Coming off more than a year of filled restrictions on gatherings, sporting events and overall uncertainty, Grant Union’s wrestlers played the hand they were dealt with grit and determination and brought home two state trophies in a year that was anything but typical.
The Pros, who sent three wrestlers to the state tourney, walked away with third- and fourth-place trophies.
Jack Strong (2-3), wrestling in the 145 weight division, received a bye in one of his first two matches in the first round, and lost by pin in the second matchup against Colton’s Roger Moore (13-6). Colton’s Shade Starr (16-8) then pinned Strong in a three-and-a-half-minute match.
The Eagle was unable to reach Strong for comment before press time.
Junior Justin Hodge (4-2) scored 15 team points by placing third in the tourney in the 160 weight division.
In the championship round, the two-time state champion received a bye. Hodge, fresh off a state track win in relays, pinned Glendale’s William Furia in a minute and a half in the quarterfinal round.
He lost by a technical fall in the semifinal to Oakland’s Kaleb Oliver (18-0), but in a consecutive semifinal matchup, he won by major decision over Lucas Bischoff (22-4) of Kennedy, then bested Central Linn’s Cole Goracke by decision in the third-place match.
Given the shutdowns, pauses and overall uncertainty that the pandemic restrictions had on Oregon sporting events, Hodge said he did not expect the team would have a district or state tournament this year.
“I did not think we would have one this year,” he said in a phone call on June 27. “But I am glad we came out, and I am proud of the kids that made it to state.”
In the 285 weight division, sophomore Rylan Cox placed fourth and scored 11 team points for Grant Union, who finished 22nd out of 29 schools.
The Eagle was unable to get in touch with Cox before deadline.
Cox won by decision over Kennedy’s Briggs Snell (5-6) with a score of 5-3. In the quarterfinal, Toledo’s Kenneth Johnson pinned Cox in just under three minutes.
In a roughly three and a half minute match, Cox bounced back in the third round, pinned Oakland’s Brayden Tackett, and then dropped Culver’s Wylie Johnson by pin in the semifinal match a little over three minutes.
Cox fell to Coquille’s Tommy Vigue in the third-place match by pin to finish fourth overall in the best outing of his high school career so far.
Tye Parsons, longtime Grant Union assistant wrestling coach, said the grapplers did great with the narrow time window to prepare and condition.
“Wrestling is a sport that you spend months getting in shape for,” Parsons said. “So, to try to get in shape in two weeks and expect great things is not probable.”
Andy Lusco, Grant Union wrestling team head coach, did not respond to the Eagle’s before press time.
Hodge concurred on both the short time to practice and the challenges of wrestling in June.
“It was hot,” he said. “Everything was just off.”
Nonetheless, Parsons said he was “super proud” to see the team compete and told the Eagle he is looking forward to next season.
“They stepped up in a season that is usually a winter sport and saw some success,” he said.