Wrestlers third but miss top of podium

Scott Swanson

For the Sweet Home wrestling team, the state 4A championship tournament was a fairly significant success as the Huskies finished third in a race of four teams loaded with experience and talent.

For Colton Schilling, Tyler Cowger and Wade Paulus, though, their run through the championships ended on a sour note as all three lost in the finals.

Coach Steve Thorpe, whose teams have won six 4A trophies (awarded to the top four teams) in a row – a division record – said the losses in the finals were disappointing “but there’s no way I can be disappointed in them.”

“I was proud of those guys,” he said of his team. “We were picked to be fourth.”

Cascade won the state title with 188 points, followed by Henley (185.5) and Sweet Home, 144. Crook County, which qualified 22 wrestlers for state, nearly double the Huskies’ 13, was fourth, with 141. North Marion was fifth (70.5) and Stayton, led by first-year coach Kyle Temple, a Sweet Home alumnus, was seventh (66).

In addition to the second-place finishes by Paulus in the 195-pound division, Cowger at 138 and Schilling at 120, the Huskies got a third-place from Zach Gill in the 285-pound division, fourth from Ty Harvey at 132, fifth from Justin Nicholson at 106 and Scottie Stockman at 120, and sixth from Chance Jucutan at 182.

It was a particularly disappointing evening for Schilling, who had been aiming for four straight state titles after winning championships as a freshman and sophomore. It became apparent immediately that Bresser, whose younger brother Zach had just won the 112-pound championship by overwhelming his opponent with a frenetic attack, was going to employ the same strategy.

The two had split their two earlier bouts this season, Bresser came out bobbing and weaving, slapping and grabbing, which was effective in overwhelming Schilling long enough for Bresser to score a takedown. Schilling immediately scored as Bresser let him go for an escape, then spent the next minute trying to grab Bresser, and eventually caught him and lifted him off the ground, then fell on top of him at the edge of the mat with 30 seconds left in the first period. Referee Jim Phillips penalized him two points for an illegal throw, as Bresser writhed at the edge of the mat and Thorpe protested, to no avail and, after Bresser returned to the mat he was up 4-1. That was enough as he went on to win 7-4, after exchanging reversals and a late takedown by Schilling, as Bresser went into a defensive mode, which drew him a penalty point for stalling late in the match.

“He’s a lot faster than me,” Schilling said. “Our styles are a lot different and he had the right plan. He got ahead in the first period and that’s what he needed to do. He has a lot of energy but not much of a gas tank.”

Schilling said Bresser’s fall to the mat was unintentional and he said he thought it was legal, “but it happens.”

Thorpe responded similarly.

“Everybody has that somebody who pushes them to be better,” he said. “This is disappointing for Colton but he doesn’t have very many disappointments in wrestling.

“I know that Colton wanted four state championships. He can still get three. And he was under an incredible amount of pressure. Now he doesn’t have that any more. “

Schilling said the loss would give him motivation.

“I’ve got something to push me next year,” he said. “It’s just one more match. I’ll have hundreds more. I know what I need to get better at.”

Cowger, who was unseeded in the tournament despite being ranked in the top three in 4A polls for most of the year, made a statement in his second-round match, pinning No. 1 seed Cole Hannan of Brookings-Harbor in 3:41 and then qualified for his second straight state final by pinning Brendan Harkey of Crook County.

But in the final, North Marion’s Lucas Randall proved too much for him, winning 9-2. Randall, also a junior, brought a 28-1 record and two previous state titles into the tournament and the quickness and strength he demonstrated against Cowger showed why Randall had already won two titles as a freshman and sophomore and why he was favored going into this match. It was their first meeting since junior high, Cowger said.

The fact that he had to stop three times early in the match to take care of a cut in his mouth didn’t help the match flow, but Randall ran up to a 9-1 lead by the middle of the second period, winning all of the early scrambles, and then hung on for the win.

Cowger said a five-point combination that Randall got him on in the second period was the difference.

“If that didn’t happen, I think it could have gone either way,” he said.

He said he plans to hit the weights and “get bigger, and faster on my feet. I want to get bigger and stronger,” he said, noting that he’s going to focus on Greco and freestyle in the next few months.

Though Thorpe said he was disappointed for Cowger, he said it was “incredible” that his wrestler even competed at state, noting Cowger had an injured shoulder, which had contributed to his second-place finish in the regional tournament.

“Wrestling is only a small part of life. It’s a big deal to us because we put a lot of time and effort into it, but Tyler and Colton have had a lot of success this year. They’re both in the state finals.

Paulus breezed through the first three rounds to qualify for the championship match in the 195-pound division, but ran out of gas against Sutherlin junior Beau Grauf, who was at his first state tournament. In their first meeting of the season, Grauf frustrated Paulus early by holding him off, until he was warned for stalling with 30 seconds left in the thus-far-scoreless first period, then getting docked a point for stalling with five seconds left, giving Paulus a 1-0 lead.

The two exchanged takedowns, and Grauf scored an escape in the second period. Grauff wrestled a smart match, and by the third period Paulus was slowing and the match ended with a 3-3 tie.

In overtime, Paulus dove for a double-leg takedown, Grauf managed to fend him off and then spun to score a takedown and win.

“Wade made it into the finals,” Thorpe said. “That’s an accomplishment. He just got outscrambled by that kid. He’s a junior; hopefully, this loss will motivate him for next year.”

Paulus said he “wrestled good” until the final, in which he “just let the crowd get to me.

“I didn’t give it my all. He was good but if I wrestled the way I know I can wrestle, I can beat him.

“Next year is going to be the last match of my career. I can’t go out there thinking about getting hurt.”

In the heavyweight division, Gill staked his claim to a chance at a finals showdown with returning champ Kyle Smith of Elmira when he scored second-round overtime 5-4 win over No. 2 seed Jason Alvarado of Ontario. But then, in the semifinals, he ran into sophomore Semise Kofe of Roosevelt, who evaded Gill’s repeated attempts to throw him and outscored him 8-4, sending Gill to the consolation bracket, where he won his two matches there to finish third.

He attributed the loss to a need to “fight a little bit harder.

“I just didn’t give it that extra ‘umph,’” said Gill, who didn’t place last year as a sophomore. “It’s not what I wanted, but I felt like I responded by fighting my way back.”

Justin Nicholson placed fifth, after losing his second match to unseeded Kaleb Winebarger of Mazama, who tore through the bracket and wound up finishing second to Henley’s Tyler Scott, who was the first of four Henley wrestlers to win titles in the first six weight divisions, North Marion getting the other two.

Nicholson then battled his way back through the consolation bracket, finally losing 5-0 to Trayton Libolt of Crook County, who wound up third.

Nicholson, a sophomore who is completing his second year of wrestling at any level, said he was happy with a medal after placing seventh last year.

“It went pretty good in the beginning,” he said. “I was unprepared in the second match when I lost. Next year I will come back and be a lot better.

“It’s hard, especially since this is my second year of wrestling. Hopefully, I will develop better technique.”

Thorpe said Nicholson finished fifth in “one of the toughest divisions in this tournament,” losing to only one other wrestler.

“I’m very proud,” he said.

Senior Chance Jucutan, who has never before qualified for state, delivered the clutch performance of the tournament, finishing sixth.

“I did pretty good,” he said. “I felt like I could have done better. I was just lacking a few skills in some areas.”

Jucutan said his season started getting promising when he learned some throwing techniques, which led to a series of falls in the mid- to late season.

“That’s when I started thinking about making state,” he said. “It was a good trip.”

Thorpe said he was proud of the way Jucutan progressed through the tournament.

“It’s very cool that he gets to be rewarded for his efforts,” he said. “He finished sixth and he wasn’t even picked to be in the top 10.”

Senior Ty Harvey opened his tournament with a win against Jackson Conrad of North Bend, his best friend from when Harvey lived in North Bend before moving to Sweet Home as a sophomore.

He said it was the first time they’d wrestled since he moved.

“He used to whup up on me all the time when I lived down there,” said Harvey, who pinned his old buddy in 45 seconds.

“It’s definitely a relief, knowing that I’ve gotten better than my friends back in North Bend,” he said. “After I won, I was excited because I knew I would have a good tournament.”

Both of Harvey’s losses came at the hands of Jake Fowler of Tillamook.

“I was nervous before I met him the first time because I’d lost before to him.” Harvey said. Both were close this time, 6-4 to oust Harvey from the championship bracket and 9-5 in the consolation championship.

Thorpe noted that Harvey pinned three opponents during the tournament “and those were big, big falls. You have to remember that we only took third by three points.”

Thorpe said freshman Tyler Schilling made a good run, though he didn’t place, especially defeating Johnny Avina of Crook County, who had nearly scored a technical fall on him at the Reser’s Tournament of Champions.

“Our kids wrestled well and we had kids who scored five or six points and that helped us,” Thorpe said. “It’s a big thing. We really speak about finishing on odd numbers. We had a lot of guys finish fifth.

“This is going to be a motivator for us. Success motivates, but failure motivates even more. Next year is another season, have one year to take care of things.”

Thorpe said the next focus for the wrestlers is the middle school district tournament this Saturday and the state tournament the following week.

The Huskies will host a Greco-Roman tournament on March 17.

4A State

Championship Results

Team Scores: 1. Cascade 188; 2. Henley 185.5; 3. Sweet Home 144; 4. Crook County 141; 5. North Marion 70.5; 6. Ontario 70; 7. Stayton 66; 8. Elmira 62; Mazama 62; 10. Tillamook 55.5; 11. McLoughlin 54; 12. Madras 47; 13. Estacada 43; 14. Philomath 40.5; 15. Phoenix 40; 16. La Grande 35.5; 17. Banks 34; 18. (tie) La Pine, Yamhill-Carlton 30; 20. (tie) Brookings-Harbor, Cottage Grove 28.5; 22. Scappoose 27; 23. Molalla 26; 24. (tie) Hidden Valley, Sutherlin 23; 26. Douglas 22; 27. Gladstone 19.5; 28. Siuslaw 19; 29. Roosevelt 18; 30. (tie) Baker, North Bend 16; 32. Klamath Union 15.5; 33. Newport 12; 34. Junction City 3; 35. (tie) Central, North Valley, South Umpqua 1; 38. Astoria, Seaside, Sisters, Taft 0.

Sweet Home Results and Division Champions by Weight Division

106 – Justin Nicholson (SH) dec. Cole Rohan (La Grande) 7-4; lost by TF to Kaleb Winebarger (Mazama) 5:30; in consolation bracket, pinned Chris Bowers (S. Umpqua) 1:31; pinned Cody Jackson (Scapoose) 1:39; lost 5-0 to Trayton Libolt (Crook County), dec. Josh Connor (Newport) 9-6 for fifth place. Champion: Tyler Scott (Henley).

106 – Tyler Schilling (SH) dec. Johnny Avina (Crook County) 7-6; lost 12-1 to Tyler Scott (Henley); in consolation bracket, lost 15-4 to Josh Connor (Newport). Did not place.

113 – Anthony Hardee (SH) pinned Michael McKinney (Sutherlin) 5:35; lost by TF to Tyler Isaacson (La Grande) 5:15; in consolation bracket, lost 11-4 to Erik Nazario (La Pine). Did not place. Champion: Zech Bresser (Henley).

120 – Colton Schilling (SH) pinned Levi Graber (North Bend) :22; pinned Duke Hebdon (Molalla) :54; def. McKennan Buckner (Crook County) 6-2; lost 7-4 to Ronnie Bresser (Henley) in championship match.

120 – Scottie Stockman (SH) pinned Augustin Munoz (Hidden Valley) :49; dec. Connor Finch (Gladstone) 10-2; lost by TF to Ronnie Bresser (Henley; in consolation bracket, lost 7-1 to Eric Nunez (Ontario); dec. Connor Finch (Gladstone) 11-7 for fifth place.

126 – Dylan Elder (SH) lost by fall to Ryder Shinkle (Crook County) 1:07; in consolation bracket, lost 17-8 to Stine Rathbun (Estacada) Did not place. Champion: Jake Stigall (North Marion).

132 – Ty Harvey (SH) pinned Jackson Conrad (North Bend) :45; lost 6-4 to Jake Fowler (Tillamook); in consolation bracket, dec. Zach Leonard (Philomath) 4-1; pinned Donovan Blake (Yamhill-Carlton) 4:20; pinned Johnny Vara (North Marion) 1:34; lost 9-5 to Jake Fowler (Tillamook) in consolation final to finish fourth. Champion: Zorg Loustalet (Henley).

138 – Tyler Cowger (SH) pinned Spencer Bradford (Estacada) 2:27; pinned Cole Hannan Brookings-Harbor) 3:41; pinned Brendan Harkey (Crook County) 4:47; lost 9-2 to Lucas Randall (North Marion) in championship match.

145 – No Sweet Home qualifiers. Champion: Eleazar Deluca (Phoenix).

152 – Raul Hernandez (SH) lost by fall to Seth Sotelo (Hidden Valley) 4:20; in consolation bracket, dec. Curtis Crouch (Crook County) 3-2; lost 6-4 to Aaron Boatright (Mazama) 6-4. Did not place. Champion: Ryan Bullock (McLoughlin).

152 – Trever Olson (SH) lost by fall to Aaron Boatright (Mazama) 3:47; in consolation bracket, dec. Ronald Allen (Tillamook) 6-5; lost 9-2 to Steven Groce (Yamhill-Carlton). Did not place.

160 – No Sweet Home qualifiers. Champion: Josh Stanley (Cottage Grove).

170 – No Sweet Home qualifiers. Champion: Tyler Howe (Cascade).

182 – Chance Jucutan (SH) pinned Taylor Hodgen (McLoughlin) :50; dec. Billy Prince (Tillamook) 6-5; lost by fall to Cody Crawford (Cascade) 1:46; in consolation bracket, lost by fall to Zach Soto (Cascade) 1:47; lost 7-3 to CJ Paxton (Brookings-Harbor) in fifth-place match to finish sixth. Champion: Cody Crawford (Cascade).

195 – Wade Paulus (SH) pinned Juan Lopez (Ontario) :16; dec. Drake Dow (Henley) 6-5; pinned Zach Olander (North Bend) 2:39; lost 5-3 (OT) to Beau Grauf (Sutherlin) in championship match.

220 – No Sweet Home qualifiers. Champion: Travis Williams (Madras).

285 – Zach Gill (SH) dec. Josh Cox (Mazama) 2-1; dec. Jason Alvarado (Ontario) 5-4 (OT); lost 8-4 to Semise Kofe (Roosevelt); in consolation bracket, pinned Jason Williams (Crook County) :36; dec. Dylan Helland (Elmira) 7-3 in consolation final to finish third. Champion: Kyle Smith (Elmira).