Ben Hernandez
Ben Hernandez pinned all three of his opponents for first place at 120 pounds in Friday’s Tod Surmon/Mid-Valley Classic. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Hernandez, Niemann finish 1st; Pindell, Griffith, Sandstrom, Morton, Mussati 2nd

The Philomath High School wrestling team settled for second behind a 6A school on Friday at the 15-school Tod Surmon/Mid-Valley Classic with two champions and three runners-up highlighting the individual results.

Warriors junior Ben Hernandez and senior Blake Niemann continued their winning ways with first-place showings while freshman River Sandstrom, junior David Griffith and senior Blaise Pindell came up short in their championship bouts.

In the varsity girls tournament, sophomore Ellie Morton and junior Taylor Mussati both had runner-up finishes in their weight divisions.

Pindell had his second noteworthy match of the week by facing Junction City’s Emmett Henderson, who has become a rival on the mat for the Philomath standout, in the 170-pound finale. In their latest battle, Henderson was able to hand Pindell his first loss of the season in “sudden victory” time. The pair had finished the three regulation periods tied, 6-6. Under sudden victory overtime rules, both athletes begin in the neutral position and the first to score is declared the winner.

The two could meet again next week with the Warriors and Tigers scheduled for a Feb. 3 dual in the PHS gym.

Sandy won the meet in the South Albany High gym with 144 points to edge the Warriors’ 140. Mountainside, another 6A school, was third with 133 points. The Philomath squad was by far the top 4A school with Junction City ending up eighth with 80.5 points.

Philomath sophomore Ellie Morton won three of four matches at Friday’s girls tournament in Albany. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Hernandez, who has made a habit of pinning opponents within the first minute of his matches, defeated three opponents to win the 120 division. Hernandez took down his first foes in 45 and 42 seconds, respectively, and then pinned Sandy’s Kayden Keller in the championship bout in 2:40.

Niemann also beat three opponents with a first-round pin followed by two decisions. In the semifinals, Niemann beat South Albany’s Diego Perez-Montes in a close one, 6-4. That advanced Niemann into the 126-pound finale where he outdueled Sandy’s Gage Culp, 7-1.

Griffith, who is off to a late start this season because of an injury, defeated three of four opponents for second at 160 pounds. Griffith won his first three matches on pins, the longest going 2:31 and the others ending in the first period. In the championship bout, Junction City’s Carson Henderson scored points quickly for a technical fall win in 3:53.

Sandstrom, the team’s 106-pounder, advanced past his first opponent on a medical forfeit and then had to lose by injury default in the championship match against Mountainside’s Brody Lybarger.

Junior Chase Ringwald moved up to 132 pounds for this tournament and he placed fourth. Ringwald defeated his first two opponents on a second-period pin and nine-point major decision. After losing to a West Albany wrestler in the semifinals, Ringwald went into a third-place match where he lost a tough 7-5 decision to Southridge’s Collin Penuel.

Two other PHS wrestlers had sixth-place finishes. Sophomores Gradin Fairbanks at 138 and Jacob Hamlet at 220 made it to fifth-place matches but came up short. Fairbanks had a consolation-round win over a Sisters wrestler on an 8-4 decision. Hamlet split four matches with victories over Southridge and Corvallis opponents on first-round pins.

Ty Olsen, who was wrestling at 145, had a win in the tournament with a 13-10 decision over a Sandy opponent.

Morton’s second-place finish in the girls tournament included three wins — all on pins over opponents from Sheldon, Churchill and Central. Mussati had two matches in her second-place showing and had a victory over a South Albany wrestler.

The girls tournament was not bracketed but organized in a round-robin format. The two Warriors athletes scored enough points to tie for ninth place. North Eugene won the tournament.

In the boys junior varsity tournament, Philomath freshman Walker Westbrook took first place with three straight pins at 132.

Philomath’s next action is scheduled for Tuesday on the home mat for a Special District 2 Duals event. Joining the Warriors in the PHS gym at 5 p.m. will be Newport, Siuslaw and Sweet Home.

Tod Surmon/Mid-Valley Classic
Friday, Jan. 28, at South Albany HS