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Wrestling: Canby's Alejandro Sandoval wins heavyweight title at Reser's Tournament of Champions

The senior lives up to his top-seed status, defeating Pendleton's P.J. Schubert in the finals. Gus Warren (106) takes fourth.


by: DAVID BALL / PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Alejandro Sandoval (right) grapples with Pendleton's P.J. Schubert in the heavyweight finals Jan. 25 during the Reser's Tournament of Champions at Liberty High School. The Canby senior won by decision.Alejandro Sandoval finally got the recognition he’d been seeking entering the Reser’s Tournament of Champions.

And by the end of the top-tier wrestling competition, the Canby senior proved he deserved it.

After drawing the top seed in his bracket, Sandoval won two matches by fall and two more by decision to capture the heavyweight title Jan. 24-25 at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.

Sandoval earned his championship with a 5-0 decision against Pendleton’s P.J. Schubert, capping a series of stellar performances at a tournament that is considered by some to be a preview of the OSAA state championships in Portland next month.

“He just had this feeling that he deserved it and that he was ready to win it,” coach Jeremy Ensrud said. “He wrestled tough, and he was confident.”

Sandoval became the Cougars’ first champion at the annual tournament since A.J. Ballard in 2011 and their fourth in the last six years.

It was the second tournament title of the season for Sandoval, who also won the Larry Owings Invitational last month at Canby High School.

But the most recent triumph marked a major breakthrough for Sandoval, who came agonizingly close to winning two other large competitions this season. He took second place at the North Bend Coast Classic, losing in the finals in overtime, and settled for fourth at the Pacific Coast Championships following another overtime setback.

“He’s had some close ones,” Ensrud said. “At a couple of the smaller tournaments, he was right there. This is one of the toughest tournaments of the year, and he was able to get it done — and pretty dominantly. He’s feeling good right now.”

Added Sandoval: “This is a big win. It’s definitely one of the toughest tournaments around, and I had to battle hard to get to the finals. I knew having the number-one seed didn’t matter. This is a tough tournament with tough wrestlers. I just wrestled smart and came out on top.

“This tournament is similar to state with tough competitors, and it wasn’t easy. Glad I won — didn’t want to want to take second anymore.”

After being granted a bye in the first round, Sandoval advanced by pinning Oregon City senior Keith Arnold in 1 minute 54 seconds. Sandoval also defeated Arnold by fall Jan. 9 to seal Canby’s thrilling victory over the Pioneers in a Three Rivers League dual.

The win propelled Sandoval into the quarterfinals, where he defeated eighth-seeded Central Point-Crater senior Mike Rios by 3-0 decision.

Sandoval then secured his spot in the title bout with a pin of Hermiston senior Armando Garcia in 3:52 in the semifinals.

In the finals, Sandoval gained control of what started out as a back-and-forth jostling match with Schubert.

“They kept locking up like they were going to throw each other, and the crowd was oohing and aahing,” Ensrud said. “(Sandoval) ended up on top. He was dominant on the mat.”

Ensrud said Sandoval is a much more physically mature athlete now than he was last season, when he lost in the quarterfinals of the Reser’s tournament. The senior committed himself to morning workouts and weightlifting sessions throughout the offseason.

Ensrud added that Sandoval has contributed to the development of practice partner Nick Kraxberger, who claimed the heavyweight title in the Reser’s junior-varsity tournament this year.

“The work he’s done early this season, it gave him a little confidence,” the coach said of Sandoval. “And with how he did here, I think he’s definitely one of the top guys in the state. We’re excited for him.”

Sandoval adds to a string of recent Reser’s tournament champions from Canby that began in 2009, when James Roberts and Miles Hygelund each won titles.

Roberts powered through the 125-pound bracket despite having the No. 8 seed, edging Salem-Sprague’s Alex Kostenborder 5-4 in the title bout.

Hygelund (171) won the tournament as a No. 3 seed, sealing his championship with a pin of Hillsboro-Century’s Anthony Juliano in 3:39.

In 2011, Ballard lived up to his top-seed status by defeating Reedsport’s Bobby Short 3-1 in overtime of the 140-pound finals.

Freshman finishes in fourth

Gus Warren (106) was seemingly unfazed by large-scale tournament, rebounding from a loss in the quarterfinals to take fourth place.

“For a freshman, that’s outstanding,” Ensrud said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had a freshman place at this tournament.”

Warren, who earned the No. 5 seed in his bracket, received a bye in the first round and defeated Crater freshman Hunter Grant by fall in 1:41 in his first match.

That victory vaulted Warren into the quarterfinals, where he was pinned by Hillsboro freshman Ruben Rodriguez-Saenz in 2:53.

But Warren was far from finished. He defeated Keizer-McNary freshman Sean Burrows by fall in 52 seconds and put Sweet Home freshman Kobe Olson on his back in 44 seconds to reach the consolation semifinals.

Warren then snagged a 2-0 victory over Prineville-Crook County sophomore Terran Libolt to set up a rematch with Rodriguez-Saenz in the third-place bout. Warren lasted six minutes but came up short again, 6-4.

“It was a fantastic match,” Ensrud said. “He gave up a reversal in the last 10 seconds, but we were proud of the way he competed after his first loss. He came back fighting.”

Injury update

The Cougars participated at the Reser’s Tournament of Champions without two of their top wrestlers.

North Marion transfer Keltin Boykin (195) sat out after straining his shoulder at the Oregon Classic, which was held Jan. 17-18 in Redmond.

“He landed on his shoulder funny, and it was mild but it bothered him,” Ensrud said.

Fellow senior Noel Hygelund (160), a returning state placer, has missed the last few weeks of the season with a knee sprain he sustained during the Pac-Coast tournament earlier this month. He also did not compete.

Both are expected to return soon, Ensrud said.

“We should be almost back to full strength,” he said.

Up next

Canby will continue its season at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 on the road with a conference dual against Lakeridge.

The team’s league dual at West Linn, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 22, has been postponed to Feb. 11.

***

TEAM SCORES

Reser’s Tournament of Champions

Jan. 24-25 at Liberty High School (Hillsboro)

1. Crook County, 274; 2. Roseburg, 224; 3. Hillsboro, 158; 4. Dallas, 128.5; 5. Hermiston, 112.5; 6. David Douglas, 110.5; 7. Glide, 90.5; 8. Pendleton, 89; 9. Century, 84.5; 10. Crater, 79; 11. Oregon City, 77; 12. Eagle Point, 76; 12. Sandy, 76; 14. Tualatin, 69.5; 15. Glencoe, 68; 16. Sweet Home, 64; 17. Grants Pass, 63; 18. Canby, 60; 19. Lebanon, 56.5; 20. Cascade, 53.0; 21. Culver, 51; 22. McNary, 43; 22. Sprague, 43; 24. Redmond, 40.

***

HEAVY HITTER

A look at Canby senior Alejandro Sandoval’s wrestling tournament performances this year:

North Bend Coast Classic (Dec. 13-14): Second place; Won three matches by fall and defeated Crook County’s Jason Williams by 3-2 decision to reach the title bout, where he was dealt a 6-4 overtime loss at the hands of Vancouver (Wash.) Evergreen’s Austin Wright

Larry Owings Invitational (Dec. 21): First place; Defeated South Albany’s Tristan Glaser by fall in 3:21 to win the heavyweight title at Canby’s home tournament

Pacific Coast Championships (Jan. 3-4): Fourth place; Lost 4-2 to West Linn’s Ellis Eaton in overtime of the third-place match at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, Wash., settling for fourth place for the second year in a row

Reser’s Tournament of Champions (Jan. 24-25): First place; Defeated Pendleton’s P.J. Schubert to win the heavyweight title at Liberty High School in Hillsboro

***

AT A GLANCE

Canby at the Reser’s Tournament of Champions (2009-14)

2009: fourth place with 127.5 points; champions: James Roberts (125), Miles Hygelund (171)

2010: 12th place with 70.5 points; no champions

2011: 20th place with 59 points; champion: A.J. Ballard (140)

2012: 20th place with 58.5 points; no champions

2013: 15th place with 82.5 points; no champions

2014: 18th place with 60 points; champion: Alejandro Sandoval (285)



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