PHS freshman Riley Barrett is unbeaten so far this wrestling season. He’ll take a 10-0 record into this weekend’s King of the Hill Invitational at Pleasant Hill. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Story Updated

A previous version of this story included inaccurate information based on the PHS swim teams' published schedules. The story has been updated with the latest information.

Fifteen Philomath High wrestlers have winning records as the Warriors get ready for Saturday’s King of the Hill Invitational at Pleasant Hill. Not all of those wrestlers have competed at the varsity level but it’s an indication of the program’s talent up and down the lineup.

Freshman Riley Barrett remains as the lone unbeaten in the PHS lineup with a 10-0 record. Barrett has seen action both at 132 and 126 and he’s won three straight tournaments — the Warrior Classic, Grants Pass Winter Kickoff and the Benton County Championships. Barrett, who has eight pins and two major decisions, missed the season opener because of illness.

Senior Caleb Blackburn, who wrestles at 126, has an 11-1 record with eight pins and a technical fall. He won both the Warrior Classic and Benton County Championships.

At 120 pounds, senior Ben Hernandez has been another top performer for the Warriors with a 12-2 record and two tournament titles (Warrior Classic and Benton County Championships). Ten of his 12 wins have come on pins.

Senior David Griffith has wrestled only four matches this season and three of those were wins. He is among the wrestlers entered in this weekend’s tournament so it appears he’ll be back on the mat. Griffith, a 182-pounder, hasn’t wrestled since suffering an injury in the season-opening Perry Burlison Classic.

Freshman heavyweight Lake Mulberry has also been sidelined with his competition limited to three matches so far this season. Those came in the Benton County Championships and Mulberry won all three on pins for first place.

Freshman Lukas Hernandez’s record stands at 9-1 — most of those coming in JV-level matches. He has seven pins and a technical fall for his wins with the majority of his bouts at 126.

Others with winning records include senior Chase Ringwald (11-4), freshman Porter Compton (10-6), junior Gradin Fairbanks (9-5), freshman Ben McGovern (7-4), junior Jacob Hamlet (7-4), sophomore River Sandstrom (4-2), sophomore Ryder Zitlau (6-4), junior Jonathan Doig (3-2) and sophomore Cameron McConnell (6-5).

Among the girls, junior Ellie Morton has a winning record at 3-2.

PHS senior Chad Russell glances at a couple of fans at last week’s tournament in Ketchikan, Alaska. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath boys, girls ranked

The Philomath boys, fresh off an appearance in the championship game of the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic in Alaska, remained ranked No. 1 in the OSAAtoday coaches poll, which was released on Tuesday. The Warriors received 13 of the 14 first-place votes (one went to No. 3 Baker). Philomath has an overall record of 9-1 and before falling to Anchorage Dimon, was the last unbeaten team in Oregon’s 4A (of course, the Warriors are still undefeated against Oregon opponents).

The Warriors are also No. 1 in the OSAA rankings with Junction City at No. 2 and Cascade at No. 3. Philomath has defeated Junction City twice this season with an average margin of victory of 16.5 points.

The girls are ranked No. 10 (tied with Crook County) in the coaches poll. Philomath has been through a few challenges this season but had a lot of bright spots in last week’s tournament in Alaska — including in the 42-40 overtime loss to the host school, Ketchikan.

Philomath’s girls are also No. 10 in the OSAA rankings.

Both the boys and girls will resume their seasons on Jan. 10 with a trip to Estacada. Another road game? That’s right, the Warriors haven’t played in the home gymnasium since the season openers back on Dec. 3. That’s a 41-day stretch competing on basketball courts at other schools — not a fun stretch for the players, coaches or parents who don’t want to miss any games.

By the time the season ends, Philomath will have had seven home games and 15 on the road.

Philomath’s Allison Neelands won the 500-yard freestyle in meets that occurred on Dec. 29 and Jan. 4. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Swim teams compete in 2 meets

A couple of weeks ago in this column, I wrote how Philomath High’s swim teams were on a break until Jan. 10. This week, I learned that the Warriors competed on Dec. 29 for a meet that had not appeared on the schedule and on Wednesday for another competition that was rescheduled from a Dec. 13 cancellation (neither meet was listed on the team’s schedule nor included in the PHS calendar listings).

In the Dec. 29 meet, the Philomath boys were third out of the four teams competing behind Molalla and Sweet Home and ahead of Blanchet Catholic.

Top three placewinners for the boys included Carrson Hirte in the 100-yard backstroke (first, 59.68) and 100 freestyle (second, 52.49), Kellen Houchin in the 100 butterfly (second, 1:10.03) and 100 breaststroke (second, 1:13.65), the 200 medley relay (third, 2:05.16) with Cameron McLennan, Henry Katsikis, Houchin and Hirte, and the 400 freestyle relay (third, 4:31.16) with Katsikis, Emmitt Gaskey, Evan Hernandez and Hirte.

The girls, meanwhile, were third out of the five schools — behind Sweet Home and Molalla and ahead of Stayton and Blanchet.

PHS swimmers placing among the top three were Allison Neelands in the 500 freestyle (first, 6:37.37) and 200 freestyle (third, 2:26.00), Kyah Weeber in the 100 breaststroke (second, 1:25.97) and 200 individual medley (third, 2:50.10), and the 200 freestyle relay (third, 2:17.94) with Hannah Beck, Kateri Pindell, Vanessa Wyroslawski and Katherine Holden.

In Wednesday’s meet, Philomath’s boys and girls both defeated Junction City and Cascade. Winners for the boys included Marshall Morrison in the 200 freestyle (2:34.41) and 500 freestyle (7:17.07), Hirte in the 100 freestyle (52.28) and 100 backstroke (58.03), and Houchin in the 100 butterfly (1:08.25).

The girls’ winners from PHS were Neelands in the 50 freestyle (29.50) and 500 freestyle (6:31.41), Katherine Donovan in the 100 backstroke (1:21.13) and Weeber in the 100 breaststroke (1:26.19).

Philomath’s next meet is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 10 at home against Blanchet Catholic. The remaining regular-season schedule as shared with me Wednesday night by the coach has the Warriors on Jan. 13 at the Newport Invite, Jan. 14 in the District Sprint Meet at Albany, Jan. 20 at the Sweet Home Invite, Jan. 24 at home against Kennedy and Stayton, and Jan. 28 at Blanchet Catholic.

Sophomores Caleb Russell, left, and Hudson Raab get a few minutes on the floor with the varsity team in Alaska. Both were among those playing with the JV at Junction City on Tuesday. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

JV basketball teams in action

While the varsity squads recovered from the trip to Alaska — the team got home a day later than expected because of a Dec. 31 flight that had been canceled — the junior varsity kids got in some court time at Junction City.

The JV boys defeated the Tigers, 49-38, in a game that the Warriors trailed at halftime. Philomath scored 18 points in each of the third and fourth quarters to end up with the double-digit victory. Caleb Russell and Kash Lindsey each scored 10.

The JVII squad got out of town with a 54-51 win. The game was close throughout with Philomath leading 27-25 at halftime and 42-39 going in the final quarter. Zack Powers had a big game with 20 points, Chris Eaton finished with 14, which included 9 of 12 at the foul line, and Eli Bush scored 12. 

In the girls’ games, the JV destroyed Junction City by a count of 53-12. This game was over quick with the Warriors leading 21-4 by the end of the first quarter. Shaylee May had a game-high 14 points.

Philomath’s JVII also played and lost to Junction City, 31-12. After trailing just 8-5 at halftime, the Warriors struggled in the third and fell into a hole as the Tigers went on a 13-4 run. Khali Toombs was the team’s top scorer with four points.

Philomath News on

The Philomath News this week was added to the OSAA’s “Around the State” feature on its website’s home page — which is an updated scrollable list of sports stories published around the state.

This is good for us because it gives Philomath News more exposure to folks outside of our community. It’s also good for Philomath High athletics because they’re also getting that exposure through the stories I’m writing. And it’s good for Class 4A fans because it fills some gaps in sports reporting.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at

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.