It was quite the crowded scene last weekend at Cottage Grove High School (CGHS), though thanks to the local wrestling community, it was a decidedly controlled chaos.
On Friday and Saturday, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 CGHS played host to the Cottage Grove Invitational wrestling tournament, a 31-team event that featured some of the best high school wrestlers across the state of Oregon. The Lions’ boys team finished 11th overall and the girls took an impressive third behind three total first-place finishes, but the event in itself was a logistical and community-wide accomplishment for the world of Cottage Grove wrestling.
“I think first and foremost, we as a staff work together to make sure all the moving parts come together,” said wrestling coach Christina Kent. “Between accounting for how many teams are coming, knowing when we set up mats, that all comes together with the team itself, not just the coaching staff.”
The scene over the weekend at the high school was one awash with hundreds of wrestlers, parents, volunteers and spectators. Both gyms were packed to the brim, lined wall-to-wall with all the mats necessary for a 31-team tournament, and in order for the event to go off without a hitch, the hosts needed all hands on deck.
“It’s making sure that concessions are taken care of, making sure that we have a hospitality room that coaches can enjoy, because I gotta tell you, a wrestling tournament is really deemed good off their hospitality room as well as the wrestling,” Kent said laughing while also making sure to save praise for the people who made the tournament happen.
“With the Mat Club, the concessions wouldn’t have gone off like they did without them. It really is a community sponsored event where everyone is helping. Parents come out, donate, help in the hospitality room, help at the [scorer’s] tables. That’s a goal that we have. Wrestling is one of those sports where it is unique in that it’s a community in and of itself.”
Even CGHS athletic director Matt Myers was quick to deflect praise from himself and his staff. “Wrestling gets all the credit for this one,” Myers said. “The coaches, parents, [CGHS math teacher] Jeff Drum, the wrestlers, they did everything to organize this event.”
While being an achievement of planning and organization, the two-day tournament also functioned as a barometer for the CGHS wrestling team as they get closer and closer to regionals and, eventually, the state tournament. Many of the teams and opponents present at the Invite will be back at regionals when the Lions next wrestle again. In that regard, a number of local competitors have reasons for optimism in the postseason.
In the 152-pound weight class, senior Jacob Dunn won six matches — four by fall — en route to a first-place finish, earning his team 36 points and bringing his season record to 24-1. Fellow senior Drew Swenson also finished atop the podium in the 170-pound class, earning 32 team points. For both athletes, it was their last, true wrestling match at their home venue before graduating later this year.
“This is kind of a pinnacle tournament before we have regionals for both the boys and girls,” Kent said, “Especially for Jacob and Drew, that was their last time really competing at home … so it was nice to see them, and the whole team, do as well as they did as a final stamp on our season before we start regionals.”
Junior Raina Herzog continued her torrid season for the girls’ team, winning each of her three matches by fall and earning 26 of Cottage Grove’s 85 total team points for her first-place finish in the 235-pound class. Sophomore Hannah Cook also earned a top-three spot, finishing third in the 135-pound class and scoring 17 team points.
The event wrapped up the Lions’ regular season wrestling schedule and they now look forward to regionals.
“This week, it’s really putting our noses to the grindstone,” Kent said. “The hard part about this point in the season, the mental game is a lot tougher because everyone’s tired and worn out so it’s about getting them to push through those mental hurdles to give it our more round, one more match, and finish it all the way to the end.”
Girls’ regionals will be held this weekend, Feb. 7 and 8, at Thurston High School and the boys’ regionals will be two weeks later, Feb. 21 and 22, held at Cottage Grove High School. For more wrestling results, see the local scores to the right.