By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

With 10 lead changes and two matches decided in overtime, Whiteaker Middle School narrowly edged Claggett Creek 45-41 on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Wrestling under a spotlight and large crowd at McNary High School, Whiteaker seventh grader Aldo Villalvazo (195) got a pin in the first period to seal the win for the Wolverines.

“He (Villalvazo) was a first-year kid for us that’s giving the sport a try,” Whiteaker head coach Kelly Hafer said. “That was really encouraging to see him get a pin and get to be the hero by winning that last match. It really was a team effort to get to that point where he was in position to make that happen.”

Both Matthew Araiza and Nick Martin won in overtime. At 85 pounds, Araiza came out on top 14-12. Martin then won 4-2 at 90 pounds.

“I really appreciated Nick Martin and Matthew Araiza getting overtime wins,” Hafer said. “That takes a lot of effort and most middle schoolers aren’t used to having to win in overtime. It’s rare for matches to go that long.”

Hafer was also proud of Jeremiah Ratliff and Chad Croucher, who both lost by major decision but were able to avoid getting pinned, saving the team four points.

Claggett Creek won four matches by pin fall—Brandon Blanco (75), Grady Burrows (95), Joey Hernandez (132) and Jayden Gomez (175).

The 95 pound match appeared it might go another way as Whiteaker eighth grader Cameron Parks got Burrows in a cradle and near fall at the end of the first period. However, Burrows was able to recover and pin Parks in the second period.

“It was a good experience having everyone watching you in the middle of the mat,” Burrows said.

“I knew he liked cradles and he got me in one.”

Burrows and Parks know each other well, wrestling on the Celtic Mat Club.

“Both are really good friends and really good wrestlers and that was a really good match,” CCMS head coach Aaron Carr said. “That’s good for them, both being good wrestlers, it’s always good to wrestle someone else that’s good.”

Claggett Creek, which finished the season 5-5, won two matches by major decision, Jacob Carbajal 15-5 at 117 pounds and Logan Yoder 10-0 at 150 pounds.

Heavyweight Michael Hettinger won by forfeit.

“Whiteaker did a great job. They wrestled tough. They were impressive,” Carr said. “Everyone seemed to know what they were doing. It was enjoyable to just watch wrestling. It was awesome for (McNary head coach Jason) Ebbs to take the time out of the week of the state tournament to host us. It will be good to continue that in the next few years. The kids had a great time with the spotlight. The whole atmosphere was awesome.”

Along with Villalvazo, Whiteaker won four other matches by pin fall—Giovanni Segura (102), Aiden McCoy (117), Gabriel Castro (140) and Brady Jackson (160).

At 80 pounds, Ella Repp won her match 6-3 and Kayly Montero (220) won by forfeit.

“Claggett always comes to wrestle and I think that’s the best our kids have wrestled all year,” Hafer said. “I was really, really happy with them.”

Whiteaker finished the season 8-2.

Both the Wolverines and Panthers will take 10-15 kids to the middle school regional tournament in Woodburn on Saturday, March 4. The state tournament is the following Saturday.

“It will be good experience for them to see what a real wrestling tournament looks like as opposed to just a dual meet,” Carr said.