By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

Pirates' objective: Raise the Jolly Roger

For the past five seasons, Willamina has set the standard within Class 3A Special District 2 wrestling.

Today and Saturday, Dayton intends to knock the Bulldogs from their lofty perch.

A passel of talented upperclassmen and freshmen will attempt to break Willamina’s winning streak at the Class 3A Special District 2 wrestling championships, held today and Saturday at Pleasant Hill High School in Pleasant Hill.

The Pirates competed in a three-team dual meet with Santiam Christian and Harrisburg in Adair Village on Feb. 14, their last competition before the district meet. Dayton also hosted a four-team dual meet on Feb. 13 with Jefferson, Sheridan and Willamina. The Pirates blew through the shorthanded Lions (60-18) and Spartans (53-6); in a highly competitive dual with the Bulldogs, Dayton came out on top, 36-18.

With the top four wrestlers at districts qualifying for the Class 3A state championship meet on Feb. 28-March 1, the competition is ramping up.

“District this year is a chance to show the state what we have as a team,” senior 170-pounder Jarred Montgomery said. “We’re an underdog, but we’re an underdog that can win the whole thing.”

Five seniors, including Montgomery and Micah Cisneros – the Class 3A state champion at 138 pounds in 2013 – are the leaders by example, but the Pirates’ five freshmen are among the team’s top competitors. Jared Henry, the son of Dayton coach Rob Henry, is among the district’s top seeds at the 138-pound weight class, and 126-pounder Oscar Rosas has impressed coaches over the last month of the season.

“They’re helping our team out a lot,” Cisneros said of the freshmen. “Seniors and freshmen – that’s where it’s at.

Dayton also carries with it a balance of talent in the lower and upper weights. Montgomery, who has spent much of the season at 182 pounds but will wrestle at 170 pounds at the district meet, is thought to be among the contenders for a state title. Sophomore Andres Gonzalez was a pleasant surprise last season as a heavyweight, finishing second at the SD2 meet and qualifying for state. Gonzalez will wrestle at 220 pounds today and Saturday.

“It was awesome,” Gonzalez said. “Last year was scary. I came in (to state) not caring who I was going to wrestle or how I was going to do.”

Complicating matters will be the trip down to Pleasant Hill itself, a 190-mile round trip. The Pirates will return to Dayton tonight after wrestling in the preliminary rounds and make the trip back Saturday morning.

“It’s definitely going to affect how we wrestle,” Cisneros said. “That’s a long drive. It can wear on us. WE have to stay down in weight and get rested. The second day, we’ve got to get some sleep and be well wrested.”

There are, of course, seven teams with a say in how the SD2 meet goes. Regardless, Dayton has identified the biggest obstacle to its goals as a team, and it wears an orange and black singlet.

“We just want to beat them,” Cisneros said. “It’s our biggest rivalry.”

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