JUNCTION CITY — With all eyes on the mat in the final match of the 4A Special District 2 wrestling tournament on Saturday afternoon, Philomath’s Noah Estes dug down deep for a reversal against Cascade’s Ben Fouts with just 2 seconds remaining in the third period of their wrestle-back bout.
Estes, an Alsea senior wrestling heavyweight with the Warriors, tied the score, 10-10, to force the match into extra time. But along with all of the triumphs and excitement seen at such events as athletes try to qualify for state, these district tournaments also see the painful moments. Fouts took down Estes early in “sudden-victory” time to punch his ticket to Portland.
But Philomath did have some great moments, as well, with senior Brooks Stearns, sophomore Issiah Blackburn and freshman Blaise Pindell all qualifying for state.
“This was super fun,” a happy Stearns said after finishing runner-up in the 182-pound weight class. “I went last year but as a spectator. It’s nice to be able to know what to expect but at the same time, it’s different that I get to wrestle in it now. That’ll be cool.”
Stearns took care of business on Day 1 with a second-period pin and a 9-4 decision over opponents from Sweet Home and Stayton.
“I was pretty nervous at the beginning. I wrestled a kid in the first round that I had wrestled before, he’s from Sweet Home, and I knew that he probably had lots of drill partners so he had to be at least decent,” Stearns admitted. “I don’t know, I was just nervous, a little more at stake, I’d say, I hadn’t wrestled at regional before, but I won that one and immediately got rid of a lot of nerves.”
Moving on to Saturday’s championship round, Stearns had lost to Sweet Home’s Nich James in the past. James got a pin in the first period.
“The kid I wrestled in the finals is a stud,” Stearns said.
Stearns came into the district tournament as one of Philomath’s top prospects for moving on to state, even though he had never been there in the past. Stearns took up the sport as a junior but missed last year’s districts because of an injury.
Meanwhile, Blackburn worked his way into the 170-pound championship match with first-day decisions over Cascade and Sweet Home opponents, 12-5 and 8-3, respectively. Then on Saturday, the waiting began until the championship round could get started.
“You get a lot of built-up energy, but I’d prefer to wrestle throughout the day so you can be warm and just get a feel,” Blackburn said. “I do like the part of getting to know who I’m wrestling, maybe talk to him before it, and have a better feel for what’s going on.”
In the 170 finale against Stayton’s Clay Dickerson, the two wrestlers were tied 2-2 after the first period with Blackburn trailing 6-4 going into the third. Dickerson got Blackburn onto his back, however, 33 seconds into the final period.
Blackburn and Dickerson had wrestled in the past and as the PHS sophomore put it, “same exact outcome, same exact round.”
“I wanted to be aggressive on my feet, that’s kind of just where I try to start my matches, aggressive on my feet and just control the top,” Blackburn said. “I started the match well, I started the way I wanted to but then I started getting a little heavy up top, a little sloppiness and it led to me getting falled.”
Blackburn heads to state with a 23-14 record.
“I wanted to be able to be someone who can compete at regionals, someone who’s going to state,” Blackburn said when asked about his season.
With how he’s competed as a freshman and sophomore, Blackburn’s struggles in middle school have faded into the background.
“I had a really rough middle school wrestling career, I won two matches in middle school,” Blackburn said. “Sixth grade, I got sick and I couldn’t wrestle, but I knew where I was as a wrestler and I’m proud of the season.”
Pindell was the feel-good story of the tournament for the Warriors with his advancement to state in the 126 weight class. On the first day, Pindell worked easily through the first two rounds with first-period pins before going up against the weight division’s eventual champion in Sweet Home’s Robert Watkins. Then in the consolation semifinals to start Saturday, Pindell took a 3-1 lead into the third period but ended up losing on a tough 4-3 decision.
Pindell then defeated Philomath teammate Hunter Kaumanns, a sophomore, in the fifth-place match and with the way the results panned out, he moved into the wrestle-back bout for fourth against Cascade’s Gage Olson.
“I was a little bit nervous but I was pretty confident because I have quite a few years of experience,” Pindell said, referring to his past in middle school and youth wrestling before high school. “I knew I had stuff to learn, like always.”
Pindell won with a pin in 4:26.
“It’s quite exhausting, but it’s your will over the other guy’s will,” Pindell said about wrestling the extra bout.
For Estes, he dropped his first match Friday before rebounding for a win to reach the consolation semis. He lost on a pin to fall into the fifth-place match against teammate Joseph Choi, a freshman. There, Estes won and because of the result in the third-place match, got a spot in a wrestle-back for fourth against Fouts.
Because of the timing and with finals getting started, the Estes-Fouts bout was pushed back to the end of the meet to give them recovery time and to set up the dramatic finish to the tournament.
PHS sophomore Connar Kohn struggled down the stretch this season and found himself in a very tough 195-pound weight class in the district meet. After opening with a pin over a Sweet Home opponent, he lost to the eventual champion, Cascade’s Macoy Christman, to drop into the consolation bracket.
In a painful loss, Kohn ended up getting pinned in his consolation semifinal to Sweet Home’s Austin Olin while leading on points, 10-3. Kohn regrouped to win his fifth-place match on a pin but for a shot at a wrestle-back to get back to state, he would need help with an upset in the third-place match, which did not materialize.
Kohn’s season ends with a 27-8 record.
Among the other results, Blake Niemann was another freshman who wrestled on varsity all season and posted a winning record at 21-15. But with a challenging field at districts, Niemann had to settle for fifth place in his 106 weight class after winning his final match on a pin.
Sophomore Matt Workman placed fifth as well with a solid performance at 220. Workman won two of three matches on the first day but fell in the consolation semis to open Saturday. He rebounded in the fifth-place match for an 11-7 decision.
Sixth-place finishes were turned in by freshman Michael Goden (120), freshman Ben Gary (126), Kaumanns (126), senior Hunter McCaskill (138), senior Morgan French (145) and Choi (285).
Senior Jayden Jensen found himself in a very competitive weight class at 152 with a high number of entries and so despite winning two matches, he had to settle for eighth place. Jensen was competitive in all four of his matches, winning on a 6-4 decision and a first-period pin and losing twice on fairly close decisions that went the distance.
Sophomore Matthew Hamlet was in a similar situation at 160 with a 2-2 record and placing eighth. Sophomore Austin Murphree had a first-period pin among his matches at 170 and also was eighth.
Philomath’s state qualifiers now must wait an extra week before competing at state with special districts tournament in 6A, 3A and 2A/1A not occurring until this weekend. Stearns, Blackburn and Pindell will hit the mat in Portland on Feb. 22-23 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
4A Special District 2
Friday-Saturday at Junction City
Team scoring: Sweet Home (SH) 478.5, Junction City (JC) 243.5, Cascade (CAS) 239.5, Philomath (PHS) 162, Elmira (ELM) 132.5, Stayton (STY) 117, Siuslaw (SIU) 99.5, Newport (NEW) 47.
106 — Blake Niemann (3-2, 5th): Lost dec. Jonathan Mazo-Amezaga, NEW, 18-12; pinned Khang Ma, CAS, 3:00; dec. Ben Adams, STY, 6-4; lost maj. dec. Treyson Smith, SH, 9-0; pinned Timothy Jones, JC, 3:30.
113 — Michael Godin (0-3, 6th): Pinned by Evan Potter, JC, 0:47; pinned by Connor Ford, SH, 0:46; pinned by Daniel Moore, CAS, 1:33.
120 — Ben Gary (1-3, 6th): PInned by Tristan Spencer, SH, 0:26; forfeit over Jared Dyer, NEW; pinned by Brady Libby, SIU, 1:50; pinned by Logan Cave, ELM, 1:32.
126 — Blaise Pindell (4-2, 4th): Pinned Tristen West, JC, 1:12; pinned Koby Warren, ELM, 1:12; lost maj. dec. Robert Watkins, SH, 10-0; lost dec. Elijah LaCosse, SIU, 4-3; pinned Hunter Kaumanns, PHS, 5:26; pinned Gage Olson, CAS, 2:56.
126 — Hunter Kaumanns (2-3, 6th): Lost tech. fall Elijah LaCosse, SIU, 19-1 (4:21); pinned Ian Drago, ELM, 1:09; pinned Jackson Sigler, CAS, 5:14; pinned by Gage Olson, CAS, 3:00; pinned by Blaise Pindell, PHS, 5:26.
138 — Hunter McCaskill (2-3, 6th): Lost maj. dec. Gavin Walberg, SH, 11-0; pinned Kevin Mazo-Amezaga, NEW, 0:27; pinned Tyler Feltz, ELM, 1:07; pinned by Joseph Baxter, CAS, 4:51; pinned by Brandon Gilliam, JC, 4:24.
145 — Morgan French (2-3, 6th): Pinned by Isaac Schaffer, SH, 3:23; pinned Zekiah Hunt, SIU, 2:55; pinned Ezra Haddy, JC, 2:48; pinned by Garrett O’Callaghan, JC, 1:25; pinned by Isaac Schaffer, SH, 0:37.
145 — Cooper Latz (0-2): PInned by Robbie Yunke, SH, 0:21; pinned by Ben Roth, CAS, 1:18.
152 — Jayden Jensen (2-2, 8th): Dec. Westin Nelson, CAS, 6-4; lost dec. Ryan Jennings, SIU, 12-7; pinned Mark Richardson, ELM, 0:58; lost dec. Mason Roth, CAS, 11-6.
160 — Matthew Hamlet (2-2, 8th): Pinned Blake Wigham, ELM, 3:53; pinned by Emmett Henderson, JC, 2:36; forfeit over Jose Dorantzs, NEW; lost dec. Hector Garcia, SIU, 8-1.
160 — George House (1-2): Lost tech. fall Brandon Andresen, JC, 17-2 (5:33); forfeit over Antwan Ho, SIU; lost dec. Blake Lewis, CAS, 6-2.
170 — Issiah Blackburn (2-1, 2nd): Dec. Kayden Lindquist, CAS, 12-5; dec. Damion Schocker, SH, 8-3; pinned by Clay Dickerson, STY, 4:33.
170 — Austin Murphree (1-2, 8th): Pinned by Clay Dickerson, STY, 2:42; pinned Samuel Watson, NEW, 1:09; pinned by Noah Moore, SH, 1:33.
182 — Brooks Stearns (2-1, 2nd): Pinned Lance Hanson, SH, 2:46; dec. Garrett Sandefur, STY, 9-4; pinned by Nich James, SH, 1:25.
195 — Connar Kohn (2-2, 5th): Pinned Nick Rice, SH, 3:23; pinned by Macoy Christman, CAS, 2:33; pinned by Austin Olin, SH, 3:38; pinned Nick Rice, SH, 1:59.
220 — Matt Workman (3-2, 5th): Pinned by Matthew Clark, CAS, 1:20; pinned Angel Torres, NEW, 1:14; pinned Kenny Storms, SH, 2:58; pinned by Matthew Horrillo, SIU, 4:20; dec. Jake Fanning, SH, 11-7.
285 — Noah Estes (2-3, 5th): Pinned by Bryer Moore, JC, 4:20; pinned Colby Gazeley, SH, 1:48; pinned by Caleb Hunter, ELM, 3:23; pinned Joseph Choi, PHS, 1:59; lost dec. Ben Fouts, CAS, 12-10 (SV).
285 — Joseph Choi (1-3, 6th): Pinned by David McMullen, SH, 5:01; pinned Nathan Law, CAS, 1:40; pinned by Ben Fouts, CAS, 3:25; pinned by Noah Estes, PHS, 1:59.