TILLAMOOK — At this stage in the wrestling season, testing oneself is key in bringing out the very best on the mat. And, for the Taft Tigers wrestling team, they were able to match up against a 4A power in Tillamook on Saturday, Feb. 8.
The Tigers faced a tough task, but this late in the season, Taft wrestlers need to be at the top of their game as the Special District 2 Tournament is right around the corner: Feb. 14-15 at Amity High School.
“Tillamook was kind of a way to keep warm before the district tournament, but we wrestled really well,” Taft wrestling head coach Robb Ellis said. “Against Astoria, we won most of our matches against them, but they aren’t a super strong 4A program. But against Tillamook, we had some good matches, but we lost most of them. Tillamook is a 4A powerhouse.”
Despite the adversity faced by the Tigers, a few wrestlers stood out — especially with districts right around the corner.
Jose Flores won his match against a tough Tillamook opponent, but Flores has been a standout for the Tigers all season. His natural ability combined with a rock-solid work ethic make Flores one to watch at districts coming up and at state.
But Flores had a little more motivation in his match, as it was a long time coming, according to Ellis.
“That was sort of a revenge match from last year because he had lost to the kid before, so I was pretty pumped about that because it showed Jose is really in a good spot,” Ellis said. “The way he has been wrestling shows me he can do really well in the state tournament this year.”
Riley Ellis also caught the eye of many at Tillamook as he wrestled one of their best athletes. His opponent, a three-time state placer, tried his best to pin Ellis, but couldn’t.
The Taft Tigers’ resolute defense on the mat has been a strength of his all season.
“He didn’t get pinned or tech falled,” Ellis said. “He really fought hard, even though you could tell the Tillamook guy was trying to pin him and Riley showed that he is really improving a lot and is able to hang in there and match his opponent's toughness.”
Along with the boys meet this weekend, the girls wrestling team took a trip to Southern Regionals where Taft’s Kadence James did her best and won a match at the tournament.
“Out of our five girls, four are first-year wrestlers,” Ellis said. “Kadence was the only girl to win a match and it’s only her second year. Girls districts are tough because they are trying to build it right now to where the numbers will keep growing and growing.”
But the Tigers, as a whole, have goals in mind that stretch beyond the season. Ellis wants to get some of his wrestlers to take part in off-season work, which he believes will translate to success on the mat.