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By René Ferrán| Photos by Leon Neuschwander

The 2022 Reser’s Tournament of Champions came to an end Saturday at Liberty High School in Hillsboro. Here’s a look at some of the top highlights and memorable performances from this year’s meet.

Meet the champions, placewinners in every weight class


Newberg returns to top of Reser’s TOC mountain with 12 placers, 3 champions

Newberg coach Neil Russo knows wrestling fans like to compare his two-time defending Class 6A state champions with three-time defending 5A champion Crescent Valley.

The longtime Tigers coach dismissed any talk of a rivalry between the two powerhouse programs after dethroning the Raiders as Reser’s Tournament of Champions titlists Saturday afternoon at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.

“We just wanted to be the best version of us this weekend,” Russo said after the Tigers amassed 287.5 points to beat Crescent Valley by 46 points and secure their second TOC title in the past three meets. “And for the most part, we were.”

After a one-year hiatus forced upon tournament organizers by the COVID-19 pandemic, a slimmed-down version took place this weekend. Organizers canceled the JV portion of the meet, and with only 19 teams entered, the brackets allowed for the semifinals to be held Friday night, leaving only the finals to be contested Saturday afternoon.

“I was pretty disappointed when I didn’t get to come here last year because of COVID and everything,” said Roseburg sophomore Gage Singleton, who won the afternoon’s first final at 106 pounds. “I was just really happy to get the chance to come here and wrestle.”

Russo and the Tigers staked their claim as favorites for next month’s 6A state championships at Sandy High School, with 12 of their 13 scoring wrestlers making the podium and two others also taking home medals although they didn’t add to the point total.

They put eight wrestlers in the finals and saw three win championships — sophomore Isaac Hampton at 113 and seniors Ayden Garver (145) and Charlie Evans (152).

Most of Newberg’s JV team wrestled (and won) the Wilsonville dual-meet tournament Saturday, and several likely will qualify for state from the Pacific Conference district meet in three weeks. From the look of things, it’s going to take a nearly perfect storm to deny Newberg a third consecutive title.

“We have depth, which you have to love,” Russo said. “But to put eight in the finals here, that’s a pretty solid front line. It’s almost a bulletproof tournament lineup.”


Crescent Valley not as deep but still a threat to win another 5A title after runner-up Reser’s finish

The Raiders are not the dominant force that steamrolled the Reser’s field in 2020 and romped to Class 5A state titles the past two years.

A better comparison for this group might be the 2019 team that won the program’s first state championship, edging Crook County by 1½ points with four state champions among its eight qualifiers.

The Raiders finished 68.5 points ahead of Thurston in the battle for second place, and those two figure to battle again at next month’s 5A state meet at Ridgeview High School in Redmond.

“Our team in general has been making some big jumps over COVID and over this year,” said senior Gabe Whisenhunt, who won his third Reser’s title with a first-period pin in the 126 final. “I think state is going to be a good tournament for us. I’m hoping we can get four team titles to knock off the high school career, but I don’t know what that’s looking like.”

His concern is well-founded. Both Crescent Valley and Thurston had nine placers this weekend, but while the Raiders had five champions and six finalists, the Colts had two champions and three finalists.

That leaves Thurston more room to improve placement at state without 6A and 4A wrestlers in its path, meaning how each team’s No. 2 wrestlers fare at district next month could be critical.

“We just don’t have the depth that we’ve had the last couple of years, which could play a part in how things go at state,” said Raiders coach Chad Lamer. “We’re obviously going to have a lot of guys in the finals, so that scores a lot of points. But the last couple of years, we haven’t gotten a lot of numbers out. COVID didn’t help us out at all, so we’ll see how many kids are going to be at state. And every little point helps. It all makes a difference.”


Sweet Home, La Pine make case for taking home top honors at 4A, 3A state

One of the best things about Reser’s is seeing how small-school powers fare against some of the top big-school programs in the state.

The pandemic limited the number of teams invited this year, but among the 19 in the field were last spring’s state champions at 4A (Sweet Home), 3A (La Pine) and 2A/1A (Culver).

The Huskies fared best among the three, with 106 finalist Kyle Sieminski leading five medalists as they finished tied for seventh with West Linn with 121 points.

The Hawks finished smack dab in the middle of the team standings in 10th place, finishing with 104.5 points and four medalists, led by 138 runner-up Dylan Mann.

“This was a big one for us,” coach Aaron Flack said. “It’s just a great opportunity for our kids to be able to see how we match up with some of these 5A, 6A kids and compete at what I think is the true state championship in our state. I’m very happy that we got invited, and hopefully we get invited to it next year as well.”


Roseburg’s Nash Singleton wins marquee matchup with Raiders’ Gillett to close meet

Tournament organizers decided to end Saturday’s finals with what they considered the marquee match.

Their choice? The 132-pound final featuring a couple of two-time state champions — Roseburg senior Nash Singleton, an Oregon State signee, and Crescent Valley junior DJ Gillett.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t want it to be the last one,” said Singleton, who has lost to only three in-state opponents in his career — four-time champion Chance Lamer of Crescent Valley and seniors Gabe Whisenhunt of Crescent Valley and Ayden Garver of Newberg, who will both go for the four-peat next month.

“But it was kind of cool to be chosen as the last one, because that means you’ve got the toughest draw. So, when you win, it means just a little bit more.”

The two had been in the same weight class at two other top-tier West Coast tournaments (Reno TOC and Doc Buchanan) but both times missed each other by one round. 

Singleton reached the Reno final, where he lost in overtime, while Gillett fell in the quarterfinals (a win would have matched them in the semis) and placed sixth. Three weeks later, Singleton took third at Doc Buchanan and Gillett fifth.

Finally, the bracket worked out for them to meet, and the match was worth the wait. Singleton scored the only takedown of the first period, but Gillett escaped to open the second, then took Singleton down midway through the round before Singleton escaped to tie the score at 3-3 entering the third.

Singleton chose the down position and quickly escaped, then tripped up Gillett for a takedown with 1:06 left. He nearly rode out the remaining time, but Gillett escaped with 15 seconds to go, setting up a frantic finish.

A stalling penalty closed the gap to 6-5, and as Gillett and Singleton cradled, time ran out before either could record one last takedown.

Singleton jumped up and nearly broke his coaches’ hands with the high-fives he gave out, exhilarated after handing Gillett his first loss to an in-state opponent in his career.

“This is cooler than winning the state title, because you don't have to just beat the guys in your league,” said Singleton, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. “You have to beat everybody in the state to win it, so it’s a little bigger deal.” 


CV’s Rowley wins battle of Division I signees to earn third Reser’s title 

While Singleton and Gillett received top billing, many observers considered the highlight of the tournament the 182 final pitting a couple of Division I signees — three-time state champion James Rowley of Crescent Valley (Wisconsin), a silver medalist at last summer’s Cadet World Championships, and two-time champion Brook Byers of Sprague (Stanford).

This marked the third meeting between the two at Reser’s. As freshmen, they wrestled in the 152 quarterfinals, with Rowley pinning Byers with 7 seconds left en route to his first TOC title. A year later, Rowley again got the better of Byers, winning a 12-6 decision in the 160 semifinals to set up a second title.

Round 3 got off to a scary start when Rowley tweaked his left knee in a maneuver with 41 seconds left in the first period. Trainers looked him over and he pronounced himself OK to continue, but Byers took Rowley down shortly after the restart.

“Getting that first takedown is always nice, but it doesn’t mean anything for the match,” Rowley said.

He proved that point by escaping just before the period ended, then dominating the second, escaping from the down position to open the round and sandwiching two takedowns around a Byers escape to build a 6-3 lead.

“I had a really good first period — put some things together and ended up getting what I needed out of that period,” Byers said. “But overall, I didn’t wrestle well in the second period, and that kind of set the tone for the third.”

The third consisted of Rowley riding in the top position until Byers wriggled free with 3 seconds left, with Rowley pushing him away to ensure he couldn’t shoot for a tying takedown.

“Now, I know what I need to work on,” Byers said. “I need to get on my road work and get the lungs bigger.”

Rowley, meanwhile, now sets his sights on becoming a four-time state champion next month and bigger things ahead.

“Being a four-time state champ has been one of my goals since before I was in high school,” he said. “It would be pretty cool to accomplish with a special team this year and Gabe (Whisenhunt) and I graduating, but obviously, I’ve set bigger goals than that. I’m going to try to make another world team this summer at juniors, then I’ll head out and start training early out in Wisconsin.”


106: Younger Singleton brother wins matchup of sophomore state champions

Gage Singleton made the trek up I-5 from Roseburg to Hillsboro’s Liberty High School for several years to soak in the atmosphere surrounding the Reser’s Tournament of Champions wrestling tournament.

He’d watched Roseburg wrestlers have their hands raised as champions of the state’s most prestigious individual meet and seen older brother Nash twice step onto the medals podium — a third-place finish in 2019 as a freshman and a runner-up finish in 2020.

Gage had hoped to experience Reser’s himself last winter, when he entered the Roseburg wrestling room as a freshman, but COVID-19 led to the tournament’s cancellation.

Instead, he made his long-awaited debut this weekend, and the reigning Class 6A state champion confirmed his status as the favorite to repeat with a dominant performance. He pinned all four of his opponents, capping his championship run with a second-round fall against Sweet Home’s Kyle Sieminski, last year’s 4A state champion.

“This victory helped me out a lot, knowing that he was a 4A state champ, so going out there and pinning him helps me know how I’m doing this season,” said Singleton, who improved to 29-3 with the victory.

Singleton wrestled only one 6A rival on his way to the title. Newberg still has its usual bevy of lightweight wrestlers, and No. 1-ranked Eric Larwin of Bend and No. 3 Jeremiah Wachsmuth of Clackamas could wrestle at this weight, meaning Singleton will have plenty of challenges ahead at next month’s 6A state meet in Sandy.

“I’m doing really well, staying in really good condition, working hard at practice and everything,” Singleton said.“I think I’m right where I need to be.”


285: Godek enjoys ‘challenge’ of wrestling heavyweights: ‘It’s fun to grapple with those big guys’

Two years ago, Crescent Valley’s Riley Godek departed the Reser’s TOC with the first-place medal from the 152-pound JV division.

The sophomore finished that season with a sixth-place finish at the Mid-Willamette district meet and looked forward to becoming one of the team’s middleweight stalwarts the next season.

Then, the pandemic hit, and Godek found himself with “lots of free time. Lots of meals. And I had the weight room in my garage.”

When the spring season arrived, Godek had bulked up to around 210 pounds, and he decided to wrestle heavyweight for the Raiders, winning the Class 5A state title in June.

He returned to Liberty this weekend and took home the first-place trophy at 285, winning by a 13-3 major decision over Sprague’s Cole Steketee in the final.

“This is really big to me because it symbolized all the work I’ve put in,” Godek said. “It’s a reminder of the opportunities that I’ve had.”

Godek could drop to 220 for the postseason, where he wouldn’t give up as much as 80 pounds to an opponent, but 220 is also a deeper weight class this winter than 285.

“My team needs me here,” Godek said, referencing the Raiders’ hopes of winning a fourth consecutive state title. “And you know, it’s kind of a challenge. It’s fun to grapple with those big guys.”


113: Newberg’s Hampton still undefeated after winning matchup of state’s top 2 at weight class

Newberg’s depth at the lower weights was on full display this weekend at the TOC.

Sophomore Isaac Hampton remained undefeated this season, adding Reser’s to earlier titles at Rose City and Best of the West with a 9-5 decision over Mountain View sophomore Scout Santos to improve to 35-0.

One mat over, classmate Brandon Smith won the third-place medal with a second-round pin of Crook County’s Mason Lacey. 

“Growing up in a program like this and seeing other people before me and all my teammates out here winning, it’s really cool to be a part of that,” said Hampton, who lost in the 106 state final as a freshman.

Hampton entered the final as the No. 1 seed, but in the most recent Oregon Wrestling rankings, he was No. 2 behind Santos entering the tournament.

“He will be one of my toughest opponents at state, as well as Brandon, so we’ll see how it goes,” Hampton said.


220: ‘Whatever you want me to be’ — Thurston’s Halstead a two-sport standout

Thurston junior Vaun Halstead’s championship smile grew as the question was posed:

Are you a wrestler who happens to play football? Or a football player who just happens to wrestle?

“I’m either,” he said. “Whatever you want me to be.”

What he is right now is a first-time Reser’s champion after earning a 10-1 major decision over Newberg senior Hayden Hampton and one of the favorites to win his first state title next month after reaching the final in June.

What he was in the fall was one of the most feared linebackers in Class 5A, helping lead the Colts’ top-ranked defense to the state final before they lost to Silverton.

“It’s not necessarily what I prefer,” Halstead said. “It’s more a matter of what’s going to give me what I want to do in life. That’s the sport that I’ll choose. I’m just trying to continue to get my name in front of the people I have to.”


120: Reversal of fortune — Boyd’s sudden surge gives Sprague senior first Reser’s title

Two-time state champion Brayden Boyd of Sprague hasn’t had the best luck at Reser’s.

As a freshman, he knocked off the top seed in the 106 quarterfinals, then lost one round later before eventually placing fifth. Two years ago, he reached the final at 106 before losing to Crescent Valley’s DJ Gillett.

Things again weren’t looking good for Boyd midway through his 120 final against Newberg’s Ethan Ritchie. He gave up a couple of takedowns in the first round and trailed 5-2.

“He came out very strong, and on his first attack, he kind of rammed into me a little hard, and that surprised me off the bat,” Boyd said.

Suddenly, the match turned. Boyd shot in and took Ritchie straight to his back, and in a flash, the referee’s hand slapped the mat and Boyd had his TOC title.

“Even though I was down, I’m just thinking in my head, ‘I’m still in it,’” Boyd said. “I felt him slowing down a little bit, and I knew from practice that I have a good tank, so I cranked it up a little bit.”


195: CV’s Walters beats Gorriaran winner Davis, sets sights on third 5A title

Newberg junior Hudson Davis won the Gorriaran Award for recording the most pins in the shortest time.

Crescent Valley junior Hayden Walters, though, took home the bigger prize, defeating Davis 11-4 in the 195 final to win his first TOC title after placing second as a freshman.

Walters had experienced some hard luck at major tournaments this winter, losing in the finals at Reno TOC and Doc Buchanan and placing third at the Walsh Ironman after falling in the semifinals.

“I couldn’t find my shots as easily as I wanted to,” said Walters, a two-time state champion. “That was mainly me and my hand fighting, not really committing enough, but I still got the job done, so that’s about all you can ask for.”

Walters’ only two losses to an in-state opponent came as a freshman to Crook County’s Kyle Knudtson at an early-season meet and then in the Reser’s TOC final. He avenged those defeats a month later to help the Raiders tie the 5A state-meet scoring record, and he’s hopeful they can break the mark next month at Ridgeview High School in Redmond.

“I think we’re in good enough shape to push for those bonus points, to get pins,” Walters said. “I think if we compete well, we can get it.”


126: Pandemic denies Whisenhunt shot at 4 Reser’s titles, so he gets ‘next-best thing’

The pandemic denied Crescent Valley senior Gabe Whisenhunt a chance at making Reser’s history.

Whisenhunt won TOC titles each of his first two seasons, putting him on track to become just the fourth wrestler in the 23-year history of the tournament to win four championships.

Instead, he’ll join the pantheon of wrestlers to have achieved three-time status, earning his trifecta with a 95-second pin of Andrew Worthington that left the Cougars junior shaking his head in amazement.

“I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s pretty cool,” said Whisenhunt, an Oregon State signee who will go for his fourth state title next month. “Four times would have been better, but you know, that was out of my control, so I got the next-best thing. It’s a good way to end my high school career.”

Whisenhunt now looks to join former teammates Santos Cantu, Legend Lamer and Chance Lamer as four-time state champions while leading the Raiders to a fourth consecutive title before heading down the road to OSU.

“I get to take over from my dad and uncle’s footsteps at OSU, so I’m looking forward to that,” Whisenhunt said. “But I’m hoping that we can get four times to knock off the high school career.”


170: West Linn’s Rademacher gets coveted eagle after losing in final as freshman

West Linn junior Justin Rademacher had to wait a long time to get the redemption he wanted at Reser’s.

As a freshman, he reached the final at 160 before losing to Crescent Valley’s James Rowley. He missed out last season because of the pandemic, but Saturday, he pulled away in the third period to defeat Newberg’s Gavin Korkeoski 7-2 to win the title and the first-place eagle trophy that comes with it.

“I wanted to win that eagle my freshman year, and I almost got it, so I’m just happy about this one,” Rademacher said. “The first time around here, I won a couple matches by five or less points, some overtime matches. This time around, it was just domination.”

The only thing nagging at Rademacher afterward was that he didn’t get to wrestle top seed Riley Davis of Sprague, who dropped out of the meet with a respiratory issue Friday morning.

“That’s what I was hoping for, to wrestle him,” Rademacher said. “That means more to me than even this does, because I need to beat him.”

He’s looking forward to getting that chance next month at the 6A state tournament in Sandy.

“That’s going to be fun,” he said. 


138: Thurston’s Malone hangs on to stay undefeated with state coming up next month

Thurston junior Kolton Malone had to work hard to keep his undefeated season going.

Malone looked as if he’d cruise to victory with a minute to go in his final against La Pine’s Dylan Mann and holding a 9-2 lead, but the Hawks senior put on a furious finish, getting an escape and two takedowns in the final 20 seconds before time ran out.

“Yeah, it was a barnburner,” said Malone after his 10-7 victory improved his record to 35-0. “But I knew he was a tough competitor who leaves it all on the mat, and that’s the way I like it.”

Malone then rattled off the things he knows he needs to improve upon as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury that sidelined him during the spring season.

“I need to get in better shape and pick up my cardio,” he said. “And I need to just stay more focused during the match. But I know this competition is the hardest in the state, so if I can win this, I’ll be golden for state, you know, to get my first title.”


160: Latest Lamer ends run of bad-luck finals to win first Reser’s title

Daschle Lamer, like his teammate Hayden Walters, entered Reser’s feeling a bit snakebitten.

Lamer, a two-time state champion hoping to join older brothers Chance and Legend as four-timers, had reached the finals at Reno TOC and Doc Buchanan but lost in each. That followed a runner-up finish at Fargo Nationals in the 16U Freestyle division.

So, behind the smile beaming from his face following his 9-1 major decision over Newberg’s Price Pothier in the Reser’s final was a sense of relief.

“I lost to the same kid (M.J. Gaitan of Temecula Valley, Calif.) in the final twice at Doc and Reno, so it was heartbreaking,” said Lamer, who placed third at Reser’s as a freshman. “But, I mean, it motivated me to get to the top. Winning this tournament, that was a booster.”

Lamer acknowledged spending hours upon hours watching and rewatching the videos of his Fargo, Reno and Doc losses, “seeing all those tiny things you need to fix.”

“I mean, I’m thankful for getting second there,” he said. “In the long run, I know it will definitely be paying off.”


145: Newberg’s Garver continues recovery from summer ankle injury, takes aim at fourth state title

Newberg senior Ayden Garver broke his right ankle shortly after winning his third 6A state title in June, costing him several critical months to compete at major summer tournaments and prepare for his senior campaign.

He missed the first two weeks of the season before returning for a Dec. 15 dual against McMinnville. He won the Best of the West title, but he suffered losses to Thurston’s Kolton Malone at the Northwest Duals and Roseburg’s Nash Singleton at the Oregon Classic, and he acknowledged having “a little bit of a confidence shake about will my ankle hold up.”

“Maybe it’s, ‘Will I be able to come back the same?’” Garver said after winning his second Reser’s title with an 11-2 major decision over Redmond’s Junior Downing. “It was about all the time I missed. I’d planned to go to all the big tournaments and compete and do well there, and then my ankle broke, and I missed all that time while people were training and competing.

“I think I’m starting to prove to myself that I’m pretty much there — back to where I was before.”

The ankle was feeling pretty good following Saturday’s final, which capped a four-match run in which he recorded two first-period pins and a second-round fall in the semifinals.

While he has one eye set on joining Tommy Sicillano (2007-10) as the only four-time state champions in school history — only 40 Oregon wrestlers in 74 years have done so — he has the other looking toward a spring and summer season where he hopes to make up for lost time.

“Definitely some big tournaments across the nation that I’m trying to work for,” said Garver, who has talked with Oregon State among other college programs. “It’s about just proving to myself that I can compete at that level and can come back from adversity like this.”


152: Newberg’s Evans nabs bookend title to finish his Reser’s career

When Charlie Evans won the Reser’s 132 title as a freshman, he probably figured it was the first of many he’d take home from Liberty High School.

Then, as a sophomore, the Newberg stalwart ran into Crescent Valley’s Chance Lamer in the final, losing a close match to the four-time state champion.

Of course, last year saw the tournament wiped off the schedule. That left this season as Evans’ final chance at adding a bookend eagle trophy to his mantle.

He didn’t waste this opportunity, scoring an early takedown of Thurston’s Hunter Harwood, adding a second in the second round and cruising to a 4-0 victory to become the third wrestler to emerge from Reser’s with an undefeated seasons intact.

“It’s pretty cool, two of them, going from winning it my freshman year to my senior year,” said Evans, who has won 61 consecutive matches since that loss to Lamer in the 2020 final, including a 33-0 record this season. “It’s a good way to close off my career.”

Evans remembered as a freshman feeling almost in awe of the experience.

“It felt huge. I mean, it’s Reser’s, right, this huge tournament?” he said.

This time, coming in as the No. 1 seed, he felt relaxed and confident that he could take home a second title.

“I knew I deserved to be here,” he said. “I just wanted to show everyone what I can do.” 


What’s next for the Oregon wrestling community?

The postseason kicks off next weekend when the girls regional tournaments take place. For the first time, there will be four regions (Northwest, Southwest, Eastern Oregon and Valley), with three wrestlers advancing from each region to the state tournament Feb. 24 in Culver.

Two meaningful dual meets will be held prior to the boys district tournaments. First, 5A’s top two teams — Thurston and Crescent Valley — square off Feb. 2 in Corvallis.

Then, Newberg plays host to Glencoe on Feb. 10, with the Tigers’ senior class looking to finish 93-0 in duals for their careers.

After that, it’s on to the boys postseason:

6A (24 qualifiers from seven districts): District meets Feb. 18-19; state at Sandy High School on Feb. 26-27

5A (16 qualifiers from four districts): District meets Feb. 11-12; state at Ridgeview High School, Redmond, on Feb. 26

4A (16 qualifiers from four districts): District meets Feb. 11-12; state at Cascade High School, Turner, on Feb. 26

3A (nine qualifiers from three districts): District meets Feb. 18-19; state at La Pine High School on Feb. 26

2A/1A (11 qualifiers from four districts): District meets Feb. 18-19; state at Culver High School on Feb. 26

More images from Reser's ...