By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– South Salem’s Renee Jimenez-Cruz knew what was at stake for him in a 4-4 match coming down to the final 30 seconds of regulation. He’s battled through the consolation bracket, the blood rounds as they are called, since Friday afternoon and was a move or two away from qualifying for the 6A State Wrestling Tournament at 138 pounds.
In front of the Saxon senior was another senior in Davey Smith from Bend, both fighting for the third-and-final guaranteed spot out of the Mountain Valley Conference with the match coming down to the wire.
“I wanted this. This could’ve been my last match because I’m a senior and it’s not guaranteed for fourth to go on for state and I was like, ‘I got to put on more pressure’. I knew he was a tad bit slower so I decided to just go. Even if I didn’t get the takedown, it would’ve gone to overtime,” Jimenez-Cruz described the events about to unfold.
The South grappler shot his shot, succeeded into getting the two-point takedown to go ahead 6-4 and quickly went into trying to go for the pin. He nearly did as time expired, but was rewarded with a three-point nearfall in the process to add to his 9-4 result that qualified Jimenez-Cruz for the State Meet.
“It’s awesome. I didn’t have the best day yesterday and lost my first match, I wasn’t well-prepared. I walked in here like ‘whatever’ and then I got reality checked when I lost,” said Jimenez-Cruz. “I learned a lot because I put so much work into this and I wasn’t going to stop and quit. I had the support of my coaches and my friends.”
The consolation round has stories like this every year. Redemption from a loss as each wrestler fights, claws and grinds for every last minute on the mat and win they could get.
The Saxons Aundre Chacon (113) and McKay’s Ismael Flroes (120) each had their own stories of redemption after losing in Saturday mornings Championship Semi-Finals to finish third in their respective weight classes.
For Chacon, he gave up a second round escape point up three only to reset and picked up a takedown and eventually a pin of Mountain View’s Klay Zuber.
“It pushed me. I was tired at the one match and I knew I had to come back and get it,” Chacon said. “It motivated me to go to State, they were going to beat me and I just had to go out there and get it. The only way they’ll beat me is if I let them,” Chacon said of the battle back. “I knew to take (Zuber) down. I couldn’t really turn him, he was very strong. My thought was to let him go, hit on him again, let him go and go again. Work him, get him tired.”
For the Scots Flores, he had to go to overtime in his 120 match, eventually picking up the Sudden Victory takedown of the Cougars Oliver Blackweider.
“It was really nice. I came into this tournament and wanted to take at least second, but I lost my match and my coach was like, ‘don’t be satisfied with what you have. Just go out there and wrestle aggressively and go out there, have fun and win’. But I’m really happy with how I came back…it helped me a lot,” Flores said.
Sprague saw Sully Puckett in his first High School Wrestling Tournament rally from an semi-final to eventual 145-pound District Winner in Mountain View’s Jackson Potts to qualify for State as a freshman Saturday. Defeating junior Ezeikial Winchester from Bend 3-1 to punch his ticket to the State Tournament with his third place finish. Learning through the trials and tribulations of how gritty High School wrestling can be,
“Just never stop. Wrestle at a level that’s higher than there’s and don’t wrestle down to them, keep your head up and don’t stop working,” Puckett said. “I can always improve. There’s always something to work on and I’ll get better these next few years. At State I’ll get better and just keep working.”
Locally Blaine Miller (106) of West Salem, McNary’s Damian Hernandez (126), Sprague’s Keyna Johnson (152) and the Celtics Layne Runyan (285) all qualified through the consolation bracket. All finishing third. The Olympians won the District Meet with 363 team points with the Cougars second with 312.5 team points.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald