SWEET HOME — It wasn't looking good for Philomath High's Connar Kohn.
Down on points 10-3 in the second period against a No. 3 seed in Yamhill-Carlton senior Zachary Culver, the Warriors freshman appeared to be headed for certain defeat in the 170-pound consolation final.
But then it happened.
Kohn turned the tables on Culver and got him onto this back. At the 3:46 mark of the match, the official slapped his hand down on the mat to declare a pin. Just like that, Kohn had punched his ticket to the state tournament while his Philomath teammates and coaches, including his dad, celebrated wildly.
"He just flat out won on determination and desire," PHS coach Troy Woosley said. "It's good for a freshman to have that ability. He may lack something in athleticism right now but his desire is amazing."
How did Kohn pull off the win?
"Honestly, I'm not quite sure," he said afterward. "There was definitely a little bit of luck with doing the right thing at the right time."
Kohn, who was seeded fifth, went on to compete in the third-place match but lost on an 11-0 major decision to Sutherlin's Will Singleton. Still, Kohn was happy with the fourth place with a trip to Portland secured.
In all, the Warriors will send four wrestlers to state. Senior Joey Howell had to settle for runner-up in the 152-pound finale but had the highest placing of any Philomath wrestler at the Special District 2 meet. Seniors Tony Rath and Keltin Benson both had fourth-place finishes and qualified as well for the state tournament, which runs Friday and Saturday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
"We only had two last year, so we doubled it," said Woosley, referring to the number of qualifiers. "I feel like we left a couple of kids that could've made it, but we've got four going."
Howell reached the Saturday evening championship round in his first bouts this season at 152. He has been wrestling 160 but cut the weight to improve his chances in Portland.
"He was down at weight already on Tuesday, so it wasn't a hard cut for him. ... State-wise, we saw there was a better opportunity (at 152) so that's the way we went," Woosley said.
Howell pinned his first two opponents Friday and then came back Saturday for a win on a 9-2 decision. That matched him up against Sweet Home junior Boe Baxter, the No. 2 seed who had blown through his first three opponents as well.
Baxter got a takedown early on for a 2-0 lead but any continuity early was disrupted by two stoppages in the first 48 seconds to tend to his bloody nose. In the second period, he added an escape and takedown for a 5-0 lead before Howell picked up two points with 1:19 left in the third.
That was it for the scoring, however, with Baxter getting the win on his home mat in his first bout ever against Howell.
"I know Joey's disappointed," Woosley said. "He flat out eased up at the beginning and that's what cost him the match," Woosley said. "We'll see him again at state."
Rath was another wrestler who was hoping for a higher placing with him settling for fourth at 126. Rath pinned his first two opponents Friday, lost in the semifinals to Sweet Home's Jackson Royer and then secured his spot at state by defeating Sweet Home's Gavin Nichols in the consolation final.
In the third-place match, Elmira's Hunter Davis got the better of him with a 14-5 win. It was a wrestler Rath had soundly defeated earlier this season.
"It just happens, that's the sport of wrestling. You'll have the best of times, you'll have the worst of times. Fortunately, this didn't cost me my state run," Rath said. "He's a solid wrestler, obviously he's going to state, and halfway through that match, I mentally checked out and I started overthinking. That's not the type of wrestler I am but that's the type of wrestler I was in that match."
Benson was all smiles by qualifying for state in his final shot as a high school wrestler.
"It's definitely been a goal that I set for a while now," Benson said. "It just took me a while to get there."
Benson, who competes at 132, stuck his first opponent but then got pinned himself in the second round. He came back to win his first consolation match on a pin to advance into what is often referred to as "the blood round" because the winner moves on while the loser hits the showers.
In that match, Benson pinned Sweet Home's Gavin Walberg in 5:04.
"Coming into the first match today, the second day, it was definitely the hardest one because one mistake and my season and career would be over," Benson said. "That's all it takes, one mistake. It was do-or-die."
Benson moved on to pin Sutherlin's Case Wells in 3:25, a wrestler he had seen before, to secure his spot for state. In the third-place match, he lost on a pin to Sweet Home's Robbie Yunke.
"Keltin had a great tournament," Woosley said. "He was a 6 seed and for him to take fourth, that's pretty good. His weight class was loaded so for him to come up as the best of the rest so to say, that was really good. I'm really happy for him ... he's put in a lot of hard work for it."
Two other Philomath wrestlers were just one win away from making it to state. In most years, the top four advance, but this year, Special District 2 also got to send the fifth-place wrestlers. The OSAA's qualification method alternates a fifth qualifier between different districts from year to year.
Seniors Dylan Donnell and Jared Minter were very close, both surviving the "blood round" and reaching consolation finals. Both lost those bouts and dropped into the fifth-place matches with the winner advancing. Donnell and Minter both lost on major decisions.
Others reaching the consolation semifinals were junior Hunter McCaskill (120), freshman Issiah Blackburn (160), junior Kalvin Schunn (182) and junior Noah Estes (285).
The two-day tournament serves as a mental and physical test for the athletes involved.
"You've got to make sure to go home, get to bed early and that type of stuff," Kohn said. "You've got to rest up or you're going to run out of energy."
Philomath finished sixth in the team standings with 126 points. Sweet Home took first place with 386.5 points to easily outdistance runner-up Cascade with 241.
4A Special District 2 Tournament
Friday-Saturday at Sweet Home
Team scoring: Sweet Home (SH) 386.5, Cascade (CAS) 241, Junction City (JC) 189, North Marion (NM) 172.5, Sutherlin (SUT) 139.5, Philomath (PHS) 126, Yamhill-Carlton (Y-C) 113, Cottage Grove (CG) 109, Elmira (ELM) 107, Sisters (SIS) 86, Newport (NEW) 63.5, Stayton (STY) 15.
106 — Blake Brouwer (0-2): Pinned by Reily Liesegang, Y-C, 1:41; lost tech. fall Treyson Smith, SH, 16-1.
120 — Hunter McCaskill (1-2): Pinned by Robert Watkins, SH, 0:48; pinned Chaz Patterson, SIS, 1:23; pinned by Cole Wiles, NEW, 2:36.
126 — Tony Rath (3-2, 4th): Pinned Alejandro Ayala, JC, 1:09; pinned Brenden Butcher, CAS, 1:37; pinned by Jackson Royer, SH, 2:26; pinned Gavin Nichols, SH, 1:18; lost maj. dec. Hunter Davis, ELM, 14-5.
132 — Keltin Benson (4-2, 4th): Pinned Fernando Soto-Cruz, CG, 3:17; pinned by Robbie Yunke, SH, 1:29; pinned Jaime Garcia, Y-C, 4:50; pinned Gavin Walberg, SH, 5:04; pinned Case Wells, SUT, 3:25; pinned by Robbie Yunke, SH, 2:27.
132 — Morgan French (1-2): Pinned Sonny Magnuson, SIS, 2:39; pinned by Russel Stigall, NM, 1:36; pinned by Gavin Walberg, SH, 0:50.
138 — Matt Hamlet (1-2): Dec. Nathaniel Cable, Y-C, 6-2; lost maj. dec. Jacob Dunn, CG, 11-0; pinned by Joey Casiano, CAS, 1:50.
138 — Brandon Soric-Rogers (0-2): Pinned by Travis Thorpe, SH, 0:44; pinned by Austin Pade, SIS, 3:51.
145 — Cooper Latz (0-2): Pinned by Kade VanDeHey, CAS, 0:28; pinned by Colorado Olson, Y-C, 1:26.
152 — Dylan Donnell (3-3, 6th): Pinned Israel Martinez, CAS, 2:27; pinned by Boe Baxter, SH, 3:18; pinned Jordan Lewis, NEW, 1:30; pinned Owen Amerson, Y-C, 2:53; pinned by Bryce Anderson, SUT, 1:35; lost maj. dec. C.J. Mitchell, SH, 13-5.
152 — Joey Howell (3-1, 2nd): Pinned Shane Cazimero, ELM, 2:35; pinned Westin Nelson, CAS, 0:57; dec. Bryce Anderson, SUT, 9-2; lost dec. Boe Baxter, SH, 5-2.
160 — Cody Griffin (0-2): Pinned by Noah Moore, SH, 1:32; pinned by Hunter Spor, SIS, 4:56.
160 — Issiah Blackburn (2-2): Pinned by Hayden McDonald, SH, 1:46; pinned Jaden Pearce, STY, 0:52; pinned Max Harsch, ELM, 4:41; lost maj. dec. Ulises Maldonado, NM, 11-3.
170 — Connar Kohn (4-2, 4th): Pinned Oden Armstrong, CG, 0:31; lost dec. Ayite Mettle, NEW, 8-7; pinned Dustin Talbott, Y-C, 1:00; dec. Clay Dickerson, STY, 6-4; pinned Zachary Culver, Y-C, 3:46; lost maj. dec. Will Singleton, SUT, 11-0.
182 — Kalvin Schunn (2-2): Pinned Zachary Holliday, JC, 3:28; pinned by Matthew Clark, CAS, 5:46; pinned Jake Fanning, SH, 5:35; pinned by Korbyn Jones, SUT, 1:25.
182 — Randall Tipsword (0-2): Pinned by Chayce Sproat, SIS, 1:05; pinned by Austin Dempsey, CG, 3:14.
195 — Jared Minter (2-3, 6th): Lost dec. Zachary Lepre, SUT, 7-6; pinned Levi Baird, SH, 2:44; dec. Ethan Martin, SIS, 13-11; pinned by Tyler Morris, JC, 0:08; lost maj. dec. Jimmy Acevedo, NEW, 11-0.
220 — Kane Rust (1-2): Pinned Jackson Robinson, SIS, 1:25; pinned by Macoy Christman, CAS, 1:27; pinned by Antheny Widmaier, JC, 1:19.
220 — Luis Vargas-Juarez (0-2): Pinned by Louie Sanchez, CAS, 0:47; pinned by Sam Cruden, CG, 1:50.
285 — Noah Estes (1-2): Pinned by Adam Lamb, CG, 1:11; pinned Cole Herber, JC, 1:13; pinned by Casey Warburton, SIS, 0:29.