Harrisburg's Cooper Clark (left) won by a 4-3 decision over Coquille/Bandon's Tommy Vigue on Thursday. (Jim Beseda photo)
Harrisburg's Cooper Clark (left) won by a 4-3 decision over Coquille/Bandon's Tommy Vigue on Thursday. (Jim Beseda photo)

PORTLAND -- Harrisburg wrestling coach Desmond Bennett has known for some time that the Eagles were pointed in the right direction for what would be the school’s first 3A boys wrestling state championship team title.

Bennett remembers a conversation he had in October with junior Luke Cheek, the two-time individual state champion, that he said helped put to rest any doubts he might have had about the Eagles’ readiness to make a title run this season.

“Luke said, ‘I’m so excited for the season,” Bennett said during Thursday’s opening round of the OSAA/OnPoint Credit Union state wrestling championships at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum. “And then he said, ‘But, it’s all up to us. We’ve got to do it.’

“Hearing that from him … that was awesome.”

Harrisburg set school records with nine individual district champions and 17 qualifiers for this year’s state tournament. Of those 17 qualifiers, Andrei Donayri (106), John Henderson (106), P.J. Machacek (120), Cheek (120), Jackson Peterman (126), Nephi Heakin (144), Landen Hecht (150), Devin Martin (157), Brody Buzzard (165), and Clark Cooper (215) all advanced to Friday’s semifinals.

Throw in five others — Grayson Truesdell (132), Justin Hoyt (138), Isaac Talmadge (144), Parker Hughes (175), and Hunter Langham (285) — still kicking in consolation action after Thursday and it’s easy to see how Harrisburg sprinted out to a 140-77.5 lead over Banks in the team race.

Burns stands third with 68 points, followed by three-time defending champion La Pine with 63.5.

“We’ve just been focused on our performance,” said Bennett, in his 21st season as head coach at Harrisburg. “We had a tough schedule — the Sierra Nevada Classic in December, the Resers Tournament of Champions in January — and so we’re not telling them they need to do anything other than perform to the best of their ability

“This morning, we talked about enjoying this week. We’ve got some tough seniors and this will be the last time they’ll ever be on a mat. So, they enjoyed practice last night over at Clackamas and I them this morning, ‘You’re ready. We’re ready. We’re all ready.’ And they were ready to go.”

Donayri, Harrisburg’s 106-pound freshman, helped set the tone Thursday in his opening match when he scored an 11-4 victory over top-seeded Kempton Richardson of Burns. 

Donayri then came back in the quarterfinals with a first-round pin against Warrenton’s Kyle Bond to secure his spot in an all-Harrisburg semifinal against Henderson.

So, the Eagles are guaranteed at least one spot in the finals.

“All the kids are motivated just to do their best and then the team points will just take care of themselves,” Bennett said. “So, that what we tell them: ‘Focus on you. If you succeed, everybody’s going to succeed and we’ll just feed off each other and enjoy it. This is fun.”

Over the past six seasons, Harrisburg has gone home with a trophy four times, placing fourth in 2018 and third in 2019, 2022, and 2023.

The Eagles are all but guaranteed another piece of hardware, most likely a blue one.

“Last year, we got third and I thought we were the best team. We didn’t perform the best. I thought we were the best team last year and we had some kids in the big moments that didn’t perform to their ability.

“Right inside that warm-up room, we were the last team here last year and we chewed ‘em. We said, ‘This is unacceptable. You guys are better than this. What are you going to do in the offseason to make this right?’ They have grown up, they're matured, and I’m just so proud of every single one of them and the people they are.”


La Grande senior Ridge Kehr did what every wrestler who qualifies for the state tournament hopes to achieve on Day One of the tournament.

The Tigers’ 165-pounder survived his first two matches Thursday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum and stayed in the hunt for an individual state title.

"You’ve just got to stay focused through it all,” Kehr said. “I get nervous, so I have to focus my mind, right? These first rounds are the toughest. You overlook people and they get you, so it’s important to battle through and stay focused.”

Kehr, who lost in the finals at 152 pounds a year ago, needed only 18 seconds to put Hidden Valley’s Marco Butterbaugh on his back in Thursday’s first-round match.

In the quarterfinals, Kehr opened an 8-4 lead over Philomath’s Gradin Fairbanks before putting Fairbanks’ shoulders to the mat midway through the second round.

“This isn’t new territory for me,” said Kehr, who will face fifth-seeded Ryker Hartsook of Sweet Home in the semifinals. “I’ve been here before … and that helps a lot. Like, it’s not as scary, you know. You’ve done it already, so just go do it again.”

Sweet Home took the first-day lead in the team race with 164 points after the Huskies advanced eight of their 18 state qualifiers into Friday’s semifinals. Crook County stood second with 137.5 points, followed by La Grande with 95.5, Cascade with 89.5, and Mazama and Pendleton with 59.5 each.

“This is a battle,” said Sweet Home coach Steve Thorpe, whose team took home an Oregon Wrestling Association team title during the Covid-marred 2020-21 season. “I don’t look at what our position is or what somebody else’s position is. There are just some great teams here right now and the 4A match-ups are solid from top to bottom. La Grande is tough. Crook County is tough. Everybody’s tough.”

So, what did Thorpe tell his kids before they arrived at Portland's historic Glass Palace on Thursday?

“I wanted them to have fun, strike first, and wrestle hard,” Thorpe said. “That’s all that matters to us right now is that they wrestle hard. You wrestle hard and you let everything else take care of itself. Trust your training and trust your coaches. That’s what we do.”

Crook County is chasing an eighth team championship, but the Cowboys of Prineville face an uphill battle with only four qualified in the semifinals.

Defending champion La Grande has seven in the semis, giving the Tigers an outside chance at what would be their sixth OSAA team title

“If we battle like we know we can, I believe we can get it done,” Kehr said. “We need to get as many kids in the finals as we can. We don’t have the numbers that Crook County and Sweet Home have, but we still have really good wrestlers who have been training for this.

“We need to be ready for the semis tomorrow and believe. We’ve put in the work, we’ve put in the training, and now is the time to put that to use.”


One of the last pieces of advice Willamina coach Arias Fasana gave his team before they hit the mats Thursday at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum was to “wrestle every match like it’s their last one.”

He must have struck a nerve because the Bulldogs soared to the top of the leaderboard in the team race with nine of their 13 qualifiers advancing to Friday’s semifinals.

Senior Rhyne Nelson (285), juniors Devin Houston (138), Kaden Konovalov (150), and Finnian Clemans (165), sophomores Kisor Savage (120) and Adoniyah Stanton (126), and freshmen Grayson Hubbard (106) and Eden Stanton (113) all won quarterfinal matches to help lift Willamina to a 65.5-42 lead over defending champion Illinois Valley.

Toledo held down third place with 40 points, followed by Camas Valley with 36 and Culver with 25.

“It’s a points game and the more kids you have, the more potential you have to score,” said Fasana, whose team is seeking its fifth 2A/1A team title and first since 1999. “But it’s also having those kids in the room to work out with each other and they make each other a little stronger during the year. 

“We had over 50 kids — boys and girls — in the room for most of this year and the cream rises. They had to battle for their spots, so that made them better, in my opinion. That’s kind of what we’re looking at.”

Houston, Willamina’s 138-pound junior, rose to the occasion Thursday. After earning a state berth on a wild card, he won his first match by second-round pin over fourth-seeded Ethan Green of Illinois Valley. He then won by a 12-4 major decision over Santiam’s Wyatt Dayton to set up a semifinal match-up with top-seeded Trevor Wolf of Vernonia.

“For Devin to come through and win his first two matches and make the semis is big,” Fasana said.

Can anybody catch the Bulldogs?

“We’ll see. I don’t like to look too far ahead,” Fasana said. “We’re where we wanted to be, I guess. We wanted to be out front and we want to remain there, obviously. But that’s going to happen with each match as we go.

“One of my best teams didn’t win a state championship. We had 14 kids here one year and I think 10 of them placed and it wasn’t enough. You’ve just got to be the best team that day, that year. So, enjoy the process and, hopefully, we come away on top. But if we don’t, we’ll go back to work for next year.”

4A/3A/2A/1A girls

La Grande seniors Dora Galino (105), Maleigha Azure (125), and Kaitlin Brock (155) led a group of eight Tigers wrestlers into Friday’s semifinals.

Juniors Kierstyn Azure (105), Lyndon Isaacson (115), Rilley Robinson (130), and Paige Allen (135), and sophomore Maddy Armstrong (170) also earned spots in the semis to help pace La Grande to a 50-29 lead over Nyssa in the team race.

Harrisburg stood third with 24 points, Crook County and Oakridge had 23 each, and seven other teams were all within five points of fourth place.

“We’re looking pretty strong,” La Grande coach Krystal Fabricante said. “We’ve got to keep pushing through those semifinals because anything can happen at state. I’ve seen it. So, the hope is just to stay focused and not over-complicate any situation. Just go in with the right attitude on the mat and finish.”

Allen, La Grande’s 135-pound junior, took her turn in the spotlight Thursday during her quarterfinal match against fourth-seeded Jade Seymour of La Pine. After surrendering the initial takedown, Allen used an escape and a takedown to open a 4-2 lead before pinning Seymour 17 seconds into the second round.

“Paige has been strong this year, very strong,” Fabricante said. “I enjoy seeing her wrestle and how much she has progressed from last season. The hope is that she continues to keep pushing.

“It's her offense. Every time she shoots, she’s scoring. As long as she’s keeping her confidence up and trusting and believing in her shots, she can go at it.”