CHAMPAIGN – Oregon has had a history of wrestlers who've had trouble sealing the deal when it comes to winning a state championship.
That trend took a holiday when senior Brandon Sklavanitis got his shot.
The 170-pound Sklavanitis turned in a dominating performance in posting a 4-1 victory over Pittsfield's Zach Abney at the state wrestling tournament that concluded Saturday in Assembly Hall.
Sklavanitis joins Tony Pedrosa, a 145-pound champ in 2001, as members of the most exclusive club in Oregon.
"Oregon is kind of known to take kids to the finals and not win it," Sklavanitis said. "I just wanted to overcome that hump. It was in the back of my mind the whole time. I didn't want to be another guy to take second place."
Sklavanitis (47-1) seized a 2-0 lead with a takedown a mere 27 seconds into the bout. It came via his favorite move – a single-leg sweep.
"He took a bad shot, and I managed to capitalize on it and get the takedown right off the bat," Sklavanitis said.
In the down position to begin the second period, Sklavanitis executed a reversal midway through to up the lead to 4-0. Abney (44-3) escaped to open the third period, but never came close to doing any major damage.
"At 4-0, I knew this was my match and I just had to ride it out," Sklavanitis said. 'I didn't really care about the stalling calls. I was just looking for the victory."
Abney, whom Sklavanitis desbribed as "freakishly strong" prior to the bout, was unable to muster any kind of attack. Sklavanitis didn't let Abney escape after the early takedown, and kept him at bay the rest of the way.
"He's just a good rider," Abner said. "I couldn't get out from underneath him. He's the first person I've not been able to get out from underneath. He's just strong on top."
Oregon coach Mike Guzman noted Sklavanitis executed the game plan they had talked about to a tee.
"One of the things we've been concentrating on is wrestling 2 minutes at a time," Guzman said, "and taking kids into the third period. Brandon did that. He didn't focus on how it would end in the third period. He focused on one period at a time, and he did a phenomenal job. He wrestled to his potential this whole year."
Sklavanitis was a one-and-done wrestler at state in 2012, and that helped drive him to greatness. He attended an elite summer wrestling camp to help him become a more offensive wrestler, something that was missing from his repertoire in the past. He worked out constantly, be it at school or at a flower shop converted into a weight room, complete with two wrestling mats for practicing, in downtown Oregon.
"I'd go down there 5 days a week during the summer and sometimes on the weekend," Sklavanitis said. "I definitely put in the work to make this happen."
Path to gold
ChampionshIp: Defeated Zach Abney (Pittsfield) 4-1
Semifinal: Defeated Sean Liaromatis (Wilmington) 5-3, OT
Quarterfinal: Defeated Austin Upton (St. Joseph-Ogden) 8-5
First round: Pinned Kevin McNalley (Grant Park) 1:14