[Editor’s note: The idea behind “Alphabet Stories” is to write one noteworthy athletics-related story about each OSAA-member school. We started with Adrian HS on Sept.18. Today’s story, more than six months later, is about Crescent Valley HS. The goal is to write two per week all the way to Yoncalla! While we will be relying upon athletic directors to furnish story ideas, anyone may offer suggestions by emailing [email protected]]
Crescent Valley has become a 5A wrestling powerhouse. Under seventh-year head coach Chad Lamer, the Raiders are back-to-back state champions and, in a normal year, would be the overwhelming favorites to make it three in a row, even with Crook County, state champs five times since 2013, in their classification.
“The only problem we were going to have is getting kids spread out so they weren’t bunched up in the same weight classes,” Lamer said. “I think we will have a season, but I don’t know what it will entail. We have six kids with the potential to be four-time state champs. I would hate to see that opportunity taken away from them.”
Crescent Valley wrestling wasn’t always this strong, however, making the turnaround as compelling as the current strength of the program.
When Lamer took over mid-season in December, 2014, there were only 11 wrestlers, total, in the program and rumors that wrestling at the school might be discontinued.
“I couldn’t let that happen,” said Lamer, a three-time NCAA Division II national champion; who had two of his five sons at the school at that time.
Building the Raiders into a formidable wrestling force did not happen overnight. Crescent Valley placed 15th out of 31 schools in the 2015 state meet, 12th in 2016 and 14th in 2017.
In 2018, Crescent Valley took a big step up, finishing fifth with three underclass state champions. It gave Lamer hope that, in 2019, the Raiders would contend for the first state wrestling team title in school history.
“Going into the 2019 season, I thought we had a chance,” Lamer said.
To test his team, he scheduled 2018 5A champion Crook County as the team’s first dual meet opponent.
“I’m thinking, ‘We have a shot to beat these guys.’ They came over and we got our butts kicked. We won four matches. We had so much work to do!”
Crescent Valley caught up quickly. The Raiders wrestled Crook County a couple of months later, at the Oregon Wrestling Classic in Redmond, and lost on criteria after tying on the mat. The team was starting to believe in itself.
The way Crescent Valley captured its first team state championship to cap the 2019 season comes under the “stranger than fiction” category and was apropos for a program on the rise. The Raiders qualified only eight wrestlers for the state meet, while the other top contenders, Crook County, Dallas and Thurston, brought 17, 14 and 12, respectively.
Crescent Valley’s octet performed brilliantly. Collectively, they accounted for 26 match wins out of a maximum of 32. Twenty-one came by pin, which added bonus point to CV’s ledger. Still, it would not have been quite enough but for the storybook that occurred in the 285-pound classification.
Kalmana “Bubba” Wa’a was a senior and the second overall seed at 285. He pinned his first three opponents, two in the first round, to reach the championship match.
His opponent was junior Ashten Brecht of Dallas. Brecht reached the final by edging top-seeded senior Caleb Parrott of Crook County in a semifinal.
Had Parrott defeated Brecht, his win would have clinched yet another title for Crook County. The loss, however, gave Crescent Valley an opening. The Raiders could win the title if Bubba won and by at least a majority decision (eight points or better).
Earlier in the season, Brecht had defeated Wa’a four times over a seven-day span. Bubba turned the tables at the Reno Tournament of Champions.
“After that win, he became a whole different athlete and dominated the rest of the season,” Lamer said.
Wa’a knew what he had to do. Lamer, who admits to eternal optimism, was feeling really good about the match.
“He seemed so relaxed, Lamer recalled. “I knew he was going to get the job done.”
Bubba put the Dallas wrestler on his back within the first 10-15 seconds of the match. Brecht fought with everything he had to get on his stomach. Lamer worried that the effort to pin Brecht would so tire his heavyweight that he would have nothing left if Brecht escaped his current peril. Another 30 seconds elapsed before Wa’a finally touched Brecht’s shoulder blades to the mat.
“Everybody went crazy,” Lamer said. “It was the best feeling ever!”
Crescent Valley won its first state title by 1.5 points over Crook County. The Raiders had five state champions, but only a true team effort would have secured the title. One other wrestler took third place, another fourth. Even CV’s one wrestler who did not place, won his only match by pin, netting the TWO bonus points. Without those…
In 2020, Crescent Valley repeated as 5A champs. This time, it wasn’t even close. The Raiders tied the 5A record for most points in a meet, 303, and won by 76.5 points. Only eight teams scored more than 76.5 points. The team had nine state champions, including three freshmen; and one runner-up. Never before in the history of Oregon wrestling had any team placed more than six wrestlers atop the podium in any state meet.
“We were loaded throughout the whole lineup,” Lamer said. “We knew we were mostly likely going to win state, so, to keep them motivated, we set as a goal to go after the point record. It started looking like it was possible. We ended up just tying it. I was pretty amazed at how well those kids performed in the finals. To get 10 of the 14 weight classes into the finals and win nine of them…that’s pretty amazing. It’s a testament to the guys working out and making each other better all day. They challenged each other to do better.”
Wrestling during this COVID-impacted school year is in “Season 4,” with a first contest date of May 17 and a “culminating week” June 21-27.
Wrestling may or may not happen, of course. It’s a high risk, close contact, indoor sport not yet approved by the Oregon Health Authority. But if it does happen and the culminating week turns into a state championship of sorts, you can be sure that Crescent Valley will, once again, be top dog in 5A.
From 11 wrestlers, total, for the 2014-2015 season to nine state champions in 2020, eight of whom are returning; the Raiders aren’t going away anytime soon.