PHS coach Troy Woosley, seen here coaching at the Warrior Classic with former wrestler Blake Niemann, hasn't had a full varsity lineup with illnesses and injuries. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Warrior Watch is Brad Fuqua’s midweek look at Philomath High athletics with his takes on the school’s sports teams.

Philomath High School’s wrestling team will host a major event on the home mats for the second time this season with Wednesday’s Benton County Championships.

Illnesses and injuries have limited Philomath’s options with the varsity lineup so far this season, so we’ll see what Coach Troy Woosley has available to him for this home appearance. Joining the Warriors will be wrestlers from Alsea, Corvallis, Crescent Valley, Monroe and Santiam Christian.

The tournament is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

For Philomath, keep an eye on senior Ben Hernandez (8-2 record), senior Caleb Blackburn (7-1), freshman Riley Barrett (7-0), senior Chase Ringwald (8-3), senior David Griffith (3-1) and freshman Lake Mulberry (3-0) as wrestlers who could be in the hunt for first place.

Griffith’s status is questionable heading into the tournament with his absence from competition since the season-opening Perry Burlison Classic. Mulberry looked good in the Warrior Classic but didn’t compete last weekend. Blackburn also hasn’t wrestled since the Philomath meet on Dec. 9.

Heading into the season, Woosley was excited about what Barrett brings to the mat and so far the youngster has produced with a perfect record. Barrett has a 3-0 record at 132 pounds and 4-0 at 126 pounds, including a decision by major victory in last weekend’s Grant Pass tournament.

Hernandez has seen some tough competition early this season with a couple of losses on the record but I’m sure he would tell you that he’s learned from the experiences and has confidence moving forward. Hernandez has been wrestling at 120 and could be going down to 113 next month.

Ringwald has caught my attention with his early-season results. At Grants Pass in the 132 weight class, the PHS senior reached the championship bout where he lost to an undefeated Eagle Point wrestler.

Junior Gradin Fairbanks (7-4) is another wrestler that I’ve noticed doing some good things this season. Fairbanks won his third-place matches at both the Warrior Classic and Grants Pass tournaments. Sophomore River Sandstrom (2-2) hasn’t competed since Perry Burlison but should be in the mix as a top competitor at 106 this season.

Others with some good wins early on include junior Jared Gerding (3-1), sophomore Brady Russell (5-3), junior Jacob Hamlet (5-3) and freshmen Ben McGovern (7-2) and Porter Compton (6-6).

So far for the girls, junior Ellie Morton has been the most consistent on the mat with a 3-2 record. Morton competes at 105 and last weekend competed in the championship match.

The PHS boys basketball team at the Charleston Marine Life Center. (Photo provided by Blake Ecker)

Basketball teams headed north

The boys and girls basketball teams will take a break from competition over Christmas before piling into vans for Seattle and then onto a plane for Ketchikan, Alaska. The Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic has been a tradition for the boys basketball program for 20 years but will be a new experience for the girls.

The boys are playing very good basketball right now and putting up a good argument as to why they should be ranked No. 1. Philomath does hold down the top spot in the OSAA rankings but to be honest, I’m always a little wary of those rankings early in the season because of a small sample size of games played (which can throw off computer models).

Still, it’s hard not to place Philomath at No. 1 whether you’re a computer or a group of coaches. In the latest OSAAtoday coaches poll published this week, the Warriors did take over the No. 1 spot from Cascade. At the time of the poll, the Cougars were unbeaten at 5-0 but since then, the team has lost a couple of games in the Capitol City Classic — 76-46 to a prep school out of Bellflower, California, and 57-39 to a 5A Wilsonville squad that’s 6-1. Cascade is scheduled to play Wednesday against a Texas team Wednesday afternoon.

By the way, senior Cole Beardsley was named the MVP of the South Coast Tournament. He averaged 17.3 points per game in Philomath’s three wins.

The girls have experienced some ups and downs and just like the wrestling team, has seen impacts from athletes missing competition because of injuries and illness. The team has played a tough schedule and is sitting at 3-4 for a record but is still ranked in the coaches’ poll at No. 9. The Warriors are No. 13 in the OSAA rankings.

This team should be able to compete with any other team in 4A when at full strength. Seniors Hailie Couture and Mia Bennett are both working through injuries and we’ll have to wait and see when they’re able to get back on the court. The team has seen struggles on the offensive end and those two are important players in the attack — Couture with her shooting and Bennett with her ball movement.

Swimming now on a break

Philomath High’s swim teams started the season off with a flurry of duals and tri-meets but are now on a break until Jan. 10 when the Warriors host another event. The schedule shows Blanchet Catholic and Stayton joining Philomath on that afternoon at Clemens Community Pool.

Philomath has already hosted three home swim meets this season — and a fourth was canceled because of a sewer problem early last week.

One thing about the schedule that I’ve noticed is a lack of any bigger meets until districts — they appear to be all duals, tri-meets or quads. For example, the Clemens Invite that we’ve seen in past years apparently is no longer staged and I’m not sure if the team is headed to the Albany sprint meet or not. The OSAA site doesn’t list it on Philomath’s schedule but it did appear on a schedule that the head coach shared with me before the season started. (I’ll check in with the athletic office).

As for the athletes, there have been some good moments for both squads. Senior Carrson Hirte has grabbed most of the headlines for his early season success. Hirte broke the school record in the 100 breaststroke in the home pool on Dec. 15.

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.