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Tyler Berger wins hardship appeal

Former Hermiston High School standout is now a Cowboy


When Tyler Berger won his third-consecutive state wrestling championship last year, no one would ever have imagined that he wouldn’t finish his high school career at Hermiston High School.

“My goal is to be an Olympic gold medalist,” Berger said recently. “Every day that I train it’s focusing on that main goal.”

However, this spring something happened which forever changed Berger’s future. After a dispute between the Berger family and Hermiston wrestling coach, Shaun Williams, Berger decided to chance his high school eligibility and transfer to Crook County. Exactly what happened in Hermiston is unclear, but Berger felt that the environment made it impossible for him to remain there.

“One of my main issues was just the hostile environment that was created there in Hermiston,” Berger said. “I didn’t believe that the team had the goals that I was looking for in training and they didn’t provide the environment that I was looking for.”

Berger enrolled at Crook County High School in August and has been attending school at Crook County all fall. However, since he moved without his family, Berger was taking a huge risk. He had to apply for a hardship waiver in order to compete, and if the hardship was denied he could not wrestle at Crook County, nor could he return to Hermiston and compete.

On Friday, Sept. 13, the Intermountain Hybrid League’s hardship committee heard Berger’s case and denied his hardship appeal on a 3-0 vote.

After a discussion with Crook County athletic director Rob Bonner, Berger decided to appeal the decision to the OSAA Eligibility Appeals Board.

“We felt that what happened in Hermiston was out of Tyler’s control,” Bonner said. “It changed how he was treated in Hermiston and we felt that it warranted a hardship. He said that there were two camps. There were people who supported the Berger’s and people who supported coach Williams on the team so when you walked into practice it was hostile.”

Bonner added that academics also entered into Tyler’s decision.

“He got a B+ this past spring,” Bonner said. “It was the first time he didn’t get an A in a class. Because of our AP classes, now he has the opportunity to get his 4.00 GPA back and that definitely entered into his decision.”

Crook County wrestling coach Jake Huffman also believes that Berger deserved a hardship waiver.

“A hardship is a situation out of the student’s control,” he said. “That’s exactly what this situation is. Regardless of who’s wrong or who’s right it’s definitely out of his control.”

Thursday afternoon, Tyler, along with his parents, Rob and Brenda, and Gabe and Diane Hendrix, who Tyler is currently staying with, drove to Wilsonville along with Bonner to present their case to the Eligibility Appeals Board.

“The board was two athletic directors, two lay people, and a school board member,” Bonner said. “They swore us in and we started talking and they started asking questions and it was just kind of a back and forth until we got the story out.”

Bonner added that the committee questioned Tyler extensively about his reasons for transferring and asked multiple times if he and his family understood before he transferred that he was risking his eligibility.

After a short deliberation, the appeals board on a 3-2 vote decided to clear Berger to compete at Crook County.

“Oh man, it’s a relief, Berger said. “It’s been a long time since I haven’t had to worry about being able to wrestle my senior year.”

Both Bonner and Huffman were also pleased.

“I think that the OSAA?did the right thing,” Huffman said. “Tyler is a wonderful person and has great character. I think that the OSAA?recognized that and that’s why they approved the hardship.”

“Tyler has been a pleasure to have in our halls,” Bonner added. “The teachers are thrilled to have him. HIs teammates were all pulling for him and excited about the possibility of him being here. What a relief for the family because they know he’s in great hands both educationally and athletically and I’m thrilled to welcome Tyler to be part of the Cowboys.”

The Berger family is not an ordinary wrestling family, nor is Tyler an ordinary wrestler. Tyler’s uncle Curt was the head wrestling coach at Hermiston for 21 years before resigning the position at the end of the 2011 season. He was recently inducted into the Oregon chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Rob Berger has been both a head and assistant wrestling coach. In addition, between Tyler and his cousins Curtis, Rachel, Rebecca, and Richole and uncles Curt and Cliff the family has combined to win 21 state titles in wrestling and tennis.

Tyler recently returned from a recruiting trip to the University of Nebraska. He has also made recruiting trips to Columbia University, Iowa State University and Oregon State and is considered to be one of the top 145-pound prospects in the country.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Tyler said of the visits. “It’s going to be a tough decision to make, but I’m enjoying every minute of it.”

In addition to attempting to win his fourth-consecutive state championship Berger has his sights set on an ever harder goal — winning his fourth-consecutive individual title at the Reser Tournament of Champions. Since the tournament began just one wrestler has accomplished that feat.

“There are a lot of things that have to go right in your career,” Berger said. “For me to have a chance to become the second kid ever to win that tournament four times it’s an honor. I’m going to be working harder than I ever have before. I’m going to leave my senior year as one to remember.”

Rob Berger recently resigned his teaching position in Hermiston and has accepted a math teaching position with Crook County High School beginning on Friday, Oct. 25. Brenda Berger will remain in her teaching position in Hermiston for the remainder of the year.




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