Wrestlers third in state as freshman Newport wins title

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

Kris Newport isn’t one to panic.

Wrestling at 119 pounds, he relies on balance and quickness to counter opponents’ moves, even when he’s on the bottom in a big match, which he was Saturday night in the finals of the OSAA 4A Wrestling Championships at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum.

Wrestling third-seeded Trini-ty Castner of Douglas in the cham-pionship match of the 119-pound division, he was trailing 4-1 near the end of the first period. Newport managed to score on a reversal and then added four more points in the next two periods to finish with a 7-4 win and a celebratory leap into the arms of Coach Steve Thorpe.

“I was very excited for him,” Thorpe said. “He beat a good wrestler. When you’ve spent time training a kid and you see him get the reward for his work, it’s emotional.”

The state title for Newport, who was unseeded going into the tournament with a 28-5 record, made him Sweet Home’s 32nd individual wrestling champion and the first-ever Husky freshman to win a state championship, eclipsing the record set by Clint Sieminski, who placed second as a freshman in 1996 and went on to a career record of 144-6, with 64 falls, to win three state titles.

“I was shocked,” said Newport, who finished 32-5 for the year. “It’s what I’ve always wanted. I worked hard as well. I knew we would fight it out.”

It was a happy ending for what turned out to be a difficult tournament as Sweet Home finished third in the team standings, behind Tillamook, which put four wrestlers in the finals to score 169 points for the team title, and just behind Scappoose (154 points) with 153. Illinois Valley and Cascade finished fourth and fifth.

It was big wins that carried the Huskies, Thorpe said, noting that Sweet Home scored more than 40 bonus points with pins, major decisions or technical falls.

The six other Huskies who medaled were Levi Weikel, third at 140 pounds; Taylor Tagle, fourth at 103 pounds; Brock Crocker, fourth at 135 pounds; Mitch Grove, fifth at 103 pounds; Danny Johnson, fifth at 112 pounds; Nick Pitts, sixth at 152 pounds; and Matt Grove, eighth at 112 pounds.

Most of the Huskies’ problems were due to officials’ calls, which cost them at least three matches.

“This was the worst officiated tournament I have ever been part of,” said Thorpe, who is in his 11th year as a head coach. He said officials associations have established requirements that this year resulted in experienced referees not being able to work the state tournament. For instance, referees who work college matches, in addition to high school, weren’t eligible because they hadn’t officiated enough high school bouts.

He said “bad calls, match-changing calls” will happen but there were too many this time.

“Some of the best officials in the state of Oregon weren’t allowed to officiate,” Thorpe said. “When you have kids competing for state titles, you think you would have the best officials in the state officiating those matches.”

A key turn came when Crocker took Sam Winter of Illinois Valley to the mat in the final seconds of overtime, trailing 11-9. The referee did not award Crocker points that would have tied or won the match as time ran out.

“It was a five-team race at that point, but I knew when that was taken away from Brock, that kind of dashed our hopes of winning a state championship,” Thorpe said.

Still, he said, it was a good weekend in many ways.

“What happened, is we won it last year, graduated seven or eight guys, came back and scared the heck out of everybody at the tournament, wondering if we were going to repeat,” he said. “Seventeen of our 18 entries won matches.

“I’ve always said the state tournament doesn’t play out on paper the way you expect it to,” Thorpe said. “You have certain people win matches they shouldn’t, and certain people lose matches they shouldn’t. We trophied with less champions than any team I’ve ever had.”

Newport said he got “a late start” in his championship match and didn’t gain control until he scored the reversal.

“I knew I was gonna come back,” he said, despite the rough start. “I was confident in myself.”

He said after he got the reversal, he could tell Castner was done.

“He just fell apart as soon as I started scoring on him,” Newport said.

In the semifinals, he beat top-ranked Chayse Garrison of Hidden Valley 3-1 Friday in a match in which, Thorpe said, Newport just didn’t quit.

“He refused to stop wrestling,” Thorpe said. “He just kept wrestling. When he came off the mat in the semis, I said to him, ‘You haven’t done anything yet.’ When he came off the mat in the finals, he said ‘Now I’ve done something.’ I said, ‘Yes, you have.'”

Newport has wrestled for the Sweet Home Mat Club since he was a youngster and he knew what was coming when he got to high school, Thorpe said.

“The thing about Kris is he worked very hard for this,” he said. “He hasn’t just improved as wrestler over the last year, he has improved as a person. He works hard and he’s been a good teammate. He earned this title.”

And, Thorpe added, “He has had great workout partners. Every day in the wrestling room he’s had great workout partners.”

Now, he said, the challenge for Newport will be staying at the level he reached Saturday.

“Getting good is easy compared to staying good,” Thorpe said. “The expecation is on him now. That will be a mark of character.”

Tagle, who was ranked first in the state poll going into the tournament, though he was not seeded, said he thought he wrestled “well” except when he was pinned in the championship semifinals by top-seeded Brandon Bowers of South Umpqua.

“I think it was a big match and I kind of froze up” he said. “I don’t think he was better than me. I was just outwrestled.

“It was good to place so I can get a better seeding position for next year. It was a lot better than last year (when he went two and out). I’m definitely not satisfied.”

Thorpe said Tagle is disappointed but the bright side is that he will be seeded next year, which will be an advantage.

He said Mitch Grove’s fifth-place medal, after losses to Tagle (in the consolation semis) and second-seeded Dylan McCallum of LaGrande, was a good finish.

“We like to finish on an odd number,” Thorpe said. “Mitch came back and readjusted his goals mid-tournament and wrestled hard, like he always does.”

Grove said he thought he did “fairly well” in the tournament.

“I could always do better,” he said. “You can always improve on yourself.”

He said that getting to wrestle varsity matches, particularly near the end of the season when he and Tagle moved up or down, gave him experience that helped at state.

“I wrestled the guy who got fourth at 6A,” he said. “I wrestled three of the guys (he faced over the weekend) before.”

He said he’d like to stay at 103 pounds but may have to move up next year, though for the sake of the team and family, he said he’d like to wrestle at a different weight than his identical twin, Matt.

Johnson, who finished second last year at 112 pounds, lost 1-0 to Adam Hayner of Molalla in the semifinals, then fell victim to a referee’s non-call against second-seeded Gabe Goodrich of Scappoose, who also ended up in the consolation bracket of what Thorpe said he believed was the toughest weight division in this year’s tournament.

Johnson was trailing Goodrich 7-5 and was underneath coming into the final seconds of the bout, when he turned what spectators and nearby coaches thought was a reversal, but the referee awarded no points, giving the match to Goodrich and relegating Johnson to the fifth-sixth final.

“Danny Johnson should have been going for third or fourth,” Thorpe said. “That was another call that wasn’t even in question. But there was nothing that could have been done. After that situation, he didn’t have the luxury of feeling bad about it.”

Johnson destroyed fourth-seeded Tony Thao of LaPine with a 16-1 technical fall for fifth place.

“In my match against Goodrich, I thought I had him beat but the ref had a different idea,” Johnson said later, then extended a compliment to Newport: “It was nice to see the freshman make the finals.”

Matt Grove, who was wrestling his first state tournament, also in the tough 112-pound bracket, had “an absolutely incredible” run to finish eighth, Thorpe said.

In his consolation quarterfinal bout, Grove, who wrestled on the junior varsity behind Johnson for much of the season, faced Rhino Prince of Illinois Valley and dragged him to the mat with two seconds left to win 8-6.

“My goal was to get seventh and I missed by one place,” Grove said, but he added that his win against Prince proved an important point: “It shows you have to work for all six minutes of the match.”

Crocker, who finished third last year, also fell victim to a questionable call on Friday against sixth-seeded Sam Winter of Illinois Valley. The two were in overtime in their 135-pound semifinals match when the referee awarded Winter a two-point takedown, which “it was not,” Thorpe said.

“In my semi finals match, I wrestled really good, really smart, but I didn’t get the calls,” Crocker said. “I have a tendency for that to happen.”

Crocker won through until he met top-seeded Adam Sprague of Pleasant Hill in the third-place final, who simply outmuscled him in a 17-7 win. Sprague had dropped from 158 pounds, Crocker said, and his strength made the difference.

“He was disappointed, upset about it but he didn’t make excuses,” Thorpe said of the semifinal loss. “I was very disappointed, very heartbroken for him. He wrestled an incredible match. He’s got stuff to shoot for next year.”

Weikel, a junior making his second appearance at state after competing as a freshman, wrestled unseeded out of a pigtail at 140 pounds and turned heads with a dominating performance that was marred by a single loss when he was pinned by eventual second-place finisher John Hedge of Marist in the quarterfinals. Other than that, Weikel pinned all his opponents en route to the consolation championship.

“Levi Weikel was quite possibly the most talked-about kid in the tournament that wasn’t a state champion,” Thorpe said. “No matter what the score, he’s a dangerous, dangerous wrestler if he gets you on your back.”

Weikel’s pins earned 10 bonus points for the Huskies, which was “huge,” Thorpe said.

Weikel said he was happy to come back to get third.

“Realistically, I was hoping to place,” he said. “I just wanted to get as far as I could get.”

Pitts, wrestling with a rib injury for the last few weeks, kept all his matches close, a fact that he took comfort in,

“This was not what I expected,” he said of his sixth-place finish. “I had real close matches.”

Thorpe said Pitts wanted to finish higher but the injury was a problem.

“He wrestled as hard as he could,” he said. “He lost a couple of close matches. He wrestled with intensity and heart. It’s OK to get beat.”

The other place-winner from last year who wrestled in this year’s tournament, junior Jack Perry, did not medal this year while wrestling with an injured shoulder.

“Jack wrestled with as much heart as he possibly could,” Thorpe said.

He noted that Perry and 13 others of the 18 Huskies who qualified for state are expected back next year.

“This was a season I thought we were going to be down some,” he said. “We went 23-3 (in dual meets), won the district championship and were third in state. I underestimated what this group of athletes was capable of doing.”

He expressed appreciation for his “great coaching staff” – Tim Boatright, Steve Hummer, Eric Tagle, Steve Schilling and Joe Rosa, as well as the support staff and parents who have made the program run smoothly.

“We have great coaches in our program this year,” Thorpe said. “They have high, high expectations for the kids, all of them.”

Newport’s success on Saturday night was a result of years of coaching he got from the Mat Club coaches as well, he said – Schilling, Greg Newport and Rosa.

“They all taught him,” Thorpe said.

Next up for the Huskies is the freestyle and Greco-Roman season.

“We’re going to take little break, stay away from the mat for a week and a half, and think about what we need to do,” Thorpe said. “We’ll set some new goals. We don’t want to wait till November to do it.”

OSAA 4A Wrestling Championships

Sweet Home Results

103 – Taylor Tagle, soph., not seeded, pinned Francisco Hernandez (LaGrande) :34; def. Ryder Waddington (Scappoose) 8-1; lost by a pin to top-seeded Brandon Bowers (South Umpqua) 5:36; in consolation bracket, def. (teammate) Mitch Grove 6-2; lost to Wade Humphrey (Cascade 5-3 in consolation final to finish fourth.

103 – Mitch Grove, soph., not seeded, pinned Charles Guthrie (Henley) 3:30; lost to second-seeded Dylan McCollum (LaGrande) 12-2; in consolation bracket, pinned Blake Woosley (Philomath) 2:09; def. third-seeded Chris Culver (Illinois Valley) 6-5; lost to (teammate) Taylor Tagle 6-2; def. Wade Hall (Tillamook) 5-0 to finish fifth.

112 – Danny Johnson, sr., top-seeded, pinned Josh Baker (Phoenix) 1:04; def. Jordan Smith (Scappoose) 5-4; lost 1-0 to Adam Hayner (Molalla); in consolation bracket, lost to second-seeded Gabe Goodrich (Scappoose) 7-5; def. fourth-seeded Tony Thao of LaPine with a 16-1 technical fall for fifth place.

112 – Matt Grove, soph., not seeded, lost to third-seeded Zach Clark (Cascade) 18-5; in the consolation bracket, def. Nick Ough (Elmira) 11-8; def. Rhino Prince (Illinois Valley) 8-6 in OT; lost to second-seeded Gabe Goodrich (Scappoose) 6-2; lost to fifth-seeded Brian Bowers (South Umpqua) 4-0 for eighth place.

119 – Kris Newport, fr., not seeded, pinned TJ Arthur (Banks) 5:11; def. top-seeded Chase Fields (Ontario) 9-4; def. fifth-seeded Chase Garrison (Hidden Valley) 3-1; def. third-seeded Trinity Castner (Douglas) 7-4 in final to win state championship.

119 – Casey Johnson, sr., not seeded, lost to Jake Marshall (Molalla) 4-2, in consolation bracket, def. Patrick Ryan (Taft) 5-1; lost to Daniel Nunez (Ontario) 6-2; did not medal.

125 – Jack Perry, jr., fifth-seeded, pinned Kyle Deming (North Bend) 2:44; lost to David Dodge (Cascade) 16-5; in consolation bracket, lost to Andrew Worthington (Estacada) 11-2; did not medal.

130 – Kyle Hummer, fr., not seeded, lost by technical fall to Tony Norman (North Valley); lost to Vince Morales (Ontario) 9-2; did not medal.

130 – Marshall Arndt, soph., not seeded, def. Jackson Hicks (Estacada) 7-5; lost to third-seeded Ryan Black (Phoenix) 13-0; in consolation bracket lost to Bruce Balcita (South Umpqua) 7-5; did not medal.

135 – Brock Crocker, soph., second-seeded, pinned Dustin Paradis (Brookings-Harbor) 4:56; def. Logan Grady (Banks) 9-2; def. Matt Collier (Cascade) 7-4; lost to Sam Winter (Illinois Valley) 11-9 in OT; in consolation bracket, def. Trent Hardwick (LaGrande) 9-2; lost to top-ranked Adam Sprague (Pleasant Hill) 17-7 to finish fourth.

140 – Levi Weikel, jr., not seeded, pinned Josh Warden (Phoenix) 3:24; pinned Frank Lopez (Ontario) 5:15; lost by fall to second-seeded John Hedge (Marist) 3:23; in consolation bracket, pinned J. Porter (Stayton) 4:12; pinned Willie Bennett (Brookings Harbor) 4:08; pinned Matt Cormish (North Valley) :57 to place third.

145 – Keenan Martin, fr., not seeded, def. Emilio Alfaro (Henley) 10-0; lost by fall to top-seeded Jacob Stanley (Cottage Grove) :44; in consolation bracket, lost to Ryder Wilmarth (LaGrande) 3-1; did not medal.

145 – Donny Roberts, jr., not seeded, lost by fall to Joel Stalcup (Estacada) 1:35; in consolation bracket, def. Emilio Alfaro (Henley) 9-7; lost to Tommy Wyatt (Yamhill-Carlton) 14-4; did not medal.

152 – Nick Pitts, sr., fourth-seeded, pinned Ty Slater (LaPine) 3:29; def. Aaron Bernhardt (Siuslaw) 4-3; lost to fifth-seeded Michael Strickland (Estacada) 3-1; in consolation bracket, def. Brandon Kralman (McLoughlin) 11-4; pinned third-seeded Ian Herzog (Cottage Grove) 3:47; lost to Austin Kelly (Cascade) 4-3 to place sixth.

160 – Brad Pitts, soph., not seeded, lost by fall to Max Nicholson (LaGrande) 5:52; in consolation bracket, def. Pablo Grimaldi (McLouglin) 12-5; lost to Andy Godfrey (LaGrande) 18-5; did not medal.

171 – Anthony Albright, soph., not seeded, lost by technical fall to top-seeded Noah Berman (Phoenix); in consolation bracket, pinned Jake Shukle (Baker) 3:53; lost to Bryon Anderson (Cascade) 8-6; did not medal.

189 – Marc Callagan, jr., not seeded, def. Thomas Schantz (Sisters) 10-9 in OT; lost by fall to second-seeded Bo Younker (South Umpqua) 2:40; in consolation bracket, lost by fall to Cody Hayner (Newport) 1:54; did not medal.

285 – Shaw Valentine, sr., not seeded, lost by fall to Cameron Thrall (Siuslaw) :37; in consolation bracket, pinned R.J. Harter (Henley) 1:40; lost to Marcus Cuellar (Central) 6-2; did not medal.

OSAA 4A 2008

Selected Final Team Scores

1. Tillamook 169.0; 2. Scappoose 154.0; 3. Sweet Home 153.5; 4. Illinois Valley 149.0; 5. Cascade 143.0; 12. Philomath 73.0; 25. Newport 26.0; 31. Central 10.0; 39. Taft 0.0.