Thurston became the first team in the 40-year history of the Oregon Wrestling Classic to win boys and girls high school titles. The Colts did so in dramatic fashion in each on Saturday in Redmond.
Newberg, La Grande, La Pine and Culver also took home titles at the Classic, which is considered the unofficial dual meet state championships in Oregon.
Thurston’s girls’ team rallied from down 18-12 with four straight pins to clinch the 16-team High School Women’s Duals. Kristal Zamora, Averie Stockwell, Gabi Gilbert and Emily Zerr each scored six points for her team – Zerr’s pin coming in 1:11 in the 170-pound class – in the run to put away the match in which every bout was decided by a pin. Thurston won six of the 10 to create the final 12-point margin.
Sweet Home’s Paige Chafin and Kami Hart each won her match against Thurston opponents to complete 6-0 runs through the tournament, each win by pinfall.
“I am proud of our women and how they competed,” Sweet Home head coach Steve Thorpe said. “They have set a new standard for Women’s wrestling in Sweet Home for years to come.”
Thurston’s win in the boys 5A championship was much more dramatic, as the Colts edged Crook County, 38-37, to avenge a 56-28 dual meet home loss to the Cowboys back in December.
Crook County, the 5A favorite with Crescent Valley unable to participate, got pins out of the gate from Alberto Flores and Landon Lavey to bolt to a 12-0 lead in Saturday’s 5A final. Another pin, by Tucker Bonner at 126 pounds, extended the Cowboy lead to 18-3. Wins by Braylin Ruchti (pin) and Kolton Malone (tech.) pulled Thurston within 18-14. Crook County stopped Thurston’s run when Wyatt Wood won a 6-4 decision at 145 pounds. An exchange of pins and a majority decision win by Ray Solis at 195 followed, making the team score 37-26 Crook County with only two matches remaining.
For Thurston to win, not only would the Colts have to prevail in the final two bouts, but also both wins would have to be by pin.
Vaun Halstead, a standout junior linebacker who finished second last spring at 220 pounds, took care of his business with a 90-second pin to pull Thurston within 37-32.
That left the outcome of the 5A championship in the hands of Thurston senior Keannan Bowditch. Bowditch, listed at 195 pounds on the Thurston football roster, had pinned his Crook County opponent back in December and, knowing what was at stake, wasted very little time doing it again. The match was over in less than 30 seconds, as Thurston completed the come-from-behind win to take the title.
“It was a pretty awesome weekend for Thurston Wrestling,’ Thurston coach Mike Simons said. “It was an overall team effort for both the boys and girls!”
“Thurston is tough!” exclaimed Crook County head coach Jake Gonzales. “Our coaching staff knew it would be close and come down to getting bonus points! Unfortunately, we got pinned more and that was the difference in the dual.”
Newberg won the 6A division for the third straight time. The top-ranked 6A team in the OSAAtoday coaches polls took down No. 2 Roseburg, 59-18, in the semifinals before rolling past No. 4 Mountain View, 62-9, in the championship dual. Several wrestlers went undefeated for the weekend for the Tigers, led by Kyle Kelley at 182, whose 6-0 record was accomplished all by pinfall.
“It was a great weekend for our program,” Newberg coach Neil Russo said. “We were dominant but also got some individuals tested along the way. Mt. View and Roseburg are both quality programs and each has a solid line-up, but we were able to come out on top. This is a Newberg line-up that is as good as we’ve had from top to bottom. We also have some depth. Our second lineup was entered into the 6A Classic this weekend as well. They had some success, losing only to Sprague, which ended up fourth.”
La Grande, ranked second in the 4A coaches polls, pulled off an upset of sorts by knocking off No. 1 Sweet Home, 46-31, in the 4A boys championship dual. The Tigers also knocked off Sweet Home for the Classic title in 2020.
“We kind of got on a roll,” noted La Grande head coach Klel Carson. “We had some guys beat guys this weekend that they weren’t supposed to. Our little guy, Bobby Gulzow, got us going early with a pin over their guy at 113. He came from behind. That got things rolling for us. Then our solid guys in the middle kept it going from there. I’m super proud of all our guys. Super great team win!”
Sweet Home coach Thorpe, who wrestled in the Classic and has coached teams here for 30 years, was proud of the effort his boys team gave with his regulars at 106 and 113 missing.
“Our guys stepped it up and competed with heart and character,” he said. “Hats off and congrats to La Grande on their Classic title.”
Jake Sieminski, Ryker Hartsook, Kaden Zajic and Ethan Spencer all distinguished themselves on the weekend for Sweet Home. They each went 6-0 and had 21 falls between them.
Devon Kerr, Dylan Mann and Kadin Yeager were undefeated for the weekend for No. 1 La Pine, which took down No. 8 Harrisburg, 43-30, in the 3A championship.
“What a great team experience!” La Pine coach Aaron Flack exclaimed after his team’s first-ever Classic title.
Culver won the 2A/1A title for the 16th consecutive time (“Which is mind-boggling for even me,” said coach J.D. Alley). The Bulldogs clipped unranked Illinois Valley, 54-24, in the championship dual.
“We were just really grateful that we could hold our team together Covid-wise and were able to utilize all of our depth throughout the weekend,” Alley said. “My three seniors, Noel Navarro, Gabe Wilson and Isaiah Toomey, all picked up key victories in the finals against Illinois Valley and our younger kids really contributed at a high level all weekend.”
Alley added that the enthusiasm and energy from the wrestlers and fans was amazing and contributed to the team win.
Illinois Valley head coach Jesse Clark said that his team showed heart and competitive spirit with very match.
“Yes, I have my standouts, but every wrester on the IVHS Cougars wrestling team showed up to compete,” he said.
“Our team captain, Mike Miller at 106 pounds, is every coach’s dream as a leader and competitor,” Clark continued.
Miller went undefeated at the Classic, as did Micah Martinho at 113 pounds. His toughest match came against Culver in the finals and he wrestled “like a champ,” Clark said.
Clark said that his top female wrestler, Juliette Wolf, who is 17-0 in the women’s division this year with four first-place finishes, distinguished herself at 132 pounds. Illinois Valley also got strong efforts from undefeated Ryan Griffin, Ryon Martinho and Josiah Williams and Tallen Shaffer, who contributed significantly before being injured in the fourth dual.
“We are proud of our runner-up finish, the success of this team, support of our IVHS families and administration,” Clark said. “I’ve personally wrestled in the Classic’s youth and team dual for Phoenix about 13 times. I’ve always approached the Oregon Classic as the Olympic setting of wrestling for youth and high school. To walk into the arena and see the look on my athletes’ faces was everything you wish to experience in an athletic atmosphere. The adrenaline and nerves that kick in, even for me with 27 years of actual wrestling experience, was every bit as heart pounding all these years later. The Oregon Classic is a well-run competition and we were proud to have succeeded against a tough field of competitors.”