Isaac Hampton, who won the 6A title at 120 this year, reached the Greco-Roman semis at Junior Nationals. (Photo by Jon Olson)
Isaac Hampton, who won the 6A title at 120 this year, reached the Greco-Roman semis at Junior Nationals. (Photo by Jon Olson)

Isaac Hampton's repeat state title in February signaled the start of an outstanding spring and summer for the Newberg wrestler.

Hampton, who will be a senior this year, added state titles in freestyle and Greco-Roman at the OWA championships in April. He dominated as a member of Team Oregon at Junior National Duals in Tulsa, Okla., in June. And he reached the 120-pound Greco-Roman semifinals at the Junior National Championships in Fargo, N.D., last month.

“I feel like I've been steadily making gains,” said Hampton, the 6A champion at 113 pounds as a sophomore and at 120 as a junior. “Every time I compete, I feel like I've been getting better.”

Newberg coach Neil Russo said Hampton's approach is a key to his success.

“He's a student of the sport,” Russo said. “I think the biggest thing for Isaac is that he has fun wrestling. He will come into the room and he will play at wrestling for an hour, and with a smile on his face all the time.”

Hampton also took a big step in early spring when he committed to wrestle for the Naval Academy.

“The pressure is taken off a little bit,” Hampton said. “You're a little bit more relaxed because you're not necessarily worried about maybe what a coach will see. You can just focus on your performance.”

Hampton had high hopes going into Junior Nationals last month. He did not place in the tournament in his two previous appearances, but this time got all the way to the Greco-Roman semifinals before a tough 6-5 loss to Ryker Graff from Iowa.

“We had four scores that could have gone either way, and we came out on the losing end of all four of them,” Russo said of the semifinal loss. “That match was a great one to watch. If you get on the podium at Fargo, you are legitimate, it doesn't matter what style you're wresting in. It was impressive. He was beat up by the end of the week.”

Hampton bounced back from losing to Graff to win in the consolation semifinals, but took a blow to the head and neck and was a medical scratch for the third-place match, settling for fourth.

“It was cool to just keep winning, staying on the front side,” Hampton said. “I was just disappointed to not keep going, to make it to the finals. That was the goal. I came so far and I was close, and now I've got to go and get what's left. It was a tough one to lose, for sure. But I got over it pretty quick. You've got to have a short memory.”

His run in the Greco-Roman tournament came after he lost his first match in the freestyle tournament.

“I've been training hard, so going out really early like that was super disappointing,” Hampton said. “I wanted to go and get it back. I definitely would say I was pretty motivated.”

Hampton showed maturity in the way he approached the Greco-Roman tournament.

“He was disappointed after the freestyle tournament, understandably,” Russo said. “He didn't dwell on it, he didn't pout about it. He just refocused.”

In the OWA championships, Hampton got the best of rival Gage Singleton of Roseburg, who in 2021 defeated Hampton in the 6A final at 106 and remains the only Oregon wrestler to beat him in his high school career.

Hampton stopped Singleton 13-7 in the 120 freestyle final, and after losing to Singleton 8-2 in the Greco-Roman tournament, came back to defeat him twice – a 10-2 decision and a first-round pin – to take the crown at 120.

“It felt really good to get that one back,” Hampton said of beating Singleton, an incoming senior who won 6A titles at 106 as a freshman and sophomore. “Gage is a really high level competitor. Even just beating him in itself is something to feel good about because I know he's really good.”

Hampton continued his roll at Junior National Duals in Tulsa, going undefeated in Greco-Roman and dropping just one match in freestyle against a field of the nation's top wrestlers.

Add Junior Nationals: Hampton and recent West Linn graduate Justin Rademacher were the only Oregon wrestlers to make the semifinals at Junior Nationals.

The Oregon State-bound Rademacher, the 6A champion at 182 this year, placed fifth at 182 in Greco-Roman and was seventh in freestyle. He tied 4-4 in a freestyle semifinal match against Orlando Cruz from Indiana but was eliminated on criteria.

Ylyana Sandoval, an incoming freshman at Crook County, took sixth place in the 16U girls tournament at 180. She reached the semifinals before falling 9-0 to Brooklyn Graham from Iowa.

Overall, it was a down year for Oregon wrestlers at Junior Nationals. The only other placer was South Medford incoming junior Bridger Foss, who was seventh at 170 in 16U Greco-Roman.

“It's a little bit disappointing from a state perspective,” Russo said. “You'd like to see us be a little more competitive.”

The two-year layoff that Oregon wrestlers had from freestyle and Greco-Roman during the pandemic has taken a toll, according to Russo.

“A lot of the other states were wrestling,” Russo said. “Not to use that as an excuse, but I think we're still seeing some carryover from that situation. We had some young kids there that hadn't done a lot of freestyle and Greco wrestling. And we had a number of really good kids from the state that did not make the trip, for one reason or another.”