West Albany High is one win away from a perfect Greater Valley Conference regular season.
The Bulldogs improved to a sparkling 7-0 in GVC wrestling duals Thursday night, collecting a pair of decisive victories over visiting Forest Grove (66-12) and South Salem (72-12). All that stands between West and an unbeaten conference record is next Thursday’s home dual with McNary.
“It’s very important,” West junior Trona Free said of the GVC duals title. “We are super excited and we hope to be the district champions this year. It feels like we have that opportunity, especially with some of the wrestlers we have.”
The GVC championships will be held Feb. 2-3 at McKay High in Salem. The top four placers in each class qualify for the 6A state championships, which run Feb. 16-17 at Memorial Coliseum in Portland.
West has already clinched a share of the duals title — its first in more than a decade — with perennial power Sprague. The Bulldogs edged the Olympians 39-34 back in December.
“The dual meet title is a great accomplishment for us because it shows that we have a good front line,” West coach Casey Horn said. “But we also have a pretty good second set of kids. We are really happy with them and I think when that district tournament comes, we can get out there and compete with anybody. We just want the chance, the chance to be on the mat and see what happens.”
Following the 2017-18 season, the Bulldogs will rejoin the 5A Mid-Willamette Conference.
West dropped just two of the 15 matches it wrestled Thursday night. The Bulldogs forfeited to Forest Grove and South Salem at 285 pounds.
“We took it to them and made sure everybody was ready to go,” Horn said. “In the matches we got to wrestle, the kids came out and competed really well.”
Freshman Caleb Hart won a pair of matches by fall, defeating Forest Grove’s Marco Torres in 3 minutes, 57 seconds at 120 and South Salem’s Hunter Harrison (3:38) in a 113-pound matchup.
Senior Caulin Leach also recorded two pins for the Bulldogs. The 195-pounder made quick work of Forest Grove’s Kyle Daily (0:29) before earning a hard-fought win over South Salem’s Sangato Letisi (3:57).
“I think I could’ve done a little better and I messed up a lot, so there’s always room for improvement,” Leach said. “But it is nice to say that (I got two pins).”
Leach, a standout running back for West’s football team, began wrestling as a sophomore. He quickly took to the sport.
“I first started because I wasn’t very good at basketball,” Leach admitted. “I just got into wrestling and I ended up enjoying it, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Fellow senior Bobby Chavez notched a pair of second-round pins against Forest Grove’s Stan Frame (3:41) and Joseph Wozniak (2:54) of South Salem.
In his lone match of the day, Free pinned Forest Grove’s Trevor Brenner in 1:37 at 160.
“At first I was a little sluggish, and then I looked into the stands and saw my friends,” said Free, who typically competes at 152. “I don’t know, the spirit just kind of got into me and I started working harder.”
Free believes the Bulldogs are set up for a strong finish to the season.
“I love this group,” the coach said. “The group wants to work hard, they do what we ask and they are a fun bunch to be around right now.”
West will take a break from GVC action Friday and compete in the Gary Seaney Duals in Tillamook.