Oakland sophomore wrestler Kaleb Oliver earned another accolade last week.
Oliver, who went 42-0 on the season with 36 pins and won the Class 2A/1A 132-pound state championship in February, was voted the Wrestler of the Year for his classification by the Oregon Wrestling Forum.
The OWF, which has provided online rankings statewide since 2003, is operated by Richard Rockwell, a head coach at Riverside High School.
A panel of 100 coaches across the state voted on the wrestlers of the year in all five boys’ classifications as well as the girls’ division.
Oliver edged out Culver senior 145-pounder Lane Downing by a vote of 45-44 for the top honor in the 2A/1A division. It was the closest vote of any of the six classifications.
“It’s really exciting,” Oliver said Tuesday night. “It just makes you realize that all of the hard work paid off.
“Just the fact of coming here (from Colorado) and how I didn’t even place at state last year, it’s making this all a reality.”
Oliver was widely unknown in the early portion of the season, but Oakland coach Ian Patt said it was a win over Reedsport junior Christian Solomon during a Special District 3 dual meet that opened eyes in the 2A/1A ranks.
“I didn’t even really know about Kaleb until our first tournament,” Patt said. “We saw how he did against a couple of state qualifiers and, yeah, it turned into a great year.”
“It’s pretty wild,” added senior 195-pounder Wil Powell, who placed third at the state tournament. “I didn’t really know who he was, but that first practice it was like ‘Wow. This kid is good.’
“In practice I’ve wrestled him a few times in takedown tournaments. I’m 50 pounds heavier than him, but he’s just such a natural. The first time I thought ‘Holy Cow!’ was probably the (Willie) Wilkinson (Invitational at Glide). He wasn’t going against champions or crazy wrestlers, but he just won with such ease.”
Oliver relied on his strengths as a freestyle wrestler to dominate in high school’s collegiate (or folk) style. Using leg leverage and tilting maneuvers, his matches were often over before the end of the first period. Only nine of his 42 matches advanced to the third round.
“He’s just got such a wide range of moves,” Powell said. “He’s a master of stuff way beyond what I could do.”
Oliver is just the third Douglas County wrestler to earn the OWF’s top honor, which Rockwell devised in 2005. The Wrestler of the Year is based on a points system involving several components: wins, pins, technical falls, wins over prior state placers, weighted tournament victories, and more. In that system, Oliver rolled up 425 points, second only to Neah-Kah-Nie junior 195-pounder Travis Bennett.
Former Roseburg star and four-time state champion Layne Van Anrooy earned the Class 6A award twice, sharing the award as a sophomore with David Douglas’ Osawaru Odighizuwa in 2015 and winning it outright as a senior in 2017.
Riddle’s Derrick Hargraves won the Class 2A/1A honor as a junior in 2016.
Rockwell started the award as wrestling didn’t previously have such an honor, while sports like football and basketball did.
“I started it as a way to encourage and showcase our wrestlers, and it’s all results-driven,” Rockwell said. “It’s strictly up to the coaches. The only time I’ll vote is if there is a tie.”
Roseburg sophomore Nash Singleton, who won the Class 6A 120-pound championship this past season, finished third in the WOY voting for that classification. Mountain View four-time state champion Beau Ohlson won the honor, followed in voting by Westview’s Angel Sanchez.
Other honorees included three-time state champion Gabe Vidlak of Class 3A Cascade Christian, two-time champion Parker Robinson of Class 4A La Grande, and three-timer Hunter Mode of Class 5A Crook County. Phoenix’s Emma Truex, also a four-time state champion, was voted the top girls wrestler.