For the first time in more than 14 months, Baker High School wrestlers donned their singlets, snapped on their head gear and entered the circle.
The Bulldogs traveled to Ontario on Thursday, May 20 for a tournament including Ontario, Nyssa, Vale and Burns.
“I was impressed with how we looked. We have a really young team, a lot of freshmen and a few people that have never wrestled before,” Baker coach Brandon Young said. “The way things worked out, not having a senior class because we got pushed back so late in the year, we looked pretty good.”
The last time Baker was on the mats, the Bulldogs finished fifth in the Class 4A state tournament in late February 2020, the second best finish in school history following a fourth-place performance in 2019.
Baker’s Hon Rushton and Sydney Keller each won individual state titles in 2020.
On Thursday at Ontario, junior Gavin Stone won all three of his matches at 145 pounds.
“He wrestled three of the top wrestlers from the 3A division and hindered them all pretty good,” Young said of Stone.
Sophomore Kaci Anderson, the lone girl wrestling for Baker, won two of three matches, including going toe-to-toe with two-time state champion Tyler Richardson of Vale.
Freshman Cole Hester also performed well in the 132-pound weight class during yesterday’s meet.
“Cole Hester, a freshman, went 2-0 and pinned both of his opponents,” Young said.
Through this condensed season, coaches around the region share the same goal of having as many meets as possible, so team scoring will be limited, with more emphasis on individual performance.
Because the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) won’t sanction any regional or state tournaments, those will be organized through USA Wrestling, Young said.
“We are still planning on having a state championship, even though OSAA isn’t going to have it sanctioned,” Young said.
Now that they’ve had their first meet under their belt, Young is hopeful that all of his wrestlers will never take a single day on the mat for granted after surviving a 14-month hiatus.
“Fifteen months ago we were talking about how we were going to make a run at a state championship, and it can be taken away just like that,” Young said.
Baker will host a tournament on Wednesday, May 26, with matches starting at 4 p.m.