Union wrestles to another team title

Titans send 14 wrestlers to regional and capture sixth straight district crown

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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BATTLE GROUND -- The Union wrestlers are carrying the loftiest of goals into this championship season. After waiting three days to start the climb toward state, the Titans demonstrated their championship hunger while rolling to another team championship at the Class 4A District 4 wrestling tournament.

Nine Titans won district titles, several in dramatic fashion, during Tuesday's tournament at Battle Ground High School. Union is sending 14 wrestlers to the regionals, and took home a district tournament team trophy for a sixth consecutive season, include two as a 3A school.

Union finished with 308 points, 102 more than runner-up Heritage.

"I think we're carrying a lot of momentum into regionals and from there hopefully we can take it to state," Union senior Daniel Rice said. "It feels good to have your team around you when you're at the top, to know that everyone is there with you."

The top three wrestlers at each weight advance to regional competition on Saturday at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore. The top four wrestlers at regionals advance to Mat Classic, which takes place Feb. 21-22 at the Tacoma Dome.

Rice contributed to the Titans momentum in the championship round, beating Ramon Ortiz of Evergreen 8-6 in overtime in a 126-pound battle that featured two of the top wrestlers in the state. Rice is ranked fifth by Washington Wrestling Report, Ortiz second.

"I respect him a lot as an opponent," Rice said of Ortiz. "At the end he got into my legs. I knew I had to keep fighting. I just started to scramble and luckily I scored."

Three of Union's nine individual championships were won in overtime. Freshman JJ Talavera started a run eight consecutive Titan triumphs by edging Karell Abdul of Heritage 11-9 in overtime at 120 pounds. Abdul led 5-0 early in the match.

"He was up quite a bit, but with my conditioning that my team helps me with so much I was able to come back," Talavera said.

Jeremiah Reynolds, ranked first in the state at 152 pounds, scored a takedown in overtime to beat Marcus Hendrickson of Heritage 9-7.

"I didn't think it would be that tight, but Marcus has always been a good wrestler and a good friend. He came out wanting to win and he definitely showed it," Jeremiah Reynolds said.

Like the other Titans, he pointed to conditioning as the difference maker inn overtime.

"I've been conditioning and running a lot on my own, so I really felt comfortable in overtime and in the third round."

At 132, Union senior Junior Godinho used two takedowns in the third round to beat Camas junior Bryant Elliott 7-4. Godhino is ranked second and Elliott is ranked third in the state.

At 183, Titans' freshman Tommy Strassenberg scored a takedown as time expired for a 4-2 win over Camas senior Tye Lommasson. Strassenberg is ranked second and Lommasson seventh.

"It was really fun watching my fellow wrestlers win those other close matches," Strassenberg said. "We're all contributing to something. When we see each other win a match and be able to move onto regionals, it means a lot to be a part of something like this."

Titans Judah Reynolds at 145 pounds and Michael Snediker at 160 won their district titles by pinning opponents. Union's Alex Berfanger beat teammate Javier Martinez 3-2 at 170.

Heritage and Evergreen each had two champions. Jordan Zuniga (106) and Jacob Cooper (182) won for the Timberwolves. Isaiah Av (113) and Austin Wright (285) won for the Plainsmen.

Battle Ground's Sheldon Michalos won the title at 220.

The tournament was postponed from Saturday, challenging wrestlers to stay fit and within their weight allowance. Because of the postponement, wrestlers were given an extra two-pound allowance in addition to the usual two-pound allowance granted in January.

It was a challenge not to eat too much, several wrestlers admitted. But Union hungers for bigger things, as Tuesday's tournament demonstrated.