Philomath High School qualified 10 wrestlers for this week’s Class 4A state tournament in Portland out of Saturday’s Special District 2 Tournament at Cascade.
Warriors moving on to state include freshman Porter Compton (138), sophomore River Sandstrom (106), senior Caleb Blackburn (120), freshman Riley Barrett (126), freshman Lake Mulberry (220), senior Ben Hernandez (113), junior Gradin Fairbanks (152), senior David Griffith (170), freshman Lukas Hernandez (126) and senior Chase Ringwald (132).
In the team race, Sweet Home took first place with 448.5 points, followed by Cascade (353), Philomath (275), Stayton (141), North Marion (101.5), Junction City (91), Cottage Grove (86.5) and Newport (82).
Compton (33-11 record) continued his late-season surge with two hard-fought decisions along with a major decision in the championship match to take first place at 138 pounds. Compton had wins of 8-4 over a North Marion opponent and 8-5 over a Sweet Home opponent to advance to the finale. There, he defeated Cascade’s Tayton Miller with an 8-0 decision.
“He continues to get better and better,” PHS coach Troy Woosley said. “At the start of the year, his weakness was being on his feet and now it’s a strength. Most of the time when he wins, it’s just on takedowns. It doesn’t matter, it seems like the more physical the kid, the better.”
Sandstrom at 106 posted wins on a pin, forfeit and major decision to roll into the championship bout against Sweet Home’s Tytus Hardee. Sandstrom (29-10) lost on a pin in 4:57 to settle for runner-up.
“We wrestled good enough to win it but I’m sure we’ll see that kid again at state,” Woosley said. “We’re right there where we need to be … it’ll be interesting to see.”
Blackburn (29-3) reached the championship match at 120 after three straight first-period pins in the earlier rounds. He advanced out of the semifinals with a fall in just 39 seconds. But in the finale, Stayton’s Conrad Baxter was able to win on a 3-2 decision. Blackburn’s wrestling weight of 122 was a first.
“He did fine but he kinda almost seemed happy to be there in the finals instead of taking the opportunity,” Woosley said. “He kinda went away from his normal offense and just needed one more takedown (vs. Baxter). He had beaten that kid earlier in the year.”
Barrett (36-3) defeated his first three opponents at 126 on first-period pins. In the semifinals, he won on a fall in 1:47 over Cascade’s Brody Copple. In the championship match, Stayton’s Leonardo Michel pulled off a pin in 1:02.
“He just got caught by another super freshman … the kid’s good, real good,” Woosley said. “The kid just dropped (to 126) out of the blue and it was like no one else was expecting him to drop when he did for regionals; he didn’t wrestle there all year.”
Mulberry (9-9) placed runner-up at 220 with an exceptional performance that included a major decision, pin and decision in his first three matches. Mulberry’s appearance in the semifinals ended with an 8-2 victory over Sweet Home’s Dylan Sharp. In the finals, another Sweet Home wrestler, Colton Bennett, was able to pull out a 5-1 decision over Mulberry.
“He’s really balanced for a big guy on his feet and he’s hard to take down, hard to move around,” Woosley said. “He has that natural balance that you can’t coach.”
Mulberry has seen limited time this season but Woosley expects big things from him in the future. Said Woosley, “I’d be shocked if he doesn’t win some matches at state just because he’s a gamer. He’s very competitive.”
Wrestling at 113, Ben Hernandez (34-3) won a quick pin in the quarterfinals but stumbled in the semifinals with a 4-2 loss to Sweet Home’s Jayce Miller. Hernandez came back to win on pins in the consolation semis and in the third-place match.
Woosley said Hernandez was battling through strength issues at the tournament with the weight drop to 113 having more of an impact on him than in the past. But he expects Hernandez will be seeded at state because he’s a past state placewinner.
Fairbanks (29-16) at 152 won three of his four matches and placed third overall. After a win in the quarterfinals, Fairbanks lost to a Sweet Home opponent in the semis. But he came back to win matches over foes from Cascade in the consolation semifinals and Newport in the third-place match. His state-qualifying victory was a pin in 3:45 over the Cubs’ Christopher Jacobson.
“We dominated the Junction City kid (in the quarterfinals) and then had a state stud in the semis, but came back and just dominated (in the third-place match),” Woosley said. “He gets on an offensive tear and he’s hard to beat.”
Griffith (20-8) battled back after an early loss to end up with the third-place medal and a trip north. Griffith lost to a Sweet Home opponent in the quarterfinals but responded with three straight pins. In the consolation bracket, he beat opponents from Junction City and Cascade to reach the third-place match against North Marion’s Antonio Guarnieri. There, Griffith won with a pin in 3:09.
“As the true warrior that he is, he just battled back and dominated,” Woosley said. “He just pushed everybody to the limit and didn’t really have a close match. On paper, he was a 3 seed and that’s what he took but we’re going to get more out of him.”
Lukas Hernandez, a wrestler who spent much of the first part of the season on the junior varsity roster, will compete at state in the 126-pound division. Hernandez (18-10) posted wins over a pair of Sweet Home wrestlers, including the No. 4 seed, to put himself in position to qualify. After a loss to Cascade’s Copple in the third-place match, he dropped into a state-qualifying match for fourth but was automatically declared the winner because he had already defeated the same opponent earlier in the day.
Woosley said Hernandez continues to surprise and if he’s involved in a match with a lot of rolling around on the mat, he usually wins those matches.
“He’s just got a unique style that’s different,” Woosley said. “With his length and legs, he gets out of a lot of trouble and he uses it for offense, too.”
At 132, Ringwald (28-9) fought through wrestle-backs to place fourth for a trip to Portland. Ringwald had wins over Newport and North Marion opponents and eventually landed in a third-place match against Cottage Grove’s Carter Bengtson. After a tough loss on a 5-3 decision, he regrouped to pin Stayton’s Liam Ritchie in 22 seconds in a state-qualifying fourth-place bout.
“He did have a fight on his hands … he had to get over his early defeat to come back and win. He dominated in the wrestle-back,” Woosley said. “He lost a couple of 1- and 2-point matches … we abandoned all of our offense and he relied more on his defense and sometimes that doesn’t work.”
The Sunday morning match for state
In an unusual twist, Philomath junior Jacob Hamlet had to wrestle on Sunday morning against Cottage Grove’s Daniel Hernandez to determine who would advance to the state tournament. The extra bout took place in the PHS wrestling room.
Hamlet, who was wrestling at 220, opened the tournament with a win on an 8-2 decision before stumbling in the quarterfinals on a 4-2 loss. He battled in wrestle-backs to win matches over opponents from Cottage Grove and Cascade but lost to a Sweet Home foe in the consolation semifinals. Hamlet dropped into a fifth-place match against North Marion’s Jesus Tarula and won with a pin in 55 seconds.
Hamlet had reached the maximum of six matches in a day on Saturday so the state-qualifying fourth-place match against Hernandez was pushed off until Sunday. The two coaches had considered meeting at Sweet Home as a neutral site but decided to just stage the qualifying match at Philomath with an easy availability of officials.
Woosley said that in his 30-plus years in the sport, he’s never seen anything like the situation that materialized Sunday morning.
“Usually it’s not an issue because districts or regionals are two days, so you don’t have that match limit,” Woosley said. “Even though it moved to new rules with six matches (allowed) in qualifying tournaments for state, we still hit the limit.”
The OSAA last year increased the maximum number of matches allowed in a single day at a state-qualifying tournament from five to six.
The match was close throughout with no score after the first period and Hamlet leading 3-1 after the second period. In the third, Hernandez scored on an escape to get within 3-2 but Hamlet executed a reversal to go up by three points. Hernandez countered with his own reversal with about 1:20 remaining and then Hamlet picked up an escape point for a 6-4 lead. In the final 30 seconds, Hernandez got Hamlet in a takedown while barely remaining in-bounds. He was able to keep him down long enough for a three-point nearfall as time expired. Hamlet had to settle for fifth.
Also just missing qualifying with fifth-place finishes were sophomore JJ Lewis at 160, junior Jared Gerding at 182 and sophomore Brady Russell at 195. Other PHS wrestlers winning at least one match were sophomore Lucas Bourguois (138), sophomore Ryder Zitlau (145) and freshman Ben McGovern (195).
The Class 4A, 3A and 2A/1A portions of the state tournament will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum and run into the late evening hours. The 4A/3A/2A/1A girls tournament will also be a part of the day’s action. Then on Friday, matches for 4A and lower will begin at 5:30 p.m. and run at least until 10:30 p.m., according to the schedule.
“I don’t like the schedule at all — it’s too much wrestling on Thursday and then waiting on Friday is tough on kids making weight,” Woosley said, adding that the team will head up on Wednesday to prepare for the next morning but will then come home after Thursday’s matches because of that late start on Friday.
The OSAA is expected to release tournament brackets by Sunday night.