Philomath High School senior Brooks Stearns earned a fifth-place medal and two other Warriors won matches during their appearances Friday and Saturday at the Class 4A state wrestling tournament.
Competing at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Stearns won his first two bouts at state to reach the semifinals in the 182-pound weight class. He opened with a pin in just 21 seconds over Baker freshman Alex Ritter in the first round and then defeated Marshfield senior Aiden Adams on a 9-3 decision in the quarterfinals.
Stearns, who was seeded fifth heading into the tournament, then went up against Tillamook senior and No. 1 seed Fabian Niemi in the semifinals. Niemi pinned Stearns in 1:36 and went on to defeat Sweet Home junior Nich James in the championship bout.
“He was just better than everyone,” PHS coach Troy Woosley said about Niemi. “We just got beat by a better wrestler there.”
Stearns dropped into the consolation bracket and lost to another Tillamook wrestler, senior Antonio Chacon, on a pin in 2:56. But it was a much closer match than that result indicates. Stearns was down only 5-4 on points before his opponent put him on his back.
“We really had a shot, had a tight match with the Tillamook kid in the semis in consolation,” Woosley said. “We were right there going into the third round and we got scrambled and got pinned.”
Stearns regrouped in his fifth-place match against Stayton sophomore Johnny Silva to win on an 8-4 decision.
PHS sophomore Issiah Blackburn won two matches down at state in the 170-pound weight class. Blackburn, seeded eighth heading in, opened with a 5-3 decision over Madras freshman Reece White to advance to the quarterfinals. There, he lost on a pin to Tillamook senior Caleb Werner, the top-seeded wrestler who would go on to win the state title.
Blackburn came back in his first consolation match for an exciting win over Mazama senior Jacob Vargas. Blackburn won the bout on a 10-8 decision in sudden victory time. Phoenix senior Dane Johnson ended his season in the next round, however, on a 7-0 decision.
“The bracket got switched around because we had already wrestled the kid from Madras and we had beaten him. They don’t allow you to wrestle the same guy twice,” Woosley said about how he ended up wrestling Johnson. “We had to bring Issiah to the opposite side of the bracket.”
The experience was valuable for Blackburn, however.
“He was one match from placing and he’s only a sophomore,” Woosley said. “He knows what it is and what it takes. His eyes were opened a little bit.”
Warriors freshman Blaise Pindell had an impressive start to the tournament despite a 4-2 loss to Klamath Union junior Isaiah Franco, who entered as the No. 3 seed.
“Another 30 seconds and I think we would’ve turned him again,” Woosley said. “He just has a motor, he doesn’t really seem to get tired. When he’s on top, he can really put the pressure on a kid. It was a great match even though we lost.”
Pindell followed up with a pin in 2:45 over Siuslaw sophomore Elijah LaCosse, an opponent that he had lost to at the district tournament.
“He absolutely destroyed the kid,” Woosley said. “I think we were up five or six … and 45 seconds into the second period, he pinned him. That was a great time for him to get a first win at state.”
Baker senior Alex Duran, the No. 2 seed, took a victory over Pindell in the consolation bracket’s second round on a 5-0 decision.
“We kinda got caught in a scramble in the beginning and got down and that was all of the scoring,” Woosley said.
It was the first appearance at state for all three wrestlers. Stearns turned in the highest placing for a Warriors wrestler since Nate Burkus placed fifth at 160 in the 2015 tournament.
Philomath will lose Stearns and four other seniors to graduation but Woosley believes he has a great group of freshmen who will be coming in next year.
“We’re really young and we’ll have a lot of our team back with the incoming freshmen,” he said. “We should have double digits for next year coming in.”
OSAA State Tournament
Friday-Saturday at Portland
Team scoring: 1, Tillamook (TIL) 264.5; 2, Sweet Home (SH) 241; 3, La Grande (LG) 189; 4, Baker (BAK) 129; 5, Cascade (CAS) 105.5; 6, Junction City (JC) 101.5; 7, Woodburn (WOD) 96; 8, Phoenix (PHX) 69; 9, Marshfield (MAR) 57.5; 10, Henley (HEN) 56; 11, Molalla (MOL) 54.5; 12, Estacada (EST) 53; 13, Ontario (ONT) 51; 14, Banks (BNK) 46; T-15, Elmira (ELM) 36; T-15, Hidden Valley (HV) 36; 17, Madras (MAD) 34; 18, Cottage Grove (CG) 30; 19, Mazama (MAZ) 27; 20, Corbett (COR) 21.5; 21, Stayton (STY) 20; 22, North Marion (NM) 19; 23, Philomath (PHS) 17; 24, Seaside (SEA) 16; 25, Newport (NEW) 15; 26, Klamath Union (KU) 12; 27, McLoughlin (McL) 11.5; 28, Siuslaw (SIU) 6; T-29, Gladstone (GLD) 5; T-29, Sisters (SIS) 5; 31, Astoria (AST) 3; 32, North Valley (NV) 0.
126 — Blaise Pindell (1-2): Lost dec. Isaiah Franco, KU, 4-2; pinned Elijah LaCosse, SIU, 2:45; lost dec. Alex Duran, BAK, 5-0.
170 — Issiah Blackburn (2-2): Dec. Reece White, MAD, 5-3; pinned by Caleb Werner, TIL, 0:28; Dec. Jacob Vargas, MAZ, 10-8 (SV); lost dec. Dane Johnson, PHX, 7-0.
182 — Brooks Stearns (3-2, 5th): Pinned Alex Ritter, BAK, 0:21; dec. Aiden Adams, MAR, 9-3; pinned by Fabian Niemi, TIL, 1:36; pinned by Antonio Chacon, TIL, 2:56; dec. Johnny Sylva, STY, 8-4.