On Tuesday, June 8, Lebanon High School held its graduation at Heath Stadium. One week later, the wrestling team, including seniors Justus Freeman, Rafael Ramos and Andy Vandetta, competed in an outdoor, four-team meet on that same field with Central, Dallas and Silverton.
The long-delayed wrestling season continued past the end of the school year and will finally wrap up this weekend with the state championships. Ramos and Vandetta will see their high school careers conclude as they compete for state titles, Ramos at 285 pounds and Vandetta at 126.
All three seniors agreed it was strange to have their high school season extend past graduation.
“It’s weird, I’m not going to lie, it’s different. Wrestling in the summer, it’s just different,” Ramos said.
Freeman said he appreciated having another opportunity to cheer for his teammates and be part of a team that has defined his high school experience.
“I worked very hard. It felt really good to be able to put on one of these white singlets and show how hard we’ve worked,” Freeman said.
The Oregon School Activities Association rearranged the sports schedule for the 2020-21 school year in an attempt to provide opportunities for competition despite the pandemic. The traditional fall sports were held first early in 2021, followed by the spring sports. Except for volleyball, these are all outdoor sports, which made it easier to comply with COVID protocols.
That pushed the winter sports of basketball, swimming and wrestling to the last place in the rotation. The hope, which was largely vindicated, was that the situation would improve before these seasons were held in May and June.
But even with the delay, the decision was made that it would be better to hold wrestling meets outdoors, when possible. The Warriors’ June 15 home meet with Central, Dallas and Silverton capped a regular season filled with outdoor events.
Freeman said he didn’t mind wrestling outdoors, especially when the competitors were not required to wear masks.
Vendetta said he was thankful for any season, regardless of where the meets were held.
“I feel great about it. It feels awesome to be back on the mat. How long has it been? It felt longer than a year, but we’re back out there now and that’s all that counts for me. To be able to watch my teammates dominate, it’s just awesome. I love it,” Vendetta said.
Because the situation with the pandemic changed from week to week, no plans were in place for season-ending competitions when the wrestling season began. Ultimately, it was decided that district and state meets could be held.
Lebanon competed at its district meet last weekend and in addition to Ramos and Vandetta there were several other state qualifiers: Landon Carver and Adriano Pereira (113), Tanner Wallace (132), Brayden Burton (138), Isaac Reid (182) and Jacob Jiminez (220).
“I’m pretty stoked about that. At first we had no clue. We had no clue if there would be districts or state. It was a little bummy, but now we know we have a chance to have a closure to the season,” Vendetta said.
The 5A state meet will be held Friday and Saturday in Cottage Grove. The audience is being limited, with a limit of two spectators per competitor.