Tony Rath and Joey Howell became the first Philomath High School wrestlers to earn medals at the state tournament in two years Saturday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. The PHS seniors both had sixth-place finishes.
Rath and Howell each had to work through adversity to try to end their final season on a high note. And in another similarity, both had to face wrestlers in fifth-place bouts in their respective weight divisions that they had lost to in Friday matches.
Rath, wrestling at 126 pounds, went up against Baker's Colton Anderson in his medal match, losing on an 11-0 major decision. Rath had dropped a 14-0 major decision to Anderson, who was seeded No. 4 heading into state, in the opening round.
In the consolation bracket, Rath fought for victories to keep himself alive for a top-six finish. First, Mazama's Israel Gill went down, 8-2, followed by a slim 6-5 triumph over Ontario's Trey Trejo. That put Rath into an elimination match against South Umpqua's Nakai Sinohui, an impressive opponent based on his No. 3 seeding. Sinohui had also just eliminated Hunter Davis of Elmira, the wrestler who defeated Rath in a third-place match at districts.
But Rath defeated Sinohui and advanced on a 9-4 decision in what could be called one of the best wins of his career. Rath, who entered the tournament unseeded after a fourth-place finish at districts in Sweet Home, was guaranteed at that point that he would win a medal.
In the next round, Rath wrestled fifth-seeded Maximus Tate and battled to the end in a 4-2 loss. Then came the rematch against Anderson in the medal match.
Howell's path to a sixth-place medal was a little different and he wasn't flying under anyone's radar with a No. 6 seeding at 152 pounds. For the past two weeks, Sweet Home's Boe Baxter turned out to be a nemesis that Howell just couldn't get past.
To set the stage, Howell lost to Baxter Feb. 10 in the district finals at Sweet Home. Howell defeated his first-round opponent, Elijah Santana of Phoenix, with a pin in 3:33 and that set up a rematch in the quarterfinals with Baxter, who was seeded No. 3. The showdown went to Baxter on a 6-5 decision.
Howell had to regroup for a consolation match against Henley's Boss Clark and he took a 10-4 victory. Then came a pin over Tillamook's Tommy Cruz in 4:21. Another match against a Tillamook opponent followed and another painful 6-5 loss was the outcome against Austin Weeks.
In the fifth-place match, none other than Baxter was waiting for him across the mat and the Huskies junior took a 12-8 decision in their third bout in two weeks.
Freshman Connar Kohn, who qualified at 170 pounds, lost on a 14-0 major decision to La Grande's Christopher Woodworth, the No. 4 seed, in the first round Friday.
Kohn dropped into a consolation match and defeated Sutherlin's Will Singleton on an 11-6 decision for what will go down as his first-ever victory at state. It also should be recognized as quite the turnaround from a week earlier. Singleton defeated Kohn in the third-place match at districts on an 11-0 major decision.
Kohn was eliminated in the next round on a 16-5 major decision to Madras' Thomas LeClaire.
Senior Keltin Benson reached a goal by qualifying for the state tournament for the first time. But he had two very tough draws in his appearances Friday at 132 pounds.
First, Benson wrestled No. 2-seeded Elijah Banister of Baker and lost on a pin in 3:33. In his consolation match, he was paired up with No. 7-seeded Sean McColly of Tillamook, who was upset in the first round by an unseeded opponent. McColly defeated Benson on a pin in 2:49.
In the final team standings, Philomath scored 18 points for 22nd. Crook County won the tournament by a considerable margin over runner-up Marshfield. The top team out of Philomath's district was Sweet Home in third.
Class 4A State Tournament
Friday-Saturday at Portland
Team scoring: Crook County 238.5, Marshfield 155.5, Sweet Home 146, Cascade 132, Tillamook 131.5, La Grande 124.5, Baker 111, Junction City 74, Banks 60.5, North Marion 56, Molalla 52.5, McLoughlin 43.5, Henley 39, Scappoose 39, Gladstone 36, Estacada 34.5, Cottage Grove 34, Ontario 31, Madras 28, Mazama 24, Siuslaw 24, Philomath 18, North Bend 17, Klamath Union 16, Phoenix 15, Sutherlin 14, Yamhill-Carlton 14, Hidden Valley 13, North Valley 13, Douglas 12, Newport 9, Elmira 7, South Umpqua 4, Sisters 2, Astoria 0.
126 — Tony Rath (3-3, 6th): Lost maj. dec. Colton Anderson, Baker, 12-2; dec. Israel Gill, Mazama, 8-2; dec. Trey Trejo, Ontario, 6-5; dec. Nakai Sinohui, South Umpqua, 9-4; lost dec. Maximus Tate, Molalla, 4-2; lost maj. dec. Colton Anderson, Baker, 11-0.
132 — Keltin Benson (0-2): Pinned by Elijah Banister, Baker, 3:33; pinned by Sean McColly, Tillamook, 2:49.
152 — Joey Howell (3-3, 6th): Pinned Elijah Santana, Phoenix, 1:52; lost dec. Boe Baxter, Sweet Home, 6-5; dec. Boss Clark, Henley, 10-4; pinned Tommy Cruz, Tillamook, 4:21; lost dec. Austin Weeks, Tillamook, 6-5; lost dec. Boe Baxter, Sweet Home, 12-8.
170 — Connar Kohn (1-2): Lost maj. dec. Christopher Woodworth, La Grande, 14-0; dec. Will Singleton, Sutherlin, 11-6; lost maj. dec. Thomas LeClaire, Madras, 16-5.