Blaise Pindell
Philomath High senior Blaise Pindell remained unbeaten this season by taking the 170-pound title at Saturday's Screamin' Eagle tournament at Santiam Christian. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Late start to the season doesn’t hold back Pindell, who remains unbeaten

ADAIR VILLAGE — Suffering a shoulder injury during practice before the season started, Philomath High’s Blaise Pindell was limited to watching and supporting his teammates. During the Benton County Championships in December, he helped run one of the mats.

Coming off a state title in 2020, Pindell’s senior season wasn’t supposed to start this way.


“I was definitely worried at the beginning of the season with my shoulder injury but I was running, I was staying in pretty decent shape,” Pindell said. “So once I started actually wrestling, I didn’t have too much of a struggle getting up to speed for cardio.”

Pindell wrestled his first opponents on Dec. 29 and after pinning his latest three victims at Saturday’s Santiam Christian Screamin’ Eagle, his record remains perfect at 19-0. He’s only gone the distance once with 18 pins.

“He’s given up one point this year … a Dallas kid got an escape — that’s it,” PHS coach Troy Woosley said, referring to a 7-1 win Pindell had over Dallas’s Cole Langford when he was still at 182. “(Otherwise), he hasn’t been scored on.”

Joining Pindell as a tournament champion on Saturday was Blake Niemann, the Warriors’ 126-pound senior who himself has put together a solid season. Junior Ben Hernandez, who like Pindell is a returning state champion, reached the championship match at 120 pounds but had to settle for runner-up. Freshman River Sandstrom at 106 and junior Chase Ringwald at 126 both won third-place matches and the team finished fourth in the team standings.

Philomath senior Blake Niemann executes a move on Pleasant Hill’s Eli Anderson in the semifinals at 126 pounds. Niemann went on to win the weight division. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Pindell, who wrestles at 170 pounds, knows he has a lot of work ahead of him and a state champion repeat is not a given. In fact, he’s in the mindset of always learning, always trying to advance his skills to the next level.

“I’m content at the moment but you’re always reaching for that next rung on the ladder,” Pindell said. “For me, I definitely have areas to improve.”

Pindell keeps an eye on the competition and early this season, he hasn’t had an opportunity to go up against some of the top guys, naming wrestlers from Cascade and Junction City as among the most-challenging competitors. He had hopes of going up against Oakland senior Kaleb Oliver, a three-time state champion, at the Screamin’ Eagle but that school was among those that pulled out of the event.

“He hasn’t been beaten in three years and that would’ve been a really good match and that’s one of the reasons that we came here,” Woosley said. “But next week, he has a couple of good ones, too.”

Pindell had an early challenge on his hands in the championship match against Culver’s Isaiah Toomey —  a wrestler that Woosley said could be a state champion this season — before taking control for a pin in 3:35.

A mat official raises Blaise Pindell’s hand in victory following the 170-pound championship match. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“The guy got a good shot at the beginning and I was able to defend it and counter it,” Pindell said, who made a move with his hips to regain the advantage. “As soon as he shot in, I knew in my mind, I was telling myself, I’m not going to get taken down off this even though he had a nice shot.”

At the conclusion of the tournament, Pindell was voted as Most Outstanding Wrestler.

Niemann opened the tournament with a first-period pin over La Pine’s Ricky Aaron to set up a semifinal battle with Pleasant Hill’s Eli Anderson, an opponent he had beaten on a technical fall at the King of the Hill earlier this season. This time around, Niemann again posted the victory with a 12-5 decision.

In the championship match, Niemann worked for a pin in 3:34 over Culver’s Noel Navarro.

“I was just ready to finish this tournament,” Niemann said. “This is one of my favorite tournaments in the whole state, so I was definitely ready to get the win and get that No. 1 on that podium.”

Niemann is approaching 30 wins on the season and has hopes of finishing his high school career on a high note. Last season, he placed fourth in the Class 4A tournament that was staged at Cascade High.

“I’m feeling good, feeling healthy, confident going into this final month of the season,” Niemann said. “I’m just getting everything refined and cleaned up before we head into the final part of our league schedule with the duals and then the regional and state.”

PHS junior Ben Hernandez had a first-period pin in a semifinal victory over Sam Schmidgall of Santiam Christian. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Hernandez was among those that got in four matches and he rolled through his first three opponents. In fact, Hernandez opened with a pin in just 9 seconds over a Kennedy opponent and followed with a pin in 15 seconds over a Corvallis wrestler — those representing the first- and third-fastest falls of the tournament. In the semifinals, Hernandez posted another first-period pin against Santiam Christian’s Sam Schmidgall, but he stretched it out to 1:23.

In the 120-pound championship match, La Pine’s Landyn Philpott pulled out a pin in 3:32.

PHS freshman River Sandstrom placed third at 106 pounds, defeating Creswell’s Lyosha Mitchell on an 18-12 decision. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Sandstrom dominated his first opponent with a technical fall victory before dropping a match to a Culver opponent to drop into the 106 third-place match. In his final bout, Sandstrom scored often in an 18-12 decision.

Ringwald worked for a pin in 3:35 over a Knappa opponent in his first bout before losing to a Culver opponent in the semifinals. But he regrouped in the third-place match for a 12-0 major decision over Pleasant Hill’s Anderson — the same wrestler Niemann defeated in the semis.

Philomath junior Chase Ringwald wrestles Pleasant Hill’s Eli Anderson in the third-place match at 126. Ringwald won on a 12-0 major decision. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Junior Caleb Blackburn and sophomore Jacob Hamlet both reached consolation finals in their weight divisions but came up short for fourth-place finishes.

At 132, Blackburn defeated his first two opponents on a major decision and pin. After losing to a La Pine wrestler in the semis, Blackburn battled in the finale against Corvallis’s Gavin Hale but came up short on a 10-4 decision.

PHS junior Caleb Blackburn goes up against Corvallis’ Gavin Hale in the 132-pound third-place match. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“Our lightweights had really good competition and they performed pretty well,” Woosley said. “Some of them had really good weeks of practice and didn’t have the result they wanted today, but they kinda had that ‘I’m not done wrestling yet’ so that’ll be good for the next couple of weeks.”

Hamlet, meanwhile, had a pin in 32 seconds in his first 220-pound match before falling in the semifinals to a Regis opponent and in the finals to a Dayton opponent.

Overall, Philomath competed in the meet without two of its regulars. Junior David Griffith missed the meet because of illness and senior Joseph Choi couldn’t compete past his first match after reinjuring a knee in a bout against a Sprague opponent. The Warriors also didn’t have wrestlers at a few other weights.

Philomath’s Jacob Hamlet placed fourth at 220 pounds. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

La Pine won the team title with 276 points with Culver second at 203, Dayton third at 179 and Philomath fourth at 124. Thirteen teams ended up competing.

Woosley was just glad to get the tournament in with questions about whether or not it would take place. A few teams did have to drop out and in fact, the tournament got off to a late start because of last-minute modifications that had to be made with the brackets.

“This tournament is good for us because it’s a variety. We usually don’t see the Central Oregon schools that came this year and some of the other better 3A schools around here,” Woosley said. “I thought overall, as a team with what we had, we did all right.”

Philomath coach Troy Woosley talks to junior Caleb Blackburn during a timeout in the third-place match at 132 pounds. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Woosley’s been excited about junior varsity results and those younger wrestlers did well on Saturday, citing performances by Walker Westbrook (four wins), Lucas Bourguois (three wins) and JJ Lewis (three wins). The PHS girls also competed with Woosley mentioning Taylor Mussati posting a couple of wins.

Woosley said the Screamin’ Eagle “is another good tournament that sets us up for the rest of the year with our regional duals.”

Philomath is scheduled to wrestle on Wednesday at Elmira before a major tournament on Friday — the Mid-Valley Classic in Albany.

“That one got doubled in size, by the way, there’s like 16 schools and they’re all big,” Woosley said, adding that it was combined with the Tod Surmon tournament. “So that’ll be our last tournament.”

Philomath will then have two more home events to close the regular season. A duals event postponed from earlier this season is set for Feb. 1 with Newport, Siuslaw and Sweet Home scheduled to participate. The Warriors will then have senior night on Feb. 3 with a home dual against Junction City.

Santiam Christian Screamin’ Eagle
Saturday, Jan. 22, at Santiam Christian HS, Adair Village


Team Scoring
1, La Pine 276; 2, Culver 203; 3, Dayton 179; 4, Philomath 124.5; 5, Pleasant Hill 104; 6, Regis 92; 7, Santiam Christian 88; 8, Amity 59; 9, Creswell 57.5; 10, Sprague 55; 11, Corvallis 46; 12, Kennedy 30; 13, Knappa 17.

PHS Results

106: River Sandstrom (2-1, 3rd place)

Braden Richie, AmityW-TF20-3
Cole Rahi, CulverL-Pin3:43
Lyosha Mitchell, CreswellW-Dec18-12

120: Ben Hernandez (3-1, 2nd place)

Kai Gonzalez, KennedyW-Pin0:09
Alex Brown, CorvallisW-Pin0:15
Sam Schmidgall, Santiam ChristianW-Pin1:23
Landyn Philpott, La PineL-Pin3:32

126: Blake Niemann (3-0, 1st place)

Ricky Aaron, La PineW-Pin1:24
Eli Anderson, Pleasant HillW-Dec12-5
Noel Navarro, CulverW-Pin3:34

126: Chase Ringwald (2-1, 3rd place)

Blaine Ogier, KnappaW-Pin3:35
Noel Navarro, CulverL-Pin1:35
Eli Anderson, Pleasant HillW-MD12-0

132: Caleb Blackburn (2-2, 4th place)

Jaxon Camillo, SpragueMD9-1
Carlos Fernandez, CulverW-Pin1:54
Devon Kerr, La PineL-Pin2:34
Gavin Hale, CorvallisL-Dec10-4

138: Gradin Fairbanks (0-2)

Shawn Parker, SpragueL-Pin1:02
Kaleb Sanders, CreswellL-TF16-0

170: Blaise Pindell (3-0, 1st place)

Griffin Kilbourne, KennedyW-Pin1:48
Abdiel Lumes, CulverW-Pin0:43
Isaiah Toomey, CulverW-Pin3:35

220: Jacob Hamlet (1-2, 4th place)

Alexander Surritt, SpragueW-Pin0:42
Cameron Diacetis, RegisL-Pin1:46
Pedro Cisneros, DaytonL-Pin1:03

285: Joseph Choi (0-1)

Jacob Morin, SpragueLInj. Def.