Sandy’s wrestling team was in a hole against Milwaukie after surrendering forfeits in the first two bouts of Wednesday’s Northwest Oregon Conference dual meet at Sandy High School.
From there, though, Sandy won eight of the 12 contested bouts, picking up crucial falls from Jacob Hernandez at 126 pounds, Hunter Rickman at 145, and Levi Rotzien at 160 as the Pioneers rallied for a 36-33 victory over the Mustangs.
Milwaukie’s Noah Ramirez won by fall in the next-to-last match of the dual at 220 to pull the Mustangs into a 33-33 tie, but Sandy’s Iosefa Polamalu answered with a 4-2 victory over Daniel Berezhinskiy at 285 to seal the decision for the Pioneers.
“I knew it was going to be close,” Sandy coach Larry Topliff said after the Pioneers cleared one of the most difficult league hurdles they are likely to face this season. “It’s hard to go against a team as tough as Milwaukie and not have your first two weight classes filled, but that’s just where we’re at.
“We knew going into it that we were going to have to line up right and win every match that we could, and maybe some that we shouldn’t.”
Milwaukie’s Bryant Smith won by fall at 138, Matthew Lee scored a 2-1 decision in double overtime at 152, and Logan LaPine won by fall at 170, but even with those wins, Ramirez’s win at 220 and the two forfeits at 106 and 113, the Mustangs needed at least other decision to go their way to win the dual.
“Sandy is a really deep team and some of their best kids were matched up against some of our best kids,” Mustangs coach Brian Duhrkoop said. “There were a lot of matches that we knew were going to be close and I was proud of how our guys did tonight, regardless of the final score.
“I mean, it wasn’t more than three years ago that we got beat 76-6, so it’s been awhile since we’ve been able to say that we even belong in the same gym with Sandy.”
Duhrkoop and Topliff agreed that of eight matches that Sandy won, there were three — 120, 132 and 195 — that could have easily swung the dual in Milwaukie’s favor.
The 120 bout featured two of the league’s top female wrestlers, with Sandy’s Kendall Martin scoring a 9-7 decision over Milwaukie’s Jaden South.
Trailing 7-3 in the third round, South scored a two-point near fall, but Martin answered with a reversal to make it 9-5. South then got a reversal with 30 seconds remaining, but wasn’t able to turn Martin’s back to the mat.
“That was a huge match for us,” Topliff said. “If we had lost that match, we would have lost the dual.”
At 132, Sandy’s Colby Giltner scored all his points on an escape and two takedowns during the second round and edged Milwaukie’s Jacob Ashley 5-3.
At 195, Sandy’s Jack Rademacher scored a 9-3 decision over Milwaukie’s Chazz Amundson in a rematch of last season’s 182-pound district final. Rademacher used two first-round takedowns to open a 4-1 lead, then offset two Amundson escapes in the second period with two more takedowns to take an 8-3 lead.
“Rademacher kind of handled Chazz tonight, but that’s another match that could have gone either way,” Duhrkoop said.
The match of the night was at 152, featuring Milwaukie’s Lee, last season’s Class 5A state runner-up at 145, and Sandy’s Brody Diaz de Leon, last season’s state runner-up at 138.
The two train at the same club, All-Phase Wrestling in West Linn, and have worked out together for several years, so they are extremely familiar with one another’s strengths.
“I know what Brody does and he knows what I do, and he’s really, really strong,” Lee said. “Extremely strong. Stronger than anybody I’ve ever wrestled, and he’s super-good at hand fighting.
“I struggled to get any shots on him. I know I can score on an inside trip on him, because that’s how I’ve scored against him in the past, but I didn’t want to take any chances tonight. The dual was so tight, I didn’t take as many risks as I could have.”
After a scoreless first period, Lee scored an escape midway through the second round to take a 1-0 lead, and then Diaz de Leon got an escape with 30 second remaining in the third round for a 1-1 tie.
The match remained tied through the first overtime period, and then Lee , working from the bottom position, regained the led with an escape in the first of two 30-second tiebreaker rounds. Lee then rode Diaz de Leon through the second tiebreaker round to secure the decision.
“I’ve got a few pounds on Brody, maybe four or five, but he’s really strong for his size,” Lee said. “It just came down to heart, really. It’s early in the season and neither of us is in top shape. We’ll peak later, and we’re not going to wrestle each other again, so it was really just a grind match for both of us.”
So, fans shouldn’t look forward to a possible rematch at the NWOC championships in February?
“We’re definitely going different weights at district,” Lee said. “I’ll be 145 and he’ll be 138 or something, but that was a good match. We’re not going to get another good match like that in our district, so it was really good to have that in the first league dual.”
Sandy led 33-27 with two bouts remaining when Ramirez, the Mustangs’ 220-pound senior, scored the quickest pin of the night, putting Sandy’s Yakov Gulyy on his back 29 seconds into the first round.
“He (Gulyy) was very energetic at the beginning,” Ramirez said. “I tried to snap him, and then he’d try to get out of the snap by jumping back. Then I caught him running backwards and he just fell.”
With the dual riding on the final match, Berezhinskiy and Polamalu both played it safe through a scoreless first period.
Still on their feet to start the second period, Polamalu scored the first takedown, and then Berezhinskiy got an escape to make it 2-1.
In the third period, Polamalu started down and took a 4-1 lead on a reversal off the whistle. Berezhinskiy scored another escape, but couldn’t not get Polamalu off his feet over the final 1:20.
“I knew definitely that if Daniel were to be in good position and not make any mistakes, and used his height and his weight to his advantage that he’d have a chance to be in it at the end,” Duhrkoop said. “For him to come out and wrestle a kid like Polamalu, who is a phenomenal football player and a state placer last year, I was proud of how he finished.
“Did I expect him to win? No, but what I expected was for him to go out and keep it close, and he did. So, I was proud of that effort.”
If the Milwaukie-Sandy dual had been scheduled later in the season instead of the first week of December, would the outcome be significantly different?
“I think on any given day, either one of us could beat the other one,but right now Sandy still belongs on top, so we’ve got some work to do,” Duhrkoop said. “It’s always disappointing when you lose, especially when you have an opportunity like we had.
“Sandy isn’t going to be in our league next year, so we knew it was our last shot to get them in a dual and it was disappointing from that standpoint. I’m proud of how we competed, so I’m not disappointed in my team, but the revenge can be with our team performing well at district and winning the district title.
“Sandy is going to be tough to beat, and I don’t know if anybody in our league can beat them.”
Since joining the NWOC in 2010-11, the Pioneers have lost only two league dual meets — both losses coming against Hillsboro, one during the 2014-15 season, the other in 2015-16.
“It’s early in the season and we need these match-ups to make us better,” Topliff said. “I have to give Milwaukie a lot of credit. They came out to wrestle and they gave us everything we could handle.”