It wasn't exactly a shocker that Sprague dominated the Mountain Valley Conference wrestling tournament last weekend at Corban University, the team's ninth consecutive district championship.
How the Olympians did it, though, was a bit unconventional for them. With three of their seniors opting out of the season, more so than ever, they had to rely on younger wrestlers to carry the day.
Of the 16 that advanced to the 6A culminating week tournament on Friday and Saturday at Newberg, only two are seniors.
“That's not a typical year for us,” Sprague coach Nolan Harris said. “It's definitely junior and sophomore heavy.”
The Olympians outscored runner-up Mountain View 409-306.5 behind seven champions in senior Owen Scott (195), juniors Brayden Boyd (120), Brook Byers (182) and David Sherman (220) and sophomores Elijah Byers (138), Josh Camillo (145) and Riley Davis (160).
“I think this is as good as any team we've had,” said Harris, who is in his sixth season as Sprague's coach. “Any time we can walk away with some victories against some tough schools, and have seven champs, you've got to feel pretty good about it.”
Boyd, Brook Byers and Davis will be No. 1 seeds in the 6A culminating week tournament. Boyd and Brook Byers are reigning state champions and Davis was a state runner-up last year.
Boyd, Brook Byers, Camillo, Davis and Scott are undefeated this year. Boyd, whose title came at 106 pounds last year, is 8-0 at 120 this season.
“He likes the 120 weight class,” Harris said. “He probably could've made 113, but we decided that moving up would probably be best for him down the line, for him to get some worthy competition.”
The season offers a chance at redemption for Camillo, who won a district title last season but was not medically cleared to compete at state.
“I was disappointed that Josh didn't get a chance to step up there his freshman year,” Harris said. “I'm sure he's excited.'
Elijah Byers pinned his way through the district tournament, dispatching McNary junior Jonathan Canchola in 35 seconds in the 138 final. His only loss this season came at 132 against Mountain View sophomore Andrew Worthington, a district champion.
“Once he started getting into it these last six weeks, he's come a long way mentally, and discipline-wise,” Harris said of Elijah Byers. “We're hoping to see that through one more week. He's always had the talent and always been able to do it. This week will be good to see where he's at because he'll wrestle some tough kids.”
Scott also has been impressive, going 10-0 with nine pins.
“I'm really excited to see his development,” Harris said. “He started as a freshman and stuck with it. He could have graduated early, but he stuck around, and it has paid off for him.”
Sprague was among six 6A teams to win district titles last weekend, along with Westview (Metro), Newberg (Pacific), Tualatin (Three Rivers), David Douglas (Mount Hood) and Roseburg (Southwest). Cleveland won the Portland Interscholastic League district title the previous week.
The top four placers from each weight class advance to the 6A culminating week tournament. Reigning 6A champion Newberg, the favorite, qualified 26 for the tournament. Cleveland (18), Roseburg (17), Sprague (16) and Grants Pass (16) have the next most qualifiers.
Culminating week will feature showcase tournaments for each classification. Boys tournaments are Friday and Saturday at Newberg (6A), Cottage Grove (5A), Cascade (4A), Redmond (3A) and Sweet Home (2A/1A).
The girls season-ending showcase tournament is Thursday at Cottage Grove. South regional champion Thurston and North winner Hillsboro have the most qualifiers with six and five, respectively.
“Six months ago, nobody thought that they'd get this opportunity,” Harris said. “I'm proud of the wrestling community for taking the torch and finding a way to plan it and get it done. I know our kids are excited.”
If a short season that included outdoor tournaments didn't already seem unusual, the contrast from past years will be even starker this week as some venues could be dealing with triple-digit heat.
“We'll have to hydrate more. We'll remind our kids,” Harris said. “We dealt with it a little bit this past weekend. I think it does play a factor.”