HILLSBORO - Hermiston captured a team title, while Pendleton came away with an individual crown in one of the toughest wrestling competitions in Oregon Saturday.
The Bulldogs protected their big lead from Friday, finishing 55 points ahead of second-place Roseburg to take home the title from the Reser's Tournament of Champions at Liberty High School. Hermiston ended up with 186.5 points, while West Linn (128.5), Burns (113.5) and Redmond (111) took third through fifth. Pendleton was 19th with 36.5.
"Everybody scored for the team title," coach Curt Berger said of his winning Bulldogs. "This tournament is, no doubt, tougher than the state tournament. We're disappointed by not having any individual champions, but that just shows you the quality of the tournament. We have the toughest team, but we weren't able to have a champion."
Some of the best programs from each of the five wrestling classifications (classes 1A and 2A are combined) competed in the two-day event.
Senior Kenny Melton, Pendleton's lone placer in the tourney, marched to the championship with an 18-2 rout of Burns' Kevan Palmer and 5-3 win over Brenden Connolly of Westview in the final.
"Kenny looked good," Pendleton coach Fred Phillips said. "He's started to get in a zone since his injury over Christmas break, and he's looking good leading up to district and state competition."
Perhaps the biggest match of the day was the 140-pound final between Brent Parks of Hermiston, a defending state champion, and former Intermountain Conference rival Austin Enoch of Redmond.
After blanking Burns' Tyler Swartzlender 7-0, Parks lost to Enoch 10-8 in their finale.
"You're talking about two of the best kids in the state," Berger said of Parks and Enoch. "Brent went for the takedown for the tie and didn't get it in time."
Two more Bulldogs wrestled in their finals. At 189, state champion Troy Kessell lost a close one to Caleb Kociemba of Hillsboro, 3-2, after pinning West Linn's Spencer Hansen in 64 seconds. At 171, Kevin Verwey was pinned in the final by Tanner Marvel of Grants Pass.
Also for Hermiston, Garrett Later (215) and Ryan Barton (152) each went 2-1 Saturday to take third place in their divisions. Ethan Parks and Randy Larson placed fourth at 145 and 160, Cody Britt (135) and Josh Barraza (285) wound up fifth; and Ben Jorgensen (103) and Dylan Olsen (119) were sixth.
Hermiston hosts the IMC tournament Feb. 9-10, but Berger said he is not overlooking the Dawgs' next three meets, all on the road, to close out the regular season. They wrestle at Bend Friday, then meet Summit and Mountain View at Mountain View Saturday.
"We've got to have two great weeks of training," Berger said.
Pendleton wrestles at Mountain View Friday, then goes to Bend and Summit Saturday.
Pendleton senior Tyler Brown, a 140-pounder, is out for the season with a labral tear in his right shoulder he suffered Wednesday night at a dual meet in Hermiston.