By Jerod Young • Jerod Young • 

Bulldogs, Pirates set for districts

In 3A’s Special District 2, Willamina and Dayton are heavy favorites to succeed this year after both had successful regular seasons. The Bulldogs finished the regular season ranked No. 3, and Dayton finished No. 6. Competition begins at 2 p.m. today at Jefferson High School. Saturday wrestling begins at 10 a.m.

Both coaches agreed the season was a success, and both teams are confident heading into districts.

“The season went really well for us,” Dayton coach Rob Henry said. “I feel like we have a good shot this year. Willamina looks to be the favorite, and we really don’t like second place, but I’m confident we can come in second right behind them.”

Willamina coach Ariah Fasana added: “We’ve had a pretty good season,” he said. “We’ve had a few more injury and health problems then we would’ve liked to have, but overall it’s been a good year for us.”

The Pirates have a smaller team than the Bulldogs, so Fasana said he doesn’t anticipate any matchups between the two teams because of the size.

“We typically don’t matchup with them because of weight,” Fasana said. “But they will score a lot of points, they usually do. They have a couple guys that can score points in a hurry and close gaps.”

While Dayton is feeling good, it’s Willamina that’s approaching districts with a ‘wait and see’ approach. The Bulldogs have struggled with injuries and health problems that have prevented the team from going full strength all season long. As a result, Fasana said Willamina’s numbers and placing have been different because of the changes, but he admitted the Bulldogs can’t make excuses for the unexpected circumstances.

“Over the course of the season it’s not a big deal,” Fasana said. “But just like any other sport, it’s something we always just have to deal with.”

Willamina plans to bring 20 competitors. Five members of the Bulldogs roster will not make the trip due to injury or other circumstances.

Both coaches said they are aiming to build off of last year’s successes. Willamina’s Coty Brown impressed last year with a third-place finish in the 103-pound bracket, while Adan Gutierrez placed fifth for Dayton.

Brown ranks No. 1 in state at 116, while Gutierrez ranks No. 1 at 120

Willamina and Dayton aren’t the only teams looking to make noise district. Sheridan has a wrestler that made plenty and that has the attention of both Dayton and Willamina.

Justin Acuff is ranked as the No. 2 wrestler in the state at 132. Henry said there are plenty of solid wrestlers in the district.

“All of our local schools that have a program have solid kids,” Henry said. “It’s not just us and Willamina. Sheridan’s got some talent, as does Amity. The talent is very strong in our area.

Willamina’s Skyler Voigt is ranked second behind Gutierrez at 120 while Michael Gentry ranks fifth for Dayton at 126.

Both Henry and Fasana said their programs have a bright future and are excited to see what they can do on a bigger platform.

For Dayton, the leader of the younger class is junior Cade Stahl. Henry said his growth on the mat has been remarkable, and he expects Stahl to continue improving in districts.

“Cade has really stepped up for us,” Henry said. “He’s picked up getting to a third seed, and I’m really looking forward to see what he can do.”

Willamina is seeing the same progress with a much younger athlete, and he’s come as big surprise to Fasana. Fasana said Michael Reyes has made a name for himself with the team, and local competition.

“For a freshman, Michael Reyes has been great,” Fasana said. “He’s really shown us a lot, and the older guys have built a lot of trust in him and he really delivers.”

The 3A state championships are at Memorial Coliseum in Portland next Friday and Saturday.

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