Class of 1963 still rates as state's best

Four of the state champion wrestlers went on to international glory
By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

There are few years - in any state - when a group of high school wrestling champions go on to future greatness at the national and international level more than Oregon saw in 1963.

This year marks the 57th anniversary of a group that included two future World Champions, and three future Olympians - one of whom played in the NFL for a season.

And, the year also included the first cultural exchange team from the state to go abroad - to Japan for a monthlong tour.

Rick Sanders, then a senior at Lincoln, Henk Schenk, then a senior at Silverton, Fred Fozzard, a junior at Marshall, and Jess Lewis, a sophomore at Cascade all won titles in 1963.

All would go on to national and then international success on the mat, and on the football field with Lewis’ career at Oregon State and into the NFL.


Are the Olympics asking for competition?

Wed, 02/13/2013 - 3:59pm
Cliff Pfenning
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Talk about coming from out of left field.

The International Olympic Committee took the first step toward cutting wrestling out of the line-up for Summer Games starting in 2020, a move that was absolutely stunning to read about - just the headline - on Tuesday.

Wrestling may have been one of the original sports the Olympics were created around, but the modern keepers of the Games looked past that and voted to take it out regardless of its standing as a much-loved international sport.

The leaders of the sport at the international level, FILA, didn't seem to do much to stop it either, according to what's been written online.

The sport isn't going to stop being contested on the international level - there's going to be World Championships every year, but it's just not going to have the specific appeal it gets every four years. The IOC Executive Board, with its move, seemed to totally miss it's role in assisting non-TV-oriented sports with their popularity every four years.

Take soccer for example. Soccer has its own world celebration - every four years, too - called the World Cup. Soccer as a sport, has professionals worldwide and does just fine without the Olympics.

Basketball has pro leagues across the world and does just fine as a sport without the Olympics. Since professionals have been allowed in, it's essentially another opportunity to watch the All-Star game. Those sports, though, are television-oriented, money generating, so they're always going to be part of the Games. Wrestling, while it nearly sold out all of its tickets in London - more than 120,000 - during its run for Freestyle and Greco-Roman competitions, is not a highly revenue-generating sport on television, so it was on the block along with other sports such as the Modern Pentathlon and field hockey.

The Modern Pentathlon - is there anyone in Oregon who trains for that? Field Hockey - are there any teams in Oregon?

Wrestlng gets to show itself off every four years, much like figure skating or ski jumping do in the Winter Games. There are competitions yearly with World Championships, but the Olympics are the biggest thing in the wrestling world. The IOC looked right past that.

The sport is achieving great success in Oregon, and is growing more than any other sport - roughly 9 percent a year. Only girls cross country (7 percent) and girls track and field (6 percent) are growing among the state's high school sports. Baseball (13 percent) and softball (17 percent) are experiencing the biggest decline. Baseball and Softball are looking to join the Olympics roster in 2020.

For wrestling supporters in Oregon, who've seen programs get dropped at schools throughout the state to where there are just a handful left, it's another snub by the executive level, even though within the state it's highly successful. Oregon State is among the nation's top dual meet teams and is annually ranked in the top 25, while Clackamas Community College has won a national title recently. Half of OSU's team is from Oregon, something none of the other teams at the school can promote.

So, where's the reversal here?

Perhaps wrestling as a sport needs to create its own World Cup, a tournament conducted every four years and held in countries where there's significant interest and revenue available for such an event. The best way to get wrestling back into the Olympics is to have the IOC ask for the sport to come back, and that's going to take some effort at the top level of the sport, something it didn't seem to get recently.

There's a number of online petitions that have sprung up already, urging the U.S. Government for one to take some political action. The first thing the U.S. wrestling establishment should do is lobby to replace the executive level of the international governing body, which seems to have allowed the sport to get taken down without much of a fight, and that's not the way its competitors are raised to address competition.

The Road to the Olympics runs through Eugene

Zac Brunson has a schedule for getting to the world's biggest sports stage
Feb. 21, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

It didn’t take long for Zac Brunson to impress his wrestling coaches with his ability to focus when he dove into the sport as a 6-year-old.

In less than a year, Brunson honed in on the biggest goal available - the Olympics.

“He’s had that goal basically since he started,” says Scott Kearney, who began as Brunson’s coach with the Churchill Wrestling Club more than a decade ago. “He’s been focused on being a high school, college and Olympic champion and that hasn’t changed since he was a little kid.”

When the OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires State Wrestling Tournament begins Friday, Brunson will aim to complete the first step of his path to the Summer Games by winning his fourth state title.

Following graduation, Brunson will head to the University of Illinois, where his goal is to win four NCAA titles.

Then, it’ll be time to work on qualifying for the Olympics. If his path works as he hopes, that’ll be in time for the Summer Games in Rio De Janiero, Brazil.

“I  have goals for later this week, goals for later this year and goals for five years from now,” he says. “I can absolutely see myself in the Olympics in Rio.
“I want to be the best in my sport and if it works out in four years, I’ll be in the Olympics.”

Brunson says he found wrestling to be his sport almost immediately. He showed up in the first week that Kearney, whose brother Chuck was the coach at the University of Oregon, and assistant Jeff Thomas started the Churchill Wrestling Club.

“I love the one-on-one aspect, and think it’s the toughest sport,” Brunson says. “I love how in-depth it goes, how much there is to it.”

Brunson’s skill began to mature as a freshman, when he won the state title at 135 pounds despite being unseeded.

As a sophomore, he won at 145 pounds, scoring a fall or technical fall in all four matches, a feat he repeated last year at 160 pounds.

Heading into his fourth state tournament, Brunson says he’s lost just once to an Oregon wrestler during the high school season. As a freshman, he lost 12-9 to Cleveland’s Eric Luna, a senior who won the state title at 140 pounds later that year.

Brunson’s strategy is very basic - score points.

“My goal is to score 30 points each  match,” he says. “If someone takes me down three or four times, I don’t worry about it because I’m trying to score 10 or 12 takedowns and win that way.

“I’ll take a fall if it’s there, but if you can score 30 points, you’ll win.”

“He’s extremely motivated and driven to succeed in the sport,” Scott Kearney says. “He always in the wrestling room, working out, training, figuring out ways to get better.”

Brunson’s skill earned him a national title at the Junior National Freestyle Championships in Fargo, N.D., last summer. He won 11 matches at 152 pounds in three days.

Brunson’s win made him only the ninth national freestyle champion from Oregon, according to Scott Kearney.

Despite being unbeaten and a three-time champion, Brunson was seeded second behind junior Quinn Dreher of Silverton for the state tournament.

Winning a fourth title would put Brunson in a category with only 20 others since the OSAA began sponsoring state tournaments in 1948. Four high school titles has been a goal of his for years.

“When I first started wrestling, I looked ahead and saw you could win four titles in high school,” he says. “That’s something I’ve wanted to accomplish for a long time.”

Three other seniors will be competing for their fourth title this weekend as well. Brandon Griffin (182 pounds) of Sprague, Joey Delgado (138) of Hermiston and Quinn Johnston (145) of Gold Beach have all won titles since their freshman seasons.

Griffin, an occasional practice partner for Brunson, has signed with Lehigh University.

Churchill, which finished second in Class 5A two years ago, also features Chase Kearney, Chuck’s son who won a state title last year. The Lancers expect to compete for a trophy this weekend.

The Next Step
Brunson chose Illinois over programs at Minnesota, Missouri, Cornell and Oregon State, although Scott Kearney says Brunson likely would have chosen Oregon if the school hadn’t cut its program in order to restart baseball.

The lure of the Big 10, though, would have been tough to overcome.

“Earlier this year, the Oklahoma State at Iowa dual had 15,000 people in the stands,” Brunson says. “Illinois at Iowa had almost the same size crowd.
“I’m really excited about competing in that environment.”

Illinois, which can seat 4,500 fans for home dual meets, has never finished as high as second in the NCAA Tournament but was fifth in the latest NCAA Rankings.

“I really like what they have going on there,” Brunson says. “They’ve got a new staff, and I really connected with them when I visited.
“I think they’re the guys I need to be with if I want to win four NCAA titles.”

Collegiately, Brunson will likely run across one of the nation’s top wrestlers, Penn State sophomore Dave Taylor, who competes at 165 pounds and is the leading contender for Wrestler of the Year.

Brunson says he’s ready for that step to college training a competition, which likely will include a redshirt season, along with the challenge of getting a degree.
Academically, Brunson says, there’s not a subject that’s jumped at him as being his career path.

“I look at the education as a bonus,” says Brunson, who carries a 3.8 GPA. “I’m going to get my degree, but my main goal in college is to win four NCAA titles.”

Four titles would put Brunson on a level with Cael Sanderson, who won four while at Iowa State (1999-2002) and then won a Gold Medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Summer Games.

Sanderson, who redshirted as an academic freshman, is Taylor’s coach at Penn State, which won the NCAA Tournament last year.

Recently, Sanderson returned to active competition and is the nation’s top wrestler at 84kg.

As a junior national champion, Brunson is among the challengers for the National U20 team that will be determined in summer. The first step toward earning a spot on that team is a tournament in Madison, Wisc., in April. Brunson will be there.

The trials for the US team that will travel to London for the Summer Games will be held April 21-22 in Iowa City, Iowa. Brunson will be following them closely via the Internet.
Brunson would be a college junior or senior (depending on whether he’s used his redshirt season) when the next Olympic Trials arrive, and competition for those spots is likely to be tougher than ever as financial support for the sport increases.

Wrestlers, who used to support themselves as amateurs, are subsidized by USA Wrestling, and many, such as Sanderson, coach.

Mixed Martial Arts regularly attracts wrestlers due to its financial success, something Brunson says has already thought about.

“I can see myself doing that,” he says, “but I look at it as what wrestlers do when they can’t handle wrestling anymore.”

With his focus on and motivation to reach the loftiest of goals, Brunson says he’s very happy with the plan he has for the next stage of his life.

“If I’m good enough, I’d love to wrestle on the Olympic Circuit and make wrestling my profession,” he says. “I’d love to wrestle for the rest of my life.”

OSU wrestling program begins Olympic run

Simmons, Hanke compete this weekend in Olympic Trials
April 19, 2012

Nick Simmons, the director of operations for the Oregon State wrestling program, and heavyweight Chad Hanke will compete this weekend for spots on the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team.

Simmons is ranked No. 1 at 55kg as the Trials take place in Iowa City, Iowa, home of the University of Iowa.

Hanke, who wrestled at Dayton High, is listed second at 96 kg on the USA Wrestling website.

The 2012 Olympic Summer Games are set for July 27-Aug. 12 in London and include seven weights in wrestling.

Simmons wrestled at Michigan State and was part of the U.S. team that competed at the World Championships last year. He finished fifth.

He was fifth at the Olympic Trials in 2004.

Hanke, who won the University Nationals in 2011, sat out the past season at OSU while training for the Olympic Trials.

Oregon State has had eight wrestlers compete at the Olympics, including one in each of the last two Summer Olympiads (Oscar Wood in 2004 and Heinrich Barnesin 2008).

Jesuit again leads state field of champions

Crusaders recover from Fall with two titles
March 27, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

After missing out on a state title in fall for the first time in 20 years, Jesuit High rallied with titles in boys basketball and girls swimming this winter in OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires championship finals.

The basketball team went so far as to become the first team to score a four-peat at any level, beating upstart Lake Oswego in the Class 6A final at the Rose Garden.

In other highlights, South Medford, which had never played past the quarterfinals, won the 6A girls basketball title with an unbeaten season.

And, Dayton, a runner-up the past two years in 3A boys basketball, with several key players having lost the 3A football title on the final play, won the state title, beating Horizon Christian - its nemesis the past two years - in the final.

The winter included the stall-ball tactic used by Willamette in the 5A girls hoop final that got some afficianados calling for a shot clock.

Summit won both boys and girls team swim titles - the second sport the school has won both boys and girls team titles to go along with cross country in fall.

Here is a list of the winter sports champions:



6A: Jesuit 52, Lake Oswego 42

5A: Corvallis 63, Milwaukie 51

4A: Central 49, Phoenix 47

3A: Dayton 58, Horizon Christian (Tualatin) 35

2A: East Linn Christian 36, Western Mennonite 32

1A: Horizon Christian (Hood River) 58, McKenzie 46


6A:South Medford

5A: Springfield 16, Willamette 7

4A: Henley 41, Sutherlin 35

3A: Vale 43, Valley Catholic 29

2A: Regis 59, Scio 49

1A: McKenzie 44, St. Paul 33


6A: Roseburg

5A: Dallas

4A: Cascade

3A: Nyssa

2A: Culver


6A: Sunset

5A: Summit

4A: Cottage Grove


6A: Jesuit

5A: Summit

4A: Henley


6A/5A LARGE: Tualatin

6A SMALL: Westview

5A SMALL: Wilson

4A LARGE: Sweet Home

4A SMALL: North Marion

3A: North Douglas

COED: Springfield


Fresh scent descends on wrestling finals

Roseburg, Culver win, but three other team titles change hands
Feb. 25, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Roseburg and Culver defended the state wrestling titles, but three of the five other classification battles went to new schools, including Dallas, which won its first title at Class 5A.

Dallas won two weights to edge Pendleton, 164-150, and move up from second in 2011, its best previous finish.

"We're extremely proud of what our guys have been able to accomplish," Dallas coach Paul Olliff said afterward. "There's a lot of hard work by volunteer coaches and dads of the guys that made this happen."

Cascade won at Class 4A, only it second title, while Nyssa won at 3A, which ended a 10-year title run by Burns.

Culver won its sixth-straight title at Class 2A, having won each title since the state expanded to six classes in 2007.

Cascade narrowly defeated defending champion Henley, 188-185.5 getting the deciding points in a head-up battle between the schools. Cody Crawford, a junior seeded first, beat Phillip Morgan, a sophomore seeded second, 10-0 in the 182-pound final. Had Morgan won, Henley would have won the team race.

Four seniors won their fourth title: Quinn Johnston of Gold Beach, Joey Delgado of Hermiston, Zac Brunson of Churchill and Brandon Griffin of Sprague.

Wilson had two champions: sophomore Austin Wallace-Lister at 120 pounds, and senior Brian Wohan at 195, doubling the school total since the OSAA began sanctioning championships in 1948. Wilson finished 12th.

Roseburg won its third straight title with a whopping 237 points that more than doubled the second-place total of David Douglas, which edged Crater 102-101.5.

Culver overcame a solid challenge by Lowell to win 132-118.5.

Nyssa narrowly slipped past Willamina, 171-165, moving from a first-place tie when Sebastian Sanchez won at 195.



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