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home : sports & recreation : sports & recreation October 21, 2018

2/13/2018 2:08:00 PM
Three wrestlers advance to state championships
Seniors Damien Wills, Casey Warburton, and Dustin Smith are headed to State for the Outlaws. photo provided
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Seniors Damien Wills, Casey Warburton, and Dustin Smith are headed to State for the Outlaws. photo provided

By Rongi Yost

Seventeen Outlaws participated in the OSAA 4A Special District #2 Regional Tournament held at Sweet Home High School on Friday and Saturday, February 9 and 10.

Three senior wrestlers, Damien Wills (145 pounds), Dustin Smith (152 pounds), and Casey Warburton (285 pounds), all qualified for the State Championships, which will be held next weekend. This marks the biggest contingent of wrestlers to attend the big dance since Coach John Downs took over the program six years ago.

Wills wrestled six tough matches over the two-day event, and Downs told The Nugget that in the six years he's coached the Outlaws he's never seen anyone wrestle with more heart.

"Honestly, Damien surprised all of us with how successful his weekend went," said Downs. "Damien had some hard fought wins. It wasn't enough that he earned all of his wins with pins, but in the fifth- and sixth-place championship round, where fifth goes to state and sixth doesn't, Damien was able to pull out the win, pinning his opponent in the last 30 seconds in the round."

Damien earned himself a trip to the state championships and came home with a fifth-place regional medal.

Smith wrestled five matches at the tournament, and won three of them; two by a pin and the other in a 14-9 decision.

The semi-finals consolation round was the highlight match of Smith's career. The match would determine whether or not Dustin would earn a trip to the State Wrestling Tournament.

Downs described Smith's win.

"One minute and 20 seconds into the second round, Dustin was able to execute a perfect single-leg takedown, with an inside trip, placing his opponent onto his back and holding him there for the win," said Downs.

"Dustin has been the hardest-working wrestler I have ever had in the program," added Downs. "He deserves his trip to the state championships."

Smith said, "Mid-day through day two was kind of nerve-wracking, because lots of my teammates were falling out of the tournament, and my coaches were relying on me to keep moving through the tournament to get to state. When I won the semi-finals match in consolation and was guaranteed a spot to state, I was so relieved. I'd finally reached my goal to get to state, a goal I've had since my freshman year. I just want to represent Sisters well."

Warburton also had an extraordinary weekend. Casey posted four impressive wins by pin, earned a fourth-place regional medal, and a trip to the state championships.

Downs stated, "Casey had an amazing season this year. It was sometimes difficult to watch him wrestle in the 285-pound weight class, when he was giving up at least 40 or more pounds to his opponents. Being intimidated was never in Casey's mind with anyone he went up against. No matter how big his opponents were, Casey wrestled using skill and smarts, and did everything he could to stay out from underneath the weight, and running moves from the outside of his opponents to take them down. Casey continues to inspire us, and remind us all that size doesn't matter; it's skill and technique."

Over the course of the weekend the Outlaw squad competed in 55 matches. Of those matches, the Outlaws won 21 of them - and 18 of those by pin. State qualifying seniors Warburton and Wills led that effort with four pins each, and Smith added two.

Other Outlaws who earned pins were: Cole Pade and Anthony Randolph, who each had two; and Chayce Sproat, Austin Pade, Ethan Martin and Hunter Spore, who recorded one pin each.

Downs said, "Senior Cole Pade and sophomores Anthony Randolph and Ethan Martin have been asked by the Outlaws Wrestling state qualifying team to help them practice this next week. This is a huge honor because they will be allowed to travel with the state team and support them. This a tough one for Cole (Pade) being his last year and not qualifying, but he understands that he is still needed to help Dustin and Damien in the state practices. Anthony and Ethan will definitely be ones to watch over the next couple of years. It is that time now where they will start maturing, and they are realizing that they are part of the future leadership of this team.

"There is always positive and negative surprises when you go to the Regional Tournament," said Coach John Downs. "I know a few of the wrestlers' expectations for themselves were not reached, and my heart hurt for them. But others excelled."

At the close of the tournament Sweet Home earned the first-place spot with a score of 386.5; followed by runner-up Cascade, who scored 241. Third went to Junction City (189); and North Marion was fourth (172.5).

The Outlaws will attend the State Championships held at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Friday and Saturday, February 16 and 17.

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