Wrestlers roll to Val-Co district title

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

Sweet Home’s wrestling team may be heavy on youngsters, but they proved they were no lightweights Saturday at the Val-Co District Tournament, held at the Sweet Home Gym.

The Huskies won their second straight district title and qualified 18 wrestlers for state, of 24 who entered the tournament, crowning seven individual district champions in the process.

“I felt confident going in that we were going to win the conference,” said Coach Steve Thorpe. “I’m very proud at how the kids competed. That’s what it’s about from the start of the season – winning district. It’s about competing hard.”

The Huskies scored 365.5 points to second-place Philomath’s 231. Central was third (153.5), Newport fourth (140) and Taft finished with 56 points.

Sweet Home dominated the lower weight divisions, as the Huskies’ had the first- and second-place finishers at 103, 112 and 119 pounds.

Sophomore Taylor Tagle took home the division title at 103 pounds, edging teammate and fellow sophomore Mitch Grove 4-2 in the finals.

Senior Danny Johnson, last year’s state runner-up, won the 112-pound title, beating sophomore teammate Matt Grove 5-2.

At 119 pounds, freshman Kris Newport beat senior teammate Casey Johnson by a major decision, 10-1, for that title.

“When you wrestle a teammate in the final of tournament like that, it’s not as appreciated as it should be,” Thorpe said. “We got to see three great matches. (The teammates who met in the finals) made each other better this year. That’s tough wrestling. I’m proud of everybody.”

The other Huskies who won district championships were sophomore Brock Crocker at 135 pounds, junior Levi Weikel at 140, freshman Keenan Martin at 145 and senior Nick Pitts at 152.

Pitts was named the meet’s Outstanding Wrestler for the weight classes above 145 pounds.

Thorpe praised the efforts by Pitts and Martin, neither of whom was 100 percent.

“Nick wrestled that tournament injured,” he said. “To do what he did injured speaks to his mental toughness, it speaks to the leadership he’s shown as a senior.

“Keenan Martin was very sick the night before (the tournament).”

The other second-place finishers were junior Jack Perry at 125 pounds, freshman Kyle Hummer at 130, and senior heavyweight Shaw Valentine.

Third-place finishers were 130-pound sophomore Marshall Arndt, junior Donny Roberts at 145, sophomore Brad Pitts at 160, sophomore Anthony Albright at 171 and junior Marc Callagan at 189 pounds.

“Those guys who come back and get third place at that tournament, it takes a lot to come back and get third place,” Thorpe said. “Marshall Arndt coming back, beating a guy who beat him in the first round, that speaks to how he trained, to his workout partners.

“Donny Roberts, Brad Pitts, Anthony (Albright) and Marc (Callagan) – it’s exciting. They work stinking hard, even though they knew they couldn’t be first or second.

“Getting to the state tournament, that’s the biggie. You can’t score points at state if you’re not going to be in it.”

Other individual champions were David Converse of Newport at 125; Robin Hethorn of Central at 130; Matt Hill of Philomath at 160; James Parrish of Newport at 171; Cody Hayner of Newport, who took three overtimes to beat James Zook of Philomath 5-2 in the 189-pound division; and Heath Honeycutt of Philomath at 215.

Newport 125-pounder David Converse, who beat Perry 13-2 in the finals, was named the Outstanding Wrestler for the 103-140 weight classes.

The Val-Co Coach of the Year honor was shared by Thorpe and Central Coach Van Holstead.

As defending state champions, the Huskies are looking to duplicate or improve on last year’s performance, they said. Sweet Home has four returning state placers and one district champion, Tagle, who didn’t place at state but is ranked No. 1 in his weight going into the tournament.

Danny Johnson, who was the Huskies’ top placer last year with his second-place finish at 112 pounds, will help lead the charge.

“I’ve changed the way I’m training in practice,” said Johnson, 33-4 and seeded first at 112 pounds, noting that he’s shooting directly for the title this time. “I’ve been going a lot harder. This time last year I went on cruise control. This time I’m focusing on what I need to focus on to win the state title.”

Perry, a junior with a 26-13 record placed seventh in the state last year and is looking to move up this time.

Seeded fifth and ranked fifth in the state, he said he noted that he has already faced top-seeded sophomore Dustin Woosley of Tillamook once this year, at Tillamook, losing 4-2.

He said he’s learned to stay relaxed and not let the pressure of the state tournament get to him.

“I’m not getting all overwhelmed by being at state,” he said.

Tagle, who is ranked first in the state at 103 with a 32-5 record, was upset in the first round last year as a freshman and ended up exiting early, failing to score. He said he has different plans this time around, though he isn’t seeded.

“I’m more confident,” he said. “I’ve been to the state tournament now and I feel a lot better. Last year I wanted to do real good, third or better, but this year I’m expecting to go all the way. I feel confident I can beat anybody in the bracket.”

Crocker, 33-5 and seeded second at 135 pounds, behind junior Adam Sprague of Pleasant Hill, has been wrestling in different weight divisions throughout the season so he hasn’t faced most of the wrestlers in his bracket with the exception of fourth-seeded Luke Amuchastegui of Phoenix, who beat him.

“I don’t know many of them,” he said.

But after last year’s third-place finish, which exceeded his expectations, he said, he’s aiming higher this time around.

“This year I’m expecting to place higher and I’m working a lot harder for it,” he said.

Pitts, who is seeded fourth at 152 pounds and carries a 34-4 record into the tournament, is looking to better his fifth-place finish from last year, despite an injury that has plagued him in recent matches. He said he expects the intensity of the state tournament to help him compete at a higher level.

“It’s a tough bracket,” he said of the 152-pound division. “(State) is way more intense than other tournaments. That helped me last year. You just have to fight through the injuries and sickness.”

With a total of 18 wrestlers headed for Portland to open the state tournament this Thursday at the Memorial Coliseum, Thorpe said he expects Tillamook, ranked first in the latest poll, Illinois Valley (second), Cascade(fourth), Scappoose (fifth) and his third-ranked Huskies to be evenly matched going into the event, but the Huskies are prepared.

“We’ve got to see what we’ll do when we’re there,” he said. “We do work very, very hard. We wrestle the number one-ranked teams in the state during the season. You work hard for four days, one for districts and three for state.

“We’re young. We’re not an old team going to the state tournament. We’re young and we’re excited about the coming weekend. We have a goal of trophying.”

Perry said the Huskies are ready.

“We have less guys than (the 21 who qualified) last year but the guys we have are quality guys.” he said. “Last year had some guys were dead weight.”

Val-Co District Wrestling Tournament

Sweet Home Results

103 – Taylor Tagle pinned Blake Woosley (Philomath) 2:28; def. Mitch Grove (SH) 4-2; champion.

103 – Mitch Grove byes until final; lost to Taylor Tagle (SH) 4-2; finished second.

112 – Danny Johnson pinned Chris Zook (T); dec. Matt Grove (SH) 5-2; champion.

112 – Matt Grove dec. Marcus Hartwig (P) 6-2; pinned Dustin Parker (T) :21; lost to Danny Johnson (SH) 5-2; finished second.

119 – Kris Newport pinned Skyler Thomas (T) 2:22; maj. dec. Casey Johnson (SH) 10-1; champion.

119 – Casey Johnson pinned Patrick Ryan (T) 3:34; dec. Kyle Swank (P) 3-2; lost maj. dec. to Kris Newport (SH) 10-1; finished second.

125 – Jack Perry pinned Allen Neufeld :51; lost to David Converse (N) 13-2; finished second.

125 – Brehk Veitenheimer pinned by David Converse (N) 1:01; pinned Joseph Cox (T) 1:09; lost to Allen Neufeld (P) 17-15; finished fourth.

130 – Kyle Hummer won by forfeit over Seisi Koike (N); pinned Seth Faust (P) 5:06; pinned by Robin Hethorn (C) 5:56.; finished second.

130 – Marshall Arndt lost to Ian Soifakas (N) 9-2; pinned Sam Phelps (P) 1:10; pinned Seth Faust (P) 1:29; def. Soifakas 11-9; finished third.

135 – Brock Crocker pinned Sylvester Cantrell (C) 3:01; maj. dec. over Kiefer Riddle (T) 17-0; dec. Jeremy Keenan (N) 10-0; champion.

135 – Nikki Smith lost to Charlie Stouder (P) 10-6; lost to Derek Rardin (C); did not place.

140 – Levi Weikel pinned Cody Cox (T) 1:27; pinned Kyle Dalke (P) :21; pinned Danny Lekbert (N) 1:13; champion.

140 – Kyle Sorenson pinned by Manuel Garcia (C) 1:05; pinned Cody Keen (P) 3:03; def. Kyle Dalke (P) 13-9; pinned by Garcia (C) 1:37; finished fourth.

145 – Keenon Martin pinned Jordan Hayner (N) 1:19; pinned Chancey Mercado (P) 3:49l champion.

145 – Donny Roberts pinned by Chancey Mercado (P) 3:14; pinned Jason Nikkel (P) 2:52; pinned Jordan Hayner (N) :23; finished third.

152 – Nick Pitts pinned Isaac Lome (N) :13; def. Troy Thurman (P) 15-6; def. Bryce Dryden (P) 7-4; champion.

152 – Michael Harry pinned by Tony Cuevas (C) :29 pinned by Jeremy Jessinghaus (N) 1:12; did not place.

160 – Brad Pitts pinned Josh Erickson (P) 5:34; lost to Ricky Cedillo (C) 9-0; won by disqualification over Nick Larkins (T) 2:29; def. Josh Erickson (P) 15-3; finished third.

160 – Austin Raines won by forfeit over Kevan Johnson (N); pinned by Matt Hill (1:12; def. Nick Larkins (T) 20-7; placed fifth.

171 – Anthony Albright pinned Carmello DeBallo (T) :22; pinned by Derick Calder (P) 3:46; pinned Henry Vaughn (P) 1:41; finished third.

189 – Marc Callagan pinned Kory Stueve (P) :56; lost to Cody Hayner (N) 11-4; pinned Kory Stueve (P) :30; finished third.

215 – Logan Clark lost to Thomas Demelo (C) 7-1; won by forfeit over Chris Padilla (T); pinned by Freddie Jiminez (C) 5:06; won by forfeit over Khrys Bahr (T); finished fifth.

285 – Shaw Valentine pinned Spencer Neilson (P) :35; pinned Marcus Cuellar (C) 1:51; pinned by Travis Spencer (P) 5:33; finished second.

Sweet Home State Qualifiers and Seeding

103 – Taylor Tagle, soph., not seeded

103 – Mitch Grove, soph., not seeded

112 – Danny Johnson, sr., first

112 – Matt Grove, soph., not seeded

119 – Kris Newport, fr., not seeded

119 – Casey Johnson, sr., not seeded

125 – Jack Perry, jr., fifth

130 – Kyle Hummer, fr., not seeded

130 – Marshall Arndt, soph., not seeded

135 – Brock Crocker, soph., second

140 – Levi Weikel, jr., not seeded

145 – Keenan Martin, fr., not seeded

145 – Donny Roberts, jr., not seeded

152 – Nick Pitts, sr., fourth

160 – Brad Pitts, soph., not seeded

171 – Anthony Albright, soph., not seeded

189 – Marc Callagan, jr., not seeded

285 – Shaw Valentine, sr., not seeded