Philomath High freshman Riley Barrett remained unbeaten this season while taking first place at the Benton County Championships on Wednesday at 132 pounds. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath freshman Riley Barrett doesn’t hesitate when asked about the goal for his first season of high school wrestling.

“Win state.”

Barrett remained unbeaten this season with his latest tournament title coming in Wednesday’s Benton County Championships. He’s been dominating opponents with a 10-0 record that includes eight first-period pins and two major decisions.

As one could easily surmise, making the transition from club to high school wrestling has not been an issue.

“It’s almost like the same competition,” he said. “Just older guys — the seniors, juniors.”

Asked to describe himself in competition, Barrett said he’s a “fun wrestler, fun to watch, a lot of points, a lot of fast pins, fast pace.”

Barrett was named wrestler of the meet for the lower weights.

“I like that hard work actually pays off — the work that you put into it … just the grit,” he added.

Wrestling at 132 pounds, Barrett had pins in 33 seconds, 27 seconds and in the finals, 1 minute, 57 seconds over Anders Johnson of Corvallis.

No doubt, head coach Troy Woosley had high hopes for Barrett heading into the season and the youngster hasn’t disappointed. His toughest challenges lie ahead.

“I was expecting a little more competition down in Grants Pass and he just kinda went through the motions,” Woosley said after Wednesday’s tournament, which was hosted by PHS. “There’s plenty in our league eventually coming up for him, including the defending state champion in Sweet Home so we’re going to see where all that shakes out.”

La Grande also has a couple of wrestlers that have won state titles in the mix.

“We’ll play with the weights — we’re loaded from 120 to 138 so we’ve got options to go wherever we want there,” Woosley said. “But we had a lot of good, young kids performing today as well.”

In addition to Barrett, freshman Porter Compton and sophomores JJ Lewis and River Sandstrom won their weight divisions at the meet, which has showcased the county’s wrestling squads since the 1999-2000 season. Seniors Ben Hernandez and Caleb Blackburn were victorious as well.

Sophomore River Sandstrom took first place at 106 pounds. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“It was a small tournament but it was big that we had as many (champions) as we had because of all of the sickness going around,” Woosley said. “We had 21, I think, of our 26 wrestlers so that was good … We got three or four kids back from being sick last week.”

Hernandez had one of the day’s more thrilling matches at 120 pounds. Down 5-4 late in the third period, he moved Crescent Valley’s Dareyan Egner onto his back for a three-point nearfall and a 7-5 win.

“They wrestle in club together and know each other and they’ve battled there,” Woosley said. “That’s the good thing about Benton County Championships — sometimes you’re wrestling your buddies and that’s what makes it fun.”

Hernandez won his first three matches on first-period pins.

Blackburn had an impressive run at 126 pounds with three pins and a major decision. Blackburn’s season is off to a positive start with an 11-1 record and two tournament titles.

Senior Caleb Blackburn was the champion for PHS at 126 pounds. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

At 106 pounds, Sandstrom returned to the mat after missing time with illness for a first-place performance. Competing in a division light on numbers, Sandstrom took care of his two opponents on pins in 1:11 and 5:30.

Lewis at 170 also had just two matches with both of those victories by fall in 3:10 and 4:45. Compton wrestled four times with two pins, a major decision and a 5-1 result over senior teammate Chase Ringwald.

“I love the fact that we had good discipline and respect today from our whole team, which is huge in a local tournament,” Woosley said. “The younger kids wrestled really well today and our upperclassmen did what they’re supposed to do.”

The tournament featured both a traditional bracket with championship and consolation matches as well as a round-robin format, depending on the weight division — a system Woosley prefers.

“It’s all about getting kids matches here in this tournament,” he said. “That’s the way we started this back in 2000 … so that’s a good thing. It’s always been that way.”

Warriors freshman Porter Compton, right, won the 138-pound division. Here, he’s going up against senior teammate Chase Ringwald. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The tournament added an extra nonscoring weight division (126-B) and Philomath had the top wrestler there as well with freshman Lukas Hernandez taking care of four opponents on a technical fall and three pins.

Second-place finishes were turned in by Ringwald (138), junior Gradin Fairbanks (160), sophomore Brady Russell (195) and junior Jacob Hamlet (285). Finishing in third were freshmen Liam Bennett (145) and Ben McGovern (220). Sophomore Cameron McConnell was third in the 126-B division.

For the girls, junior Ellie Morton wrestled twice and lost against the same opponent at 113 and junior Emmalyne Robinson defeated an opponent in an exhibition match. 

Among those still missing from the lineup is senior David Griffith, who suffered a shoulder injury when he was slammed to the mat in the season-opening tournament at Cascade. Woosley anticipates Griffith returning for the team’s next meet in January.

Sophomore JJ Lewis was all smiles after winning the 170-pound weight class. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath has now won seven titles in the tournament’s 23-year history (it was canceled in 2020). Corvallis leads with 10 but has won just twice since the 2006-07 season.

The tournament in past years has rotated among the schools but Woosley said there have been discussions about Philomath hosting it permanently. The event has been staged at PHS for the past two seasons now.

Philomath’s wrestlers take a break from competition until the King of the Hill tournament at Pleasant Hill on Jan. 7.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.