State champs and top girl finishers named Outstanding Wrestlers

Jessy Hart, Paige Chafin and state wrestling champions Kyle Sie-minski, Jake Sieminski, Brayden Newport and Tristan Spencer were named Pat Baxter Outstanding Wrestlers at the wrestling team’s awards dinner Thursday, July 1.

The 2½-hour event drew a large crowd to the Commons area at the high school, where Coach Steve Thorpe and his staff delivered awards to their wrestlers, along with plenty of commentary.

Thorpe noted “how special our awards banquet is; we don’t do it like the others and I take a lot of pride in that.”

He credited his team for not only winning the state team title and a total of 12 individual medals at the state wrestling championships, but finishing tied with Tillamook for the top GPA among 4A division wrestling teams this year with a team average of 3.39.

Thorpe introduced Hart, who was not present because she is working as a white water guide in Idaho, noting that she came into wrestling this year after placing in two events at the state track championships, then proceeded to finish second in state at the girls championships.

He noted that she joined the team as a freshman and has made big strides in the sport.

“She didn’t have to come out for wrestling to prove anything,” Thorpe said. “But she did. She led and was part of a very tight-knit group of young ladies.”

Neuschwander, Thorpe noted, considered dropping out of wrestling after what she described as freshman and sophomore seasons in which “I wasn’t very good.” She was planning to study abroad at the end of her junior year and Thorpe said he managed to convince her to come out for wrestling anyway.

“I said, ‘I don’t care. Just come out and wrestle,'” he said. “And that’s what she did.”

That set Neuschwander up for a senior season in which, she said, “something clicked.”

“It just made sense,” she said. “I came from not placing at regionals three years in a row to being state runner-up. It was a really cool thing that happened. I’m really proud of myself.”

Kyle Sieminski, who became the third freshman in Sweet Home history to win a state wrestling title, finished “one of the more impressive seasons in Sweet Home wrestling,” in the words of Assistant Coach Tomas Rosa. He noted that Huskies typically wrestle approximately 35 to 50 matches in a normal season, but this year’s short season did not allow anything close to that.

“That gives us coaches and you guys, as athletes, a lot of time to make some mistakes and adjust and get on the right track,” Rosa said. “This season there was very little room for error. So watching what Kyle Sieminski did was pretty impressive.”

He said the freshman did make mistakes but was able to turn around and fix them and deliver.

Jake Sieminski had an “amazing” season, Rosa said, “providing a lot of joy for this coaching staff.”

After a “tough” state tournament last year, as Rosa put it, Sieminski dominated his weight bracket this year.

“To come in and just seal the deal in pretty impressive fashion was awesome to watch,” he said of the sophomore.

Newport’s state title actually started when he was “6, 7 years old,” Thorpe said, noting that his wife Heather had pointed that out after the junior blew through the 145-pound division at state.

He warned that the first state title “is the easiest one you’ll ever win,” but Thorpe added, “I look forward to saying more about you next year, when you sit here as a senior and do what a lot of people haven’t done and win another.”

Spencer, who has struggled with debilitating injuries throughout his high school career, and who recently lost his father who, he told the crowd at the event, “was my best friend,” “holds a very special place in my heart,” Thorpe said.

Spencer, he said, has “set a new standard in the (wrestling) room this year” with faith and leadership.

He said he has concern for all his current and former wrestlers, “but this one here, I don’t worry. I don’t worry about the job he’s going to have. I don’t worry about the light he’s going to be. He’s leaned in on Jesus,” though, he added to Spencer, “I ain’t gonna stop praying for ya.”

“I’m very proud of him,” Thorpe said, noting “how incredible and how dominant he was this year to own the 152-pound weight class.”

The Rookie of the Year award went to Kyle Sieminski.

Most Improved honorees were Neuschwander, junior Colby Gaze-ley, “who improved not only in wrestling but in the weight room and other places as well,” and junior Charlie Crawford, who went from being a “first-year kid to one match away from placing at the state tournament.”

Iron Award, which Thorpe noted was formerly the Ironman Award, goes to wrestlers who “just literally fought through adversity. They fought through injury. They didn’t let it keep them from what they wanted to achieve, but instead they made it become something that drove them harder to achieve. And, you know, they fought through that adversity of injury or illness or something like that.”

Honorees were: Gazeley, who wrestled the entire season after being injured in his first match of the year against one of the best heavyweights in the state: junior Kami Hart, who suffered a knee injury early on but “who showed up for morning runs when she couldn’t run” and who finished third in the state; and to senior Treyson Smith, who spent “20-something days” so sick with pneumonia and its after-effects that he couldn’t compete, and who had one full practice before the regional tournament, where he placed third, then placed fifth at state.

Thorpe noted earlier that Smith had been a consistent workout partner for Spencer and, though he had to be talked into wrestling as a freshman, finished as a three-time state place-winner.

“He does one thing, he does it hard, he goes at it like he’s killing snakes. He is 100% all the time.”

Workhorse Awards, which go to wrestlers who are at every run, every practice opportunity, went to Neuschwander, Jake Sieminski and senior Jake Fanning, whom Thorpe described earlier in the evening as a freshman recruit who couldn’t do a squat in the weight room.

“Jake is probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached. And that doesn’t take away from people, but he has to work extra hard to earn his spots and in football and what he did there because of the time he spent, he’s going to be one that we use as an example for a long time.”

The Extra Mile Award went to Heather Thorpe, the coach’s wife, because of her longsuffering support as he spent nearly every night for months in Zoom meetings to organize the wrestling season and culminating events after “OSAA dropped the ball on us.”

“Really, she told me to put my phone away sometimes, because I was always answering calls or texts, or emails,” Steve Thorpe said.

Most Takedowns went to Paige Chafin, who “dominated matches on her feet” and who placed third state for the girls, and Spencer.

Most Falls went to Brayden Newport, who pinned his way through the state tournament, never making it out of the second round.

The Norm Davis Scholar Athlete Award, which is figured based on points scored times GPA, went to Treyson Smith.

Senior letters went to Jessy Hart, Sicily Neuschwander, Gavin Walberg, Tristan Spencer, Treyson Smith and Jake Fanning.

Junior letter winners were Paige Chafin, Kami Hart, Charlie Crawford, Colby Gazeley, Christian Gregory, Jesse Jamison, Tanner McMahon, Brayden Newport, Kyle Watkins and Tucker Weld.

Sophomores receiving letters were Brandon Elder, Daniel Goodwin, Evan Jenson, Jake Sieminski, Trenton Smith, Ethan Spencer and Kaden Zajic.

Freshman letter winners were Kaylene Zajic, Jayce Miller, David Steagall, Jon “Huston” Holly, Ryker Hartsook, Evan Ashcraft and Kyle Sieminski.