Wrestlers qualify record 23 boys for state in winning regional

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home wrestlers won their sixth straight regional wrestling title Saturday, Feb. 22, with a dominating performance in the Special District 2 championships held at Stayton.

“We showed up,” said Coach Steve Thorpe, for whom this was his 21st district title in 24 years at the helm for the Huskies.

Sweet Home scored 477.5 points to win the team title over second-place Cascade (214), followed by Stayton (167) and Siuslaw (163.5).

The Huskies finished with five district champions and qualified what Thorpe believes is a record 23 wrestlers for the state meet this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28-29 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

“I’m pretty proud of that,” he said. “It’s a pretty big crew. Now we just have to do something now that we’re there. That’s always been the plan.”

District champions were sophomore Christian Gregory at 132 pounds, senior Jackson Royer at 138, senior Travis Thorpe at 160, sophomore Jesse Jamison at 170, and senior Nich James at 182.

In addition to the district titlists, state qualifiers for the Huskies were freshman Jake Sieminski, second at 106 pounds; senior Treyson Smith, third at 106; sophomore Kyle Watkins, second at 113; senior Connor Ford, third at 120; senior Rian Howard, second at 120; freshman Trenton Smith, fourth at 126; freshman Kaden Zajic, second at 132; junior Tristan Spencer, third at 138; junior Gavin Walberg, third at 145; sophomore Brayden Newport, second at 145; freshman Ethan Spencer, second at 152; senior Isaac Schaffer, third at 170; sophomore Tucker Weld, fourth at 182; senior Iakona Howerton, fourth at 195; junior Jake Fanning, second at 220; junior Kenny Storms, fourth at 220; sophomore Colby Gazeley, fourth at 285; and senior David McMullen, third at 285.

“As is the same with every regional we’ve ever entered, we had kids exceed expectations and we had some not meet expectations,” Steve Thorpe said. “That doesn’t mean we’re down and out, but it does mean we’re going to have to fix some things.”

Also going to state for Sweet Home in the girls championship tournament this weekend are: senior Lexi Schilling, who is top-seeded at 110 pounds; sophomore Paige Chafin, unseeded at 115 pounds; and junior Jessy Hart, unseeded at 125 pounds. They qualified in the girls OSAA South Regional Wrestling Championships held Feb. 6-7 at Thurston High School.

Schilling, who placed second last year at state, opens against freshman McKay Anderson of Baker.

She said the competition is getting tougher and that the most skilled wrestlers tend to be freshmen and sophomores, many of whom have been wrestling since junior high or earlier.

“I’m the only 12th-grader in the bracket,” she said. “This year, especially with the brackets being eight girls (instead of four), there are going to be a lot more tougher girls in the bigger bracket. I will have at least one more match at this point.

“I’m obviously hoping to take first.”

Chafin will open against freshman Haley Vann of Cleveland, and Hart against senior Jaden South of Milwaukie.

The boys take a lot of experience to state – 13 wrestlers on this year’s state roster also went last year.

The most experienced are James, Royer and Travis Thorpe. This will be the fourth trip to state for all three, and James returns as a state finalist, placing second last year, while Thorpe and Royer both are returning state champions.

Sweet Home’s district champions all won their finals with falls, most of them decisive. In fact, the team recorded a total of “55 or 56 pins,” said James, noting that they had a goal of 50 in the regional tournament.

“There were a lot of pins. It was pretty good.”

Facing what Steve Thorpe described as one of the tougher brackets in the state tournament at 182 (along with the 120-, 138- and 160-pound divisions), James said he’s hoping for another shot at the first-place medal in his fourth trip to state.

“If things go perfect, how I’d like them to, I’ll win a state medal. I’m just going to take it one match at a time and wrestle whoever is in front of me.”

Thorpe noted that this year’s win was James’ third conference title.

“Nich has high expectations on himself. He has a very, very tough bracket. We’ll see.”

At 138 pounds, Royer will be in another of those very competitive brackets, but he pinned his way through his competition at the regional, finishing with a fall over Siuslaw’s Elijah LaCosse in 1:53 in the 138-pound final.

“Jackson Royer just dominated his weight class,” Thorpe said. “I kind of expected that. Now his focus is to try to earn a state title.”

Royer said his goal is the same every year.

“I’m going back for No. 2 this year.”

Travis Thorpe also dominated the 160-pound regional bracket, though he ran into some resistance from Emmett Henderson of Junction City in the final before getting a pin early in the third period, in 4:21.

Going into state, like Royer and James, he knows what to expect.

“I think our chances are actually pretty good.,” said Thorpe, who is coming off a state title of his own after placing second as a freshman – to teammate Kobe Olson, and fourth as a sophomore.

“We have 23 qualifiers. La Grande has 19. We always know it’s not going to be on the front side of the bracket, it’s going to be on the back side of the bracket.

“My bracket is a tough bracket, but it’s kids I’ve beaten before and nobody new, so I’ve just got to wrestle my match.”

Steve Thorpe said his son wrestled “very solid – it was what he expected.”

Gregory pinned Zajic, his teammate, in the only all-Sweet Home final of the night, in 39 seconds at 132 pounds.

He and Jamison both qualified for state last year as freshmen, but did not place.

“It felt awesome to get to the top in districts,” Gregory said. “Last year I got fourth – wasn’t really there. This year I was feeling good.

“The biggest goal is to place this year. Last year I made a couple of mistakes and that was the reason I didn’t place.”

Jamison pinned Junction City’s Brandon Andresen in the 170-pound final, in 1:38.

He ran up the score on Stayton’s Johnny Sylva, leading 12-2 in their 182-pound final, before pinning Sylva in 4:34.

“Jesse Jamison, this was his first time in the finals,” Steve Thorpe said. “He went out on fire, just totally dominated.”

Jamison said he plans to focus on winning his first bout, “then taking it one match at a time.

“I’m hoping to see the finals,” he said. “That is my lifelong goal here. I’ve put in too much effort, had too many summers given up to this beautiful sport, to come out third or fourth.”

Ford is also experienced at the state level; this is his third time qualifying and he placed sixth last year.

So is Howard, who transferred from Lebanon for his senior year, after placing fifth in the 5A championships last year.

Howard had a real heart-breaker in the 126-pound final, leading Eli Howard of Stayton with about half a minute left after a late reverse. But Stayton’s Howard caught Sweet Home’s Howard with a reverse in the final 10 seconds of the match and pinned him with, literally, a second to go to win the district title in a dramatic finish.

Thorpe said he’s particularly happy to have four freshmen qualifiers – Sieminski, who was not a surprise, Trenton Smith, Zajic and Ethan Spencer.

Smith battled back from a fall to Philomath’s Caleb Blackburn in the consolation semis, pinning his second opponent in a wrestle-back to take fourth and a trip to state.

“Trenton did great, coming back after losing,” Thorpe said.

Zajic pinned Newport’s Cole Wiles, the No. 2-seeded wrestler in the 132-pound division, on his way to the final, where he lost to Gregory.

“He’s been working hard,” Thorpe said of the freshman. “He earned that.”

Spencer also beat a No. 2 seed, Junction City’s Tanner Gibson, in the 152-pound bracket, with a 6-4 decision before losing in the final to Cascade’s Noah Thompson, who was a state champion last year as a freshman.

“That was a pretty great performance, that he could get in there and do that,” Thorpe said of Spencer.

Junior Gavin Walberg also stood out, Thorpe said.

“Gavin lost to (eventual champion Kane Nixon of Cascade), but he pinned the rest of his guys,” Thorpe said. “In two matches he was behind his opponent and then pinned them. He showed a lot of heart and determination. He got stronger as the tournament went on, which was great.”

Another was Schaffer, who qualified for state for the first time – “very cool,” Thorpe said.

“I was hyped,” Schaffer said. “Last year I was expected to go and I took fifth place. That hit me pretty hard. It was always in the back of my mind going through this season. I was disappointed not making finals today, but I was glad to bring it back. It feels good.”

Howerton pinned Cascade’s Gale Ochoa, who had pinned him the previous week,” Thorpe said.

“When you do that, that’s finding your way into that, that’s pretty good.”

“I felt good,” said Howerton, who rejoined the program this season after placing sixth at districts as a sophomore, then skipping his junior year. “It was a lot of redemption from my sophomore year.”

A big plus for the Huskies this year is the number of wrestlers who have qualified in the upper weights, Thorpe said.

“Both of our 220-pounders and both of our heavyweights have come so far this season. I’ve never entered both of my two biggest weights. That’s going to help us out tremendously.”

Both McMullen and Storms joined the team late after recovering from football-related knee injuries.

Storms noted that he went two-and-out at regionals as a sophomore and didn’t make state.

“This year I’m sitting on the podium,” he said. “That’s been my goal since I started high school.”

McMullen, who started the season late after recovering from knee surgery, came close to making the finals for the second straight year.

But he lost in the semis to Philomath’s Joseph Choi, 5-1 in overtime, and found himself facing his teammate Gazeley for third place, winning by a fall in 3:14.

“I’ve just been working really hard to come back,” said McMullen, last year’s defending regional heavyweight champion.

“Third isn’t what I could’ve got, but at least I’m going to state. I need to correct what I missed up on today. I had a really close match with Joseph Choi that I could have won, easily. So I just need to work on my small mistakes I made, mental errors, and hopefully be better than last year.”

Gazeley lost to McMullen in the consolation final after losing 5-2 in the semis to Siuslaw’s Matthew Horillo.

“I’m just happy to make it to state since I’m a sophomore,” he said. “I’m sad I didn’t place higher but I expected to make it. At the first Lebanon tournament I thought I was a little bit better than I was last year. I thought, ‘hmmm, maybe I could push myself a lot more this year.’ And it sure worked out.”

Thorpe noted that La Grande is the favorite to win the state title, but the Huskies have the ingredients to make it a battle.

“It’s a big contingent we’re taking to the state tournament. Numbers is what it takes. We’re definitely not going to have 23 kids place, but we are taking wrestlers that can win a match. That one, those two matches, they add up.

“We’re definitely going in as a contender.”

Royer said the Huskies are in “the best position possible, with 23 guys.”

“I mean, it really couldn’t have gotten any better than that for us. So we’re in a great position for state and if we can all do something while we’re there, then we’re in a great position to win the title.”

“It was a good regional, for sure,” James said. “We haven’t done anything yet, though. We’ve still got to perform at state.

” All this is about what you do when you’re there.”

OSAA 4A Region 2 Championships Results for Sweet Home

Team Scores: (1) Sweet Home 477.5; (2) Cascade 214; (3) Stayton 167; (4) Siuslaw 163.5; (5) Philomath 151.5; (6) Junction City 123. 5; (7) Elmira 103.5; (8) Newport 25.

106 – Freshman Jake Sieminski pinned Timothy Jones (JC) 0:40; won by major decision over Blake Niemann (P) 16-5; lost 7-3 to Cameron Truesdell (JC) in final. Placed second. Seeded sixth, opens against Jackson Mengis (Henley).

106 – Junior Treyson Smith (Sweet Home) pinned Connor Addy (N) (0:43); pinned Yoskar De la Mora (Sius) (1:45); lost 15-1 maj. dec. to Cameron Truesdell (JC) ; pinned Wyatt Hooper (Stay) (0:32); pinned Blake Niemann (P) (2:50); placed third. Seeded fifth, opens against Madison Shearer of Henley.

113 – Sophomore Kyle Watkins won by tech fall over Jonathan Mazo-Amezaga (N) (15-0, 5:40); dec. Daniel Moore (C) 4-0; lost by fall to Mauro Michel (C) (1:19) in final. Placed second. Seeded fifth, opens against Ashton Marchinton of Hidden Valley.

120 – Senior Connor Ford won by decision over William Walton (E) 9-7; lost in sudden overtime to Mason Buss (Sius) 4-2; won by fall over Connor Stapleton (C) (1:34); pinned Benjamin Hernandez (P) 0:56; placed third. Seeded fifth, opens against Treyce Horton of Mazama.

120 – Freshman Brandon Elder lost by fall to Evan Potter (JC) (3:21); lost by fall to Connor Stapleton (C) (6:00); placed eighth.

126 – Senior Rian Howard pinned Donald Morgan (Stay) (0:59); pinned Markus Agnes (E) (1:06); pinned Caleb Blackburn (P) (0:35); lost by fall to Eli Howard (Stay) (5:59) in final; placed second. Seeded sixth, opens against Ronaldo Hernandez of North Marion.

126 – Freshman Trenton Smith lost 6-2 dec. to Eli Howard (Stay); pinned Tayton Miller (C) (4:00); lost by fall to Caleb Blackburn (P) (2:19); pinned Markus Agnes (E) (0:27); pinned Hunter Petterson (Sius) (3:20) in wrestle-back for fourth place. Opens against second-seeded Quintin Metcalf of Tillamook.

132 – Sophomore Christian Gregory won by fall over Gabe Brown (Stay) (0:26); dec. Logan Cave (E) 8-4; pinned Kaden Zajic (SH) (0:39) in final. District Champion. Seeded fourth, opens against Astin Bosch of Tillamook.

132 – Freshman Kaden Zajic pinned Colin Leland (Sius) (0:43); pinned Cole Wiles (N) (4:44); lost by fall to Christian Gregory (SH) (0:39) in final; finished second. Seeded eighth, opens against Wyatt Maffey of Sisters.

138 – Junior Tristan Spencer won by fall over Koby Warren (E) (0:28); lost 7-2 dec. to Elijah LaCosse (Sius); pinned Seth Drago (E) (1:08); pinned David Griffith (P) (0:59). Placed third. Seeded fifth, opens against Hector Paniagua of Woodburn.

138 – Senior Jackson Royer pinned Kaden McDaniel (JC) (1:00); pinned Mason Webb (C) (1:46); pinned David Griffith (P) (0:51); pinned Elijah LaCosse (Sius) (1:53) in final; District Champion. Seeded second, opens against Tyler Smith of Banks.

145 – Junior Gavin Walberg pinned Carson Henderson (JC) (0:16); pinned Ruben Fox (E) (5:50); lost by fall to Kane Nixon (C) (1:03); pinned Joe Baxter (C) (1:19); pinned Blaise Pindell (P) (1:39); placed third. Opens against seventh-seeded Owen Archy of Hidden Valley.

145 – Sophomore Brayden Newport pinned Richard Rodriguez (JC) (0:31); pinned Michael Shick (Sius) (1:28); dec. Blaise Pindell (P) 6-3; lost maj. dec. to Kane Nixon (C) 14-4 in final. Place second. Seeded sixth, opens against Wyatt Livingston of La Grande.

152 – Junior Tanner McMahon lost by fall to Noah Thompson (C) (0:49); lost by fall to Jason Ritchie (Stay) (3:54); Placed eighth.

152 – Freshman Ethan Spencer won by fall over Cooper Latz (Philomath/Alsea) 9-25 (Fall 0:48); pinned Louis Gentry (Sius) (1:22); dec. Tanner Gibson (JC) 6-4; lost by fall to Noah Thompson (C) (0:43) in final. Placed second. Seeded eighth, opens against Zeke Coon of Tillamook.

160 – Senior Travis Thorpe pinned Matthew Dean (JC) (1:41); pinned Logan Wells (Sius) (0:59); won by major decision over Ben Roth (C) 12-3; pinned Emmett Henderson (JC) (4:21) in final. District Champion. Seeded first, opens against Gauge Bloomer of Baker.

160 – Freshman Evan Jensen lost by fall to Emmett Henderson (JC) (1:06); lost by fall to Eli Brown (Stay) (1:28); did not place.

170 – Senior Isaac Schaffer pinned Jesus Garcia (Sius) (2:26); lost by tech fall to Brandon Andresen (JC) (3:31, 17-2); pinned Kayden Lindquist (C) (2:38); pinned Waylon Wymore (C) (1:33); placed third. Opens against fifth-seeded Reece White of Madras.

170 – Sophomore Jesse Jamison pinned Will Bost (Stay) (0:39); pinned Skyler Breeton (JC) (0:34); pinned Kayden Lindquist (C) (1:22); pinned Brandon Andresen (JC) (1:38) in final. District champion. Seeded fourth, opens against Casey Comford of La Grande.

182 – Senior Nich James pinned Owen O`Connor (Stay) (0:43); pinned Johnny Sylva (Stay) (4:34). District champion. Seeded second, opens against Tobias Powers of Hidden Valley.

182 – Sophomore Tucker Weld lost 8-5 to Luis Infante-Marquez (Siuslaw); pinned Gavin Watters (JC) (1:14); pinned Owen O`Connor (Stay) (5:20); lost by 9-1 maj. dec. to Luis Infante-Marquez (Sius); finished fourth. Opens against third-seeded Lawson Talamantez of Seaside.

195 – Senior Iakona Howerton lost by 11-2 maj. dec. to  Nat Brown (E); pinned Tristan Bradley (C) (1:26); pinned Gale Ochoa (C) (1:51); lost by fall to Connor Kohn (P) (2:51). Placed fourth. Opens against top-seeded Christopher Woodworth of La Grande.

195 –Sophomore Charlie Crawford lost by fall to Issiah Blackburn (P) (3:12); lost by fall to Connor Kohn (P) (1:29); lost 12-7 decision to Gale Ochoa (C); placed sixth.

220 – Junior Jake Fanning pinned JC Gentry (Sius) (5:47); dec. Camden Levine (E) 6-1; pinned Clint Brownell (Stay) (5:29); lost 3-2 to Christian Newlan (Sius); finished second. Seeded seventh, opens against Dyontae Navarrette of Woodburn.

220 – Junior Kenny Storms pinned Luke Wolgamott (E) (0:37); lost 9-7 decision to Christian Newlan (Sius); pinned Rion Gage (C) (1:42); lost by fall to Clint Brownell (Stay) (3:30); finished fourth. Opens against fourth-seeded Joseph Baynard of Phoenix.

285 – Colby Gazeley lost 5-2 to Matthew Horrillo (Sius); pinned Hunter Davis (JC) (4:22); lost by fall to David McMullen (SH) (3:14). Finished fourth. Opens against third-seeded Christopher Woods of Hidden Valley.

285 – David McMullen lost 5-1 in OT to Joseph Choi (P); pinned Nathan Law (C) (0:56); pinned Colby Gazeley (SH) (3:14). Finished third. Seeded fifth, opens against Donavan DelosReyes of Klamath Union.