SALEM, Ore.– For the first-time since his freshman year, David Rubio was healthy and ready to go for the District Meet.
After finishing fourth as a freshman under the old ‘Top 3 Goes To State’-model at Forest Grove and missing the Meet as a sophomore at West Salem due to injury, he finally broke through and achieved step one of qualifying for State as he waited for his District Title bout with Sprague’s Landon Davis.
During the rounds in between, Bryant Mendoza qualified for State, joining Rubio as guys State Qualifers and became the third Scotsman to qualify to State with Tess Barnett on the girls side.
“I’ve never been here, I haven’t been wrestling that long, but it’s amazing that I’m wrestling for my school,” said Mendoza who finished fourth at 113.
As Joseph ‘JoJo’ Jones finished sixth for McKay, Jaycee ‘JN’ Esetok surely found a way to end his career on top.
After his tough loss in the consolation semi-final round that knocked him out of State Qualifying contention, the senior enter his fifth place matching knowing that the end was here: His Final match.
For his final match, he went up against Sprague’s Brian Buntjer and built a 7-4 lead on the Olympian senior too looking to end his career on top entering the third-period in which Buntjer rallied and challenged Esetok.
Cheers were around Esetok in cheering him on from the McKay crowd, yelling ‘he’s tired’ ‘Come on JN let’s go’. Coaches Tyler and Troy Thomas were yelling from the sidelines of, ‘Cross face, cross face’ as Buntjer continued his pursuit of a pin.
“A lot,” smiled Esetok on the support around him. “I really felt good, hearing the crowd cheer for me, it actually makes me feel good that people were actually watching my match and supporting me and that felt real good.”
But, Esetok, who’s had his ups-and-downs in his Scots career in leaving the team a few years ago to now; he wasn’t going to end his High School career with an ‘L’ as he kept fighting off being pinned as he slowly tacked points to keep ahead of Buntjer and eventually winning 10-7 to take fifth-place at the District Meet at McKay High School.
As the lone senior on the team, Esetok started waving his arms as the referee raised his hand one last time and sat down to sign his name one last time, knowing he redeemed himself in his eyes to his team.
“I noticed that when I lost my last match, I knew I probably made my team upset. I don’t like that,” said Esetok. “So I had to make a deal, give it my best effort in my next match which was my last match with my team. It was an honor practicing and working hard with them. It’s a hella’ve season. I love this sport, I love wrestling.”
He was met by his coaches and walked up to Head Coach Troy Thomas and gave the fourth-year coach a hug and thanking him. Esetok knew that this moment means a lot to himself.
“It felt good, I felt like it was a now-or-never thing for my team,” said Esetok.”I had to work hard and push myself to my limit even though I wanted to stop so bad I didn’t. I know my team was on the side watching me, that felt real good to get a win in front of my team.”
Then it was finally time for one Mr. David Rubio to shine. This is where he dreamed of being and though Davis took a 1-0 lead to start the second period, Rubio answered in the third in the defensive bout to force overtime.
Two years ago, Rubio’s brother Andy won Districts in overtime against an Olympian wrestler, but younger brother David up’d the ante as the bout went to double-overtime with Sprague’s Davis as neither wrestler scored.
Around the gym, chants and cheers for Rubio out-weighted that of Davis as they wanted to see the McKay wrestler beat the Sprague wrestler on his home turf. McNary’s Brayden Ebbs was squatting down to the side behind Scot’s Assistant Coaches Tyler Thomas and Andrew Hillmen, watching the match intently as Ebbs and Rubio wrestled at 160 at West Salem a few weeks earlier.
As they started the two, thirty-second double-overtime Rubio built a 3-1 lead on Davis during the second 30-second period as the gym went bonkers that it was like a Penn State-Ohio State University Wrestling match or a National Championship bout.
Davis answered got it to 3-2 with a few seconds remaining. Both wanted to score, Rubio to push his lead, Davis for the win. Both looking for their shot, but neither did as time expired as it seemed as if Rubio won 3-2 as the gym erupted like a game-winning shot for the Championship.
But, the referee comes screaming in and said Rubio stalled right before the buzzer went off, thus re-tying the match three-all. After debate from Sprague’s Nolan Harris and McKay’s Troy and Tyler Thomas and Hillmen, call stands, 3-all triple-overtime first person scores wins.
Those deafening cheers turned to deafening boo’s out-of-disbelief of the last second call as both wrestlers went back out for the battle, Rubio tried to get a quick take-down but Davis escapes for the 4-3 win and the District Title.
Davis cheers after shaking hands while Rubio steps off the mat after shaking hands to re-collect his thoughts after the tough warfare. Rubio said he was sad that he couldn’t give the home-crowd with what they wanted Saturday night, but his two coaches were proud of him for battling to the wire.
For Tyler Thomas, who wrestled at McKay and graduated in 2008 after finishing second at State his senior season, he feels for Rubio after the loss as much as his wrestler.
“A lot, I’m heartbroken,” said Thomas. “I’m really proud of him, he worked really hard. He kept trying to put up opportunities to score, he kept wrestling really hard, he did everything we asked of him but sometimes things don’t work out into our favor. Sometimes certain styles don’t matched up and since Landon Davis is a defensive wrestler it made it not work very well for us because we made multiple attempts to score, we got blocked out and at the end we got called for stalling and it ended up costing us the match.”
“I’m really proud of David, we lost to Landon Davis earlier in the season, I think the score was 5-3, tonight it went into sudden death and the final score was 4-3 and David, he’s really improved and he continues to improve,” adds Hillmen, who once-in-a-while wrestles with Rubio in practice. “He continues to improve throughout the entire season, he’s a year-around wrestler and he’s only going to get better, he’s only a junior. I mean this is his third-year wrestling and it’s hard for us as a coaching staff to believe that he’s been wrestling for three-years.”
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