Choi believes he had his best performance ever in the team’s final home appearance this season
Getting ready for the final match of the evening on Thursday against Junction City’s Hunter Davis, Philomath High School senior Joseph Choi patiently waited for his opportunity to get back on the mat.
While Warriors sophomore Jacob Hamlet competed in a 215-pound bout, Choi alternated between watching his teammate and staying in motion to keep loose for his upcoming battle. When the time came, he tore off his sweatshirt and took his position at the mat’s center circle. Choi exhibited a somewhat intimidating appearance with no hint of a smile and body language that illustrated a businesslike approach to the 285-pound match.
When it was all over a mere 52 seconds later with Choi winning on a pin, he cracked a smile while glancing over at his cheering teammates. The same thing happened earlier in a 30-second pin over Diego Legorreta of Corvallis.
“This is probably the best performance I’ve had in my four years of wrestling,” Choi said. “I thought I wasn’t going to be able to wrestle tonight but thankfully my knee healed up soon enough for me to be able to wrestle.”
After pausing for a moment, Choi then added, “It feels good. It’s been a while since I wrestled.”
The performance will be memorable for another reason because it occurred on senior night. Choi was one of three seniors taking the home mat for the final time — the others being Blake Niemann and Blaise Pindell.
Philomath High coach Troy Woosley took note of Choi’s evening.
“He’s pretty confident, he’s aggressive,” he said, “and when a heavyweight’s doing that, good things usually happen.”
Choi’s season has been disrupted a couple of times with a left knee injury.
“This is the first time I’ve had issues with injuries,” Choi said. “But I think I’m wrestling just as good as I was before I got the injury, so I’m not worried about it much right now.”
Choi wears a brace on the knee, which he hurt for the first time while overextending a tendon during an early season competition at Grants Pass. Later in the season at Santiam Christian, Choi hurt another tendon in the same knee.
Choi feels a wave of confidence heading into the district meet, which is currently scheduled for Feb. 12 in Florence.
“I’ll do my best to take first and I think I will take first,” Choi said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in my weight that can stop me from getting first.”
The spotlight match of the evening involved Pindell and Junction City senior Emmett Henderson, who just beat Pindell last week in overtime at the Tod Surmon/Mid-Valley Classic. Both wrestlers are among the best in the state at 170 pounds.
In the final 30 seconds of the match, Pindell scored two points to pull to within 6-5 but Henderson regained control and ended up with an 8-5 decision.
“I thought we were prepared with Blaise tonight and we got beat on the same thing we got beat on this last weekend so it’s back to the drawing board and fine-tune a few things to get better there,” Woosley said.
Pindell’s other bout ended on a pin in 1:05 over Corvallis’s Matthew Trulson.
Niemann at 126 recorded his two latest victories on pins in appearances against David Sang of Corvallis (pin in 1:14) and Trevin Truesdell of Junction City (pin in 3:29).
“You drop back and reflect and how is this group different from the others and they’re all different,” Woosley said when asked about senior night. “This group is just real role model citizens, too, they’re going to succeed in life no matter what they choose to do.”
Beyond those performances by the seniors, there were plenty of other successful outcomes up and down the lineup. Junior Ben Hernandez at 120 defeated both of his opponents with pins in less than a minute. Junior Ty Olsen took down his Corvallis opponent on a pin in 91 seconds and later beat his Junction City opponent on a 13-7 decision.
Junior Chase Ringwald at 132 and sophomore Gradin Fairbanks at 138 had on-the-mat victories in the Corvallis dual. Neither wrestled against the Tigers with wins in their weight divisions on forfeits. Junior David Griffith (160) and Hamlet (215) had victories against their Corvallis counterparts. Griffith had the fastest pin of the night in 11 seconds.
In the team totals, Philomath beat Corvallis 51-12 and Junction City 39-15.
Woosley hadn’t been too thrilled about how things turned out just two days earlier — Sweet Home had something to do with that but the Warriors also seemed to have a lack of effort and energy.
“I think we came out passionately as a team tonight,” Woosley said. “I think we’re there. I like the fact that we have a week off now to fine-tune a few things and get healthy.”
Philomath does have some injuries to work through. Freshman River Sandstrom and junior Caleb Blackburn both missed Thursday’s action because of injuries — both will be back for districts — and a few others could just use the break.
On another note, Philomath High’s junior varsity wrestlers continue to do well and won all eight matches — seven vs. Corvallis and one vs. Junction City. In fact, seven of the eight ended on first-period pins. (See full results below).
Thursday, Feb. 3, at Philomath HS