 team points — in the dust to collect a second straight 4A team championship.
“At the beginning of the year, we set goals,” said Huffman, whose team finished with 290 points at the state tournament last season. “We knew the state record was within reach. But we had no idea we’d be able to shatter it like we did. That’s a result of hard work that these kids have had. These kids have busted their butts all year and have kept their eyes on the prize and they’ve pushed each other. It’s great to see all that hard work pay off.”
The state title was well in hand even before the third-place matches took place Saturday afternoon, as was the points record. Heading into the night’s championship finals, Crook County had already amassed 379.5 points.
But the Cowboys were hungry for more.
Trayton Libolt kicked off the final matches at 113 pounds, where the Crook County junior squared off against Collin Purinton of Banks. At last season’s state tourney, Libolt fell to Purinton 6-5 in the championship of the 106-pound bracket. But this time Libolt returned the favor, edging Purinton 4-3.
“I just wanted to keep that ball rolling, keep firing up my team,” Libolt said. “There’s nothing better than watching your teammate win. That gets you pumped up.”
The Cowboys went on to win four of the next 10 finals matches in which they were represented, including a fall by 145-pounder Collbran Meeker — last year’s state champ at 138 — to become just the third Crook County wrestler ever to win multiple state championships.
“I’ve actually thought about it a lot, all the time,” Meeker said of the feat. “I always want to try to be the best. I look up at the wall in the wrestling room every day. There’s no name up there twice in gold except for one. That’s what I go for three times, Ryan Smith, who I try to beat every day.”
Curt Berger also won two titles with the Cowboys, one in 1979 and another the following year. But no Crook County wrestler has ever taken home three state championships, and Meeker, only a junior, will look to become the first next season.
Adding to the already full mantle of state accolades, Tyler Berger, Curt Berger’s nephew and the No. 1 seed at 152, pinned Ben Gadbois of Scappoose in the second period to secure a fourth individual state title — something only 30 other wrestlers in the state of Oregon had ever accomplished before this year.
“It’s a unique feeling,” said Berger, a senior transfer from Hermiston. “Four years of hard work, dedication, focus, early mornings and late nights. It’s just unimaginable hard work, work ethic. It’s a bunch of time and effort put into the sport and it pays off great.”
Also claiming individual championships for Crook County were Kurt Mode at 120 pounds and Trevor Rasmussen at 220 pounds. Add in six runners-up and three third-place finishers (and six other placers), and the total comes to a new state record, 102.5 points higher than the previous mark.
The Cowboys take a second straight 4A team title back to Prineville. The community will welcome five individual champs — just one off the state record for one team. And Prineville will be home to the highest-scoring — and the most dominant — high school wrestling team the state of Oregon has ever seen.
“All the hay’s in the barn, and you know who’s working harder,” Libolt said. “That’s us.”