MILTON-FREEWATER - Mac-Hi's Ryan Bullock was one match away from wrestling for the Oregon Class 4A state title last season when he fell in an overtime decision to eventual champion Tyler Stigall.
"It was close," senior wrestler Bullock said. "It was tied in the third round. We went out of bounds and I thought I had a take down but he (the referee) didnt award it to me, so it went into overtime. Then we got in a little scramble at the edge of the mat and ref awarded him a take down.
"It came down to a judgment call by the ref (and he judged the other way)," he said.
Since that time, Bullock has grown. And practiced. And lifted.
Bullock, who has bulked up to wrestle at the 152-pound class, up from 135 last season, competed in several elite tournaments over the summer and has continued to train in preparation for the new year.
This season, he wants it all.
"Definitely in state (he wants to win the title)," Bullock said. "I haven't done that yet. That's (goal) number one."
Bullock is 80-12 in his high school career and went 37-3 last season.
His career has not been without speed bumps, Bullock's freshman year was shortened due to a staph infection and he missed two months of his sophomore year thanks to a broken leg suffered playing football.
Despite that adversity, Bullock said he never really though about quitting and, over the years, wrestling has become a permanent part of his life.
"It's just something you just do I guess," he said.
This season, Bullock's toughest competitor for the state title may be No. 1-ranked Eleazar DeLuca of Phoenix, Ore. He's a familiar foe.
"He's (DeLuca) a two-time state champ," Bullock said. "We're pretty good friends.
"We both decided that we didn't want to be in the same weight class at state because we both deserve to be state champs," Bullock said of Deluca, who won the Class 4A championship in the 140 class twice as a sophomore and junior and was offered a scholarship to wrestle at Arizona State this year. "So one of us will go 145 and one of us will go at 152."
Bullock is ranked No. 3 at 152 this season.
Although he has received some attention from college wrestling programs, even attending a camp at Nebraska over the summer, Bullock has not decided whether he wants to wrestle at the college level.
His father, Lance, said Bullock did not want to wrestle in college unless he was offered a scholarship.
"Ryan decided that if he's going to wrestle in college, he wants his tuition paid for because he doesn't want to have to worry about work," Lance Bullock said. "He's got school and wrestling, so if he's going to wrestle he doesn't want to have to worry about making money."
Bullock said he had received interest from several schools, but topping his list was Boise State, Montana State and Oregon State.
Not a slouch in the class room either, Bullock carries a 3.8 GPA and is interested in a medical degree out of college.
So what does Bullock do when he's not wrestling?
Other than school of course, he spends his time lifting weights, running and hunting.
"I lift all year," Bullock said. "Over the summer I worked for my dad on the farm and in the preseason I run almost every day.
"I run the hill in front of my house," Bullock, who lives down the Walla Walla river road and also runs on Bolus Hill, said. "It's really steep (Bolus). Especially in the preseason and fall I'm dying."
"He likes to hunt, that's about what he does if he's not wrestling or weight lifting," Lance Bullock said. "When he got to high school he kind of decided that wrestling was his sport. His success made him interested in it."
Bullock found success at several national tournaments as well. He placed third at a tournament in Reno, Nev. and wrestled at the larger Flowrestling FloNationals in April.
Mac-Hi wrestling coach Beau Chester said Bullock was not a vocal leader, but instead he leads by example.
"Every year it's his (Bullock's) goal to be state champion," Chester said. "It's his last year (at Mac-Hi), and it's obvious he deserves a state championship.
"He won't be the most vocal kid in the world," Chester said, "but everybody kind of just looks up at him because he's such a good wrestler. He almost puts too much pressure on himself, but he's talented enough to handle it."
Bullock's strength as a wrestler stems from his experience.
"Just technically, he's so strong and fast." Chester said. "No matter what situation he gets himself into, he always gets himself out of it.
"He probably has more matches under his belt than the whole team combined, that's the kind of experience he's got," Chester said.