In the world of high school wrestling there are certain steps one has to take to become a state champion.
In truth, the regular season matters little, other than to set a benchmark that a wrestler can use to gauge his or her own advancement as moves are learned, practiced and perfected.
The matches that matter are the ones that come three weeks prior to the culmination of a season. They are the ones that every wrestler hopes they are ready for and works their hardest to be perfect at: the district championships, the regional championships and the state championships.
Of the nine BHHS wrestlers who made it past the first hurdle andndash; the Far West League district championships andndash; three completed the second step on the path to becoming champions by placing in the top four at the Southern Oregon Regional Wrestling Tournament on Saturday.
Seniors Cole Hannan, wrestling at 145 pounds; Ethan Williams, 170 pounds; and Johnny Feuerborn, 195 pounds, all placed in the top four spots and qualified for the state tournament.
Williams won his first regionals match against Garrett Truex of Phoenix with a 13-8 decision. He controlled the round but couldn't keep Truex on his back long enough to get a pin.
He then lost his second match to the eventual second-place finisher, Dylan Dawson of Sutherlin, in a 2-9 decision.
Williams used his loss to fuel his next match, where he defeated Aaron Wagner of North Bend by pin in 51 seconds before losing the third and fourth place match, 5-7 in overtime.
Williams' fourth-place finish marks the best he has done in four years of wrestling and the first time he has qualified for the state tournament.
"It's great," he said. "My plan was to get something better than districts for the last two years and now I've finally done it. It's great."
Feuerborn's path was very similar to Williams' with a first-round win, a second-round loss and a third-round victory, but then their paths diverge.
Feuerborn faced Sutherlin's Nic Baning in the regionals match that would decide third and fourth place. Baning had defeated Feuerborn at the district championships and Feuerborn was looking for a little restoration of his pride as the two toed the lines to begin the match.
With a score of 5-4, Feuerborn regained a little pride and took the third-place finish.
"It feels amazing," he said. "This is the highest level I've gone to state at and it's something I've always wanted to do."
Of the state-bound trio, Hannan has the most experience at the championship level with three previous trips to Memorial Coliseum in Portland for the OSAA state championships. Last year Hannan finished third and hopes to improve on that finish.
Hannan won his first match at regionals over Dylan DuPont of North Valley with a quick pin in the second period.
His second match proved to be slightly tougher as he beat Kyle Bradfield of Phoenix 8-5.
Hannan controlled the match from the beginning but was on the receiving end of a couple of stalling calls from a one-sided andndash; based on the crowd's reaction andndash; Skyline-conference referee.
Hannan's final match was his toughest as he faced Trevor Anderson of Klamath Union.
Both wrestlers had similar styles and while the score was close, it seemed that Hannan controlled the pace of the match, stopping Anderson's takedowns, keeping him from escaping and winning 6-5 to take first.
"It showed who wanted it more," Hannan said after the match. "The final seconds determined who really wanted it. We should both get some good recognition for it."
For the five other wrestlers who competed at the tournament, it was the final stop on what has been one long ride.
For freshmen Bubba Spencer and Conrad Dethlefsen, junior Adan Brambila and senior Brandon Holteen it was a short tournament as all three lost their first two matches and were out of the tournament.
For junior Tyler Marrington, it was simply a matter of a bad draw in the first round. He faced the eventual second-place finisher Ryan Clarkin of North Valley and was pinned early in the match.
He showed his resilience as he stretched his tournament appearance one match more by defeating Alex Hadix of Siuslaw 13-1, but then lost to Austin Mitchell of Douglas in a 6-12 decision.
Head Coach Dave Freeman was pleased with his wrestlers' finishes and is looking forward to the state tournament on Friday.
"It's great," he said. "We'll see what happens. We'll get some practices in this next week and then go up there and give them hell.
"Cole did great and Ethan and Johnny really hung in there. I'm proud of the kids, it was a tough tourney.
"Tyler just missed going to state," Freeman added at the end of the night. "I feel bad for him because he worked so hard."
The state wrestling tournament begins Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland.
Hannan is seeded second in his bracket and will face Joshua Long, a sophomore from Astoria in his first match.
Williams will face the number-one seed in his weight class - Tyler Howe, a senior from Cascade - in his opening match.
Feuerborn will face Phelan Lund, a junior from Ridgeview, in his first match and if he wins will most likely face the number-one seed from Sweet Home - senior Wade Paulus - in his second round.
The shortest path to a place on the medal stand requires four victories. Two losses early in the tournament will find the Bruins out for good, while a third place finish can be achieved by winning every match after the first loss.
According to Hannan, the three will keep working on their cardio this week and get ready for the competition.
"We'll keep running and get in even better shape," he said.