Wrestlers back on trophy podium with fourth-place finish, two individual titles

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home’s wrestlers earned their first state trophy in three years Saturday, Feb. 27, with a fourth-place finish at the OSAA state wrestling championships in Portland.

Junior Kobe Olson put the icing on the cake for the Huskies by winning an individual state title at 120 pounds and three other Huskies placed.

Also winning a state title was freshman Marissa Kurtz, who didn’t wrestle in the boys tournament but won the girls 106-pound final (see accompanying story).

“It’s nice to be back in the trophies,” said Coach Steve Thorpe, for whom this is his 13th state trophy in 20 years at the helm.

Given the level of competition in the 4A Division right now, he said, this one was as sweet as any of them.

“For us, we don’t go in hoping to do well. We go in expecting it. That expectation’s been put on this team. A lot of work went into this.”

It was touch-and-go all the way for the Huskies, who placed behind Crook County (249.5 points), Marshfield (175) and Henley (150), with 131 points. North Marion was fifth with 114.5.

It was definitely a group effort.

“We brought 16 guys, and 14 won first-round matches and all were by falls. Who does that?” Thorpe said.

“We had 21 falls in this tournament. That’s 42 bonus points. And when you do bonus points like that, it’s hard to be caught. It was a race. We knew it was going to be tough. We were up by six points at one point today.”

The Huskies began to pull away from North Marion as they picked up place-winners – and pins – throughout the day.

Freshman Robert Watkins placed third at 106 pounds and senior Brandon Keenon also was third, at 195.

Seniors Joe Rasmussen and Tyrel Miller placed fifth at 138 and 145 pounds, respectively.

Olson said winning the title felt “amazing” after beating No. 2 seed Ryder McKee of Marshfield, also a senior, 8-2 in the final.

“Knew it was going to be a tough match,” he said. “I’d already wrestled the kid a couple of times in Greco and freestyle and last year at state. I knew he was going to be a tough opponent. I just used the confidence I had from the past times I’d wrestled him and took it out on him this time.”

Olson was cruising with a 6-0 lead in the second period when McKee reversed him, which led to an injury time-out.

Thorpe said that was due to torn stomach muscles that had Olson “doubled over” with pain three hours before the match.

“He couldn’t stand upright,” Thorpe said. “That was painful. He had to go to a place in his head where he was not going to be hurt. And then, when he got slammed (in the final), that hurt. We had to take injury time.”

Olson pulled it out and took McKee down one more time to ice the win.

“He earned that state title,” Thorpe said.

He said his wife Heather had remarked, as they walked back to their hotel after Olson clinched a berth in the finals Saturday morning, “I don’t know if anybody has done what he has done to deserve to be where he is right now.”

Thorpe said Olson “didn’t dodge anybody” in competition, cut weight, wrestled during the spring and summer – and then went out for cross-country to be in better shape for wrestling.

“It’s easy to go out for wrestling and be a wrestler. But it’s hard to be a Sweet Home wrestler who wants to be successful. And he absolutely did it.”

For Olson, the win had personal significance, after watching his older brother Trever place a disappointing sixth as a senior, three years ago – thanks, in large part, to hip and shoulder injuries and a broken nose.

“He was such a good wrestler, such a good big brother, I knew that placing at state was a huge thing,” Olson said, pausing to regain his composure. “I wanted that to be my goal. When I came so close my freshman year (he just missed placing), and did it my sophomore (fourth), that really showed how much I improved, I knew I was capable of something like that. With my big brother Trever helping me, that really gave me the confidence to do it this year.”

Watkins earned his third-place medal with a 7-6 decision over fellow freshman Kaden Wood of Mazama.

Watkins scored quick points in the match, and came close to pinning Wood with a half nelson in the first period, running up seven points.

“I thought I was going to pin him with the half, but he fought it off.”

In the second period, things went downhill for him after that when Wood got called for a dangerous hold in the second period, for pulling Watkins arm too far up his back in an attempt to turn him over.

Watkins spent most of the rest of the match underneath Wood, but managed to hang on to his lead for the win.

“It feels great,” he said of his finish. “As a freshman, getting third place is pretty cool.”

Thorpe noted that Watkins was undersized, even for the lightest weight class, and is “just a kid.”

“But that kid had two falls for us and scored points and finished on an odd – finished third. I mean, how exciting is that?”

Rasmussen, who only started wrestling as a sophomore, finished fifth, with all of his three wins coming by falls.

In the fifth-place match he faced fellow senior Marco Vela of Baker, whom he dispatched via a pin in 1:47.

That was courtesy of what has become his signature move – a cradle, which he said he’s been able to employ due to his long arms and strength.

“I’ve probably won a good 75 percent of my matches with a cradle,” he said.

Rasmussen said fifth place felt “pretty good, I guess. I wish it was third.”

Thorpe said Rasmussen has been a constant this year.

“What a great tournament for him, to get to finish on an odd. I’m proud of him for that.”

Miller has been a leader for the Huskies all year, both on the mat and in the practice room, but in his semifinals match against second-seeded Daine Taylor of Henley, Miller got caught in an early takedown that left Taylor leading 5-0 after the first period.

Miller scored a reversal later, but Taylor’s hug-tight strategy held off Miller’s attempts to score, despite Sweet Home coaches’ protests that he was stalling.

That loss derailed him a bit, he said.

“In my semis match, I just got out-bigged, I guess,” he said of his bout with Taylor. “He was stronger than me, better than me. After that loss I didn’t feel very good. I had to go outside and go for a walk, get myself back together.

“Lost my focus and that’s what I’ve been telling guys all year, ‘just stay focused.’ I didn’t finish where I wanted to, but I ended on an odd number.”

Thorpe said Miller’s finish was “equal to a state title to me because what Tyrel Miller gave this team was leadership and discipline that not many others get to have. And he is a rarity – I have not had many kids like him.

“He didn’t come into this to be fifth, but that’s what he finished. I’m very proud of him.”

Keenon, who decided to go out for wrestling less than a month before the state tournament, placed third. His only loss was Friday to No. 1 seed Carson Raymond of Crook County, who pinned him in a little over a minute, but Keenon said coaches told him “your next first is third.”

“That was my goal,” he said. He pinned all of his next three opponents.

Keenon opened Saturday’s action with a consolation quarterfinals pin of La Grande’s Trent Shafer in five seconds.

Keenon said he likes to start a match by grabbing an opponent “to find out if they’re tough or not.” That was his strategy with Shafer, striking with a quick ankle pick that sent his opponent to his back.

“I just did a quick little move and pinned him,” Keenon said.

In the final against sophomore Joey Vigue of Marshfield, he basically manhandled Vigue for the last minute before pinning him in 2:20 of the first period.

“That kid was good,” he said. “If he’d been on the opposite side of the bracket, he’d be in the finals. I think if I was on the opposite side of the bracket, I’d be in the finals too.”

“It feels really good,” he said of his third-place medal.

Keenon, who stopped wrestling after his freshman year, said he decided to return after another upper-weights wrestler was forced to drop out and shortly thereafter Thorpe came into the school office while Keenon was there.

“Folks had been bugging me and bugging me, and he came into the office, and I looked at him and said, ‘Hey, when do you want me to start wrestling?’

“He said, ‘Last December,’ but then he said, ‘Come talk to me later.’ I came and talked to him and by the next week I started wrestling.”

He said others have frequently suggested that he shouldn’t have given up wrestling, but “I’m happy with what I’ve done,” he said.

“You never lose the wrestling, once you know,” Thorpe said of Keenon. “He kind of capped it off with a third-place finish. It’s exciting.”

He said he was also proud of the rest of the team, all but two of whom scored points and he was careful to credit the Huskies’ success to a “consistent, consistent, consistent” staff of assistants – Tomas Rosa, Steve Schilling and Brock Crocker, and volunteer assistants Joe Aranda and Eric Tagle.

“The expectation we have, I know it sometimes comes off arrogant, but it isn’t going to change,” he said of the performance Friday and Saturday. “We’re not going to change our expectation to meet the needs.

“To be a Sweet Home wrestler, you’ve got to know the difference between ‘come here’ and ‘sic ‘em’.”

OSAA 4A Wrestling Championships

Sweet Home Participants and Results

Team Scores – (1) Crook County 249; (2) Marshfield 175; (3) Henley 150; (4) Sweet Home 131; (5) North Marion 114.5; (6) McLoughlin 83; (7) Baker 82; (8) Cascade 70; (9) Tillamook 68l (10) Phoenix 66; (12) Elmira 51; (13) Cottage Grove 50; (21) Sutherlin 25.

106 – Robert Watkins pinned Ezra McIntosh (La Grande) 1:00; lost 9-1 maj. dec. to Anthony Kraan (Henley); pinned Cristian Ramirez (North Marion) 2:21; pinned Alejandro Duran-Puente (Baker) 0:35; in consolation semis, dec. No. 4 seed Jesse Gore (Crook County) 6-4; dec. Kaden Wood (Mazama) 7-6. Placed third.

106 – Boden Petersen lost 5-1 dec. to Colton Anderson (Baker); won by injury default over Brock Bresser (Henley) 2:03; lost 3-0 dec. to Tucker Shores (Crook County). Did not place.

Girls 106 – Marissa Kurtz pinned Zenaida Bresser (Henley) 3:56; dec. Angie Sletten (Dallas) 7-5. Champion.

113 – Robbie Yunke pinned Deazen Zerba (McLoughlin) 0:41; lost by fall to Cole Morgan (Crook County) 1:37; pinned Caleb Brotnov (Estacada) 4:07; lost 3-0 to Joseph Paramo (Marshfield). Did not place.

120 – Kobe Olson pinned Darien Fagen (Cascade) 1:33; pinned Tyler Fiorvanti (Crook County) 0:59; in semis, maj. dec. Triston Rostocil (North Marion) 9-0; dec. Ryder McKee (Marshfield) 8-2. Champion.

120 – Dillon Stutzman lost 7-0 dec. to Corey Isaacson (La Grande); won 15-2 maj. dec. over Chase Conner (Corbett); lost 11-1 maj. dec. to No. 3 seed Pacer Quire (Crook County). Did not place.

126 – Justin Kurtz lost 10-0 maj. dec. to No. 1 seed Terran Libolt (Crook County); maj. dec. Parker Berry (La Grande) 11-0; lost 6-1 to No. 4 seed James AhHee (Baker). Did not place.

126 – Zak Rivera lost by fall to No. 2 seed AJ Lira (Marshfield) 3:02; pinned No. 7-seeded Christian Garfield (North Valley) 2:14; lost by fall to No. 3 seed Bryce Allen (Cottage Grove). Did not place.

132 – Ricky Yunke pinned Cameron Crenshaw (Crook County) 3:36; lost 3-1 to No. 3 seed Casey Roberts (North Marion); lost 4-2 to No. 2 seed Esiel Clark (Ontario). Did not place.

132 – Tyler Fincher lost 3-0 dec. to Boss Clark (Henley); dec. Quinn Legner (Cascade) 5-2; lost maj. dec. 11-0 to Bodi McCaskill (North Valley). Did not place.

138 – Joe Ramussen pinned Trey Hageman (Astoria) 1:34; pinned Cade Hite (Marshfield) 3:04; lost by fall to No. 2 seed Conner Noonan (Henley) 0:51; in consolation semis, lost by fall to No. 4 seed Korey Grende (Baker); pinned Marco Vela (Baker) 1:47. Placed fifth.

138 – Boe Baxter lost by fall to No. 2 seeded Conner Noonan (Henley) 1:21; lost 10-5 to Colton Burkhardt Crook County). Did not place.

145 – Tyrel Miller – pinned Kade VanDeHey (Cascade) 1:18; pinned Mark McAllister (Phoenix) 2:30; lost 8-2 dec. to No. 2 seed Daine Taylor (Henley); in consolation semis, lost 8-3 to Trevor Thiessen (Banks); pinned Mark McAllister (Phoenix) 3:58. Placed fifth.

145 – Jake Porter – pinned Martin Sierra (Henley) 1:41; lost by fall to No. 1 seed Kurt Mode (Crook County) 1:16; lost 8-2 to Trevor Thiessen (Banks). Did not place.

195 – Brandon Keenon pinned Josh Buehler (South Umpqua) 1:29; lost by fall to No. 1 seed Carson Raymond (Crook County) 1:16; pinned Hunter Rust (Philomath) 1:00; pinned No. 4 seed Trent Shafer (La Grande) :05; pinned Joey Vigue (Marshfield) 2:20. Placed third.

220 – Dalton Doerfler pinned No. 8-seeded Andre Calderon (Ontario) 3:00; lost by fall to No. 1 seed Dylan Jennings (Siuslaw) 3:29; lost by fall to Luke Martin (Tillamook) 0:10. Did not place.

285 – Gavin Baskin lost by fall to No. 4-seeded Dale Miller (Elmira) 0:39; lost by fall to James Cook (Banks) 0:43. Did not place.