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‘So many people, so many mats.’ Oregon small-school wrestlers enjoy one manic day of action at compressed state meet

“The lights are a little brighter. The facility is a little bigger. The mat’s the same size, but it feels like a bigger event, a bigger deal.”

By René Ferrán | Photo by Leon Neuschwander 

From Cave Junction to Elgin, Astoria to Vale, hundreds of wrestlers from the smallest schools around Oregon gathered in Portland for the OSAA state championships this weekend. 

Then, thanks to a once-in-a-generation storm that dumped the most snow in the city in eight decades, they had to wait an extra day in hotel rooms.

Instead of a two-day tournament, the action for the Class 4A, 3A, 2A/1A and inaugural 4A/3A/2A/1A girls tournaments was compressed into one manic 13-hour day at Memorial Coliseum.

Which, in the end, was just fine with most of them. Just being back at Memorial Coliseum, even for one day, with everyone under one roof, was enough.

“It’s a big stage — so many people, so many mats,” said La Pine sophomore Landyn Philpott, who won a second 3A state title Friday night with a 12-0 major decision over Banks’ Jack Vandehey in the 132-pound final.

A year ago, Philpott won his first championship in his home gym.

“But getting one here at the Coliseum is amazing,” he said. 

Teammate Devon Kerr, who also won his second title in the same venue where older brothers David and Derrik won three, reveled in the moment.

“It’s been my dream because when I was younger, I was watching my older brothers growing up in this stadium, winning state titles in this stadium,” he said. “And for me to finally fill their shoes and do something that they did is just unbelievable to me.”

Philpott and Kerr helped La Pine win a third consecutive team title and fourth in the past five years. The Hawks also won the 4A/3A/2A/1A girls title, making them the first school since the OSAA sanctioned a girls wrestling state tournament in 2019 to sweep the boys and girls championships.

“It’s very special to be a part of (both) programs,” said Hawks coach Aaron Flack. “You have to have a little bit of luck, and it was awesome to see kids stepping up where you didn’t expect them to.”

La Grande secured back-to-back 4A titles, and Illinois Valley edged perennial 2A/1A power Culver to win the school’s first championship in any sport.

“It kind of sucked to miss the first day of the tournament,” said Cougars junior Ryan Griffin, whose 2-1 victory over Culver’s Kelin Abbas in the 152-pound final clinched the title. “But I’m happy to get it out of the way today. It feels good now.”

Class 4A

The Tigers had a meet-high 14 wrestlers make the podium, with six reaching the final and three winning titles to pull away from Sweet Home and win their third title in the past four seasons.

Crook County, which beat La Grande for the district title last weekend, finished third.

“This is a little different from last year,” Tigers coach Klel Carson said. “For the kids, the lights are a little brighter. The facility is a little bigger. The mat’s the same size, but it feels like a bigger event, a bigger deal.”

Senior Joshua Collins (138) and Carson’s son Kai, a junior 126-pounder, won their second state titles, and senior Brysen Penaloza also won at 145.

Scappoose, which hadn’t had an individual champion since 2014 or won a team trophy since 2015, saw both streaks end in dramatic fashion as seniors Ben Rintoul (160), Trey Dieringer (170) and Wyatt Anicker (195) took home gold medals to lead the school to a fourth-place finish.

Sweet Home junior Kyle Sieminski (113) moved one step closer to becoming a four-time champion, and older brother Jacob repeated as a state champion at 132. Junior Dylan Clark (120) and senior Matthew McCoy (220) gave Henley multiple champions for the first time since 2014.

Class 3A

La Pine reversed its fortunes from two weeks ago, when it lost to Burns at the district tournament, edging the Hilanders by 19.5 points, with Harrisburg finishing third and Banks fourth — Banks’ first podium finish since 2004. 

The Hawks had six finalists — with Philpott, Kerr and sophomore Tag Deluca (160) taking home titles — and nine medalists, which proved just enough to hold off Burns’ eight medalists and four state champions — sophomores Canon Winn (120) and Kale Cornell (126), and brothers Hunter (152) and Easton (170) Kemper.

Harrisburg (Luke Cheek at 113 and Brody Buzzard at 145) and Banks (Daevon Vereen at 182 and Mishael Mauck at 220) also had multiple champions.

Class 2A/1A

The team race between 14-time champion Culver and first-time winner Illinois Valley went back and forth all evening, with the difference coming down to the Cougars going 4 for 4 in their finals — including an all-Illinois Valley final at 106 won by three-time champion Michael Miller — while the Bulldogs had just one champion among their five finalists. 

Toledo, which won its first team trophy last year, moved up one spot to finish third, while Elgin made the podium for the first time in the past 30 years by finishing fourth. Huskies senior Joseph Lathrop became his program’s first champion since 2007, winning the 182-pound title.

Central Linn senior Jacob Beauchamp (160), Toledo junior Ash Blomstrom (195) and Myrtle Point junior Logan Clayburn (220) capped undefeated seasons with state titles. Clayburn is his school’s first champion since 2016.

Regis junior Thomas Bischoff became his school’s first state champion by pinning Crane’s Jake Doman with 18 seconds left in the 170 final. 

Class 4A/3A/2A/1A Girls

Kira Kerr’s second state title in the 155-pound final provided the clinching points that gave La Pine a six-point victory over Sweet Home and Baker/Powder Valley, which tied for second. The Hawks’ previous best finish at state was a tie for fourth at the inaugural girls state meet in 2019. 

La Grande, which hadn’t finished above 40th in the previous four state meets, took home the fourth-place trophy.

Kerr, Siletz Valley senior Chelo Garcia (105) and Grant Union/Prairie City sophomore Mallory Lusco (190) repeated as state champions. 

Garcia and Kerr were among six champions to finish undefeated, joined by Cottage Grove sophomore Allison Palluck (115), Gervais junior Sariah Zepeda (16-0), Vale junior Ava Collins (140) and North Valley sophomore Breanna Meek (235).