PENDLETON - The Pendleton Bucks won only six of 14 matches in Saturday's dual meet with Crook County, but they won when they needed to and most often won big, claiming a 33-29 Intermountain Conference home victory.
No. 5 Pendleton improved to 4-2 in league action and is riding a four-meet conference win streak, dropping the No. 7 Cowboys to 2-1. The Bucks will close the regular season in Bend Friday against Mountain View and host the IMC district tournament Feb. 14-15.
"We competed, for the most part, for six minutes in every match," Pendleton head coach Fred Phillips said. "It just dawned on the kids that at one point or another this year they have beaten every team in the IMC and this is a tough league."
Pendleton got tough Saturday when Justin Williams (189 pounds), Joe Williams (215) and Sean Orr (275) posted successive pins to help the Bucks to an 18-3 advantage. Three wins by the Cowboys followed, but they would get no closer than three points the rest of the way.
Pendleton's Brad Lawrence suffered a 10-5 loss to open the meet against Steven Brock at 171 pounds. From there, it was up to a pair of freshmen and the state's No. 1-ranked heavyweight to do some damage.
Justin Williams pinned Blaine Tocher in 1:31 to give Pendleton a 6-3 lead and the Bucks never again trailed. Joe Williams stuck Dallen Pope's shoulders to the mat in 3:01 as the twin brothers pinned what would have been teammates had they not moved to Pendleton.
"They wanted to go out and show these guys that they moved to Pendleton, that it was a good move for them and that they are for real," Phillips said.
Having two freshman compete as the Williams brothers have at the upper weights makes life easier for a first-year coach with a young team. "(I'm) real happy they're here," Phillips said.
Orr wasted little time (58 seconds) showing Jared Zeigler why he's the top-ranked 275-pounder at the Class 4A level.
Crook County scored a win at 103 pounds when Dhane Rhoden beat Nick Brizendine 9-4 and at 112 pounds when Ben Neasham bested Tyler Kilkenny 17-2. Pendleton's Seth Cox held an early 2-0 lead over Wes York in the 119-pound match, but York won 9-4. Cox gave up the lead in the first round, but the two remained tied 2-2 until York scored with seven seconds left in the second round. Cox then cut the lead to 6-4 in the third with 1:21 left, but could draw no closer.
Phillips refused to use youth as an excuse, but said that more mat time will teach the Pendleton wrestlers not to yield points in situations that they can avoid it.
"The team needs a little more mat experience," he said. "Sometimes, inexperienced wrestlers tend to relax at the edge of the mat or at the end of rounds."
Crook County used the York win to cut the Pendleton lead to 18-14, but the Bucks then won three consecutive bouts. Justin Carter started the string at 125, with a pin of Pat Lane in 2:55.
Pendleton's only senior, Tim Zimmerman won at 130 pounds despite suffering a concussion that ended the match with 1:29 left against Wade York. Zimmerman won because Wade York lifted him from the mat and failed to return him in a safe manor, as the rules require, Phillips said. Zimmerman led 5-1 after the first round and 7-1 after the second in his final home dual meet.
Cody Campbell got Pendleton's final victory, defeating Luke Thompson 6-2 at 135 to give the Bucks a 33-14 advantage.
Crook County got to within shooting distance of Pendleton (16 points with three bouts to go) when Garrett Allen beat Jeremy Marshall at 140. The outcome of the dual was sealed when Crook County's Justin Barden could do no better than a 6-2 win over Markus Dunfee at 145. From there, the best Crook County could hope for was 12 points (with two pins in the last two matches) and they trailed 33-20.
Derek Hendrix, the No. 6-ranked 152-pounder in the state earned the Cowboys' only pin, dropping Casey Arbogast in 3:14. No. 9-ranked Austin Shields won over Pendleton's Tanner Smith (No. 12 at 152), 6-3 to close out the competition with the 160-pound match.
Sports editor Christopher Halsey can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-223) or by e-mail at email@example.com.