When Tyler Berger made the decision to transfer from Hermiston to Crook County last September, he didn’t even know if he’d be eligible to compete for the Cowboys this year.
Saturday night, he left the mat at Veterans Memorial Coliseum with his fourth individual state championship, joining 26 others who have accomplished that feat.
In between, he narrowly won an appeal to retain his eligibility, then went to work with his new team, which made a mockery of the previous team scoring record in winning its second consecutive title.
Berger’s pin of Scappoose’s Ben Gadbois put the Cowboys of Prineville over the 400-point mark. They finished with 405.5, more than 100 points better than the previous record of 303, set by 5A Hermiston in 2009.
“There’s been a lot of early mornings and late nights,” Berger said. “We’ve been doing the right things on the mat, in the classroom and in the community.”
Berger acknowledged that the Cowboys had been gunning for the team scoring record since the beginning of the season.
“We’ve been talking about 303 all year,” he said. “What we did here, there’s just no comparison with anything else I’ve been a part of. Nobody’s going to beat this record.”
The Berger name is synonymous with athletic success in Hermiston, with several members of his extended family winning titles in a variety of sports. But after a dispute with the wrestling program last year, he decided to move to Prineville and live with a friend of his father’s.
Originally ruled ineligible, he had to appeal to the OSAA to receive permission to wrestle for the Cowboys. He won, an effort that even drew letters of recommendation from opposing coaches.
“That made this year so special,” he said. “I really found out who had my back. This community makes me feel like I’ve been here for years.”
In addition to Berger, Crook County got individual titles from Trayton Libolt at 113 pounds, Kurt Mode at 120 pounds, Collbran Meeker at 145 pounds and Trevor Rasmussen at 220 pounds.
The Cowboys put 19 of their 23 wrestlers onto the podium, including five runners up and three third-place finishers.
Henley finished second, well back at 159 points, while Scappoose took third with 139.5. North Marion held on to take the last trophy, finishing fourth with 63.
Thaddeus Nelson of Marshfield and Boomer Fleming of Ridgeview, both seniors, each won their third individual championships. Nelson took the title at 126 pounds, while Fleming won at 195 pounds.
At 182 pounds, Scappoose’s Isaiah Goodrich trailed 7-0 to Gunnar Robirts of Crook County and nearly lost by fall, but he rallied to pin Robirts in the third period to pull off the upset over the top seed.
In one of the other top matches, Crook County’s Libolt downed Collin Purinton of Banks, 4-3, in the 113-pound final.
The pair have a rivalry at the state tournament extending back two years. In 2012, Libolt beat Purinton in the quarterfinals at 106 pounds, and they met again in last year’s final in that weight class, with Purinton taking the state championship.