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By René Ferrán | Photo by Taylor Balkom  

The Newberg wrestling team faced outsized expectations entering this weekend’s Class 6A state championships at Sandy High School.

That’s what happens when you bring 21 wrestlers, including six top seeds, to a meet, coming off a 490.5-point performance in winning a second consecutive championship eight months earlier. 

Somehow, though, the Tigers not only met those expectations, but they exceeded them. They put 17 of their 21 qualifiers on the podium, including 11 finalists and six state champions, and scored an OSAA state-record 418 points — nearly double Sprague’s second-place total of 220.5. 

“To come in here, run this tournament like we did, is just incredible,” said senior 160-pounder Price Pothier, one of six top seeds to win a title.

The highlight was senior 145-pounder Ayden Garver becoming the 45th wrestler to win a fourth state title, but the Tigers also saw junior Hudson Davis (195) and senior Charlie Evans (152) win their third titles and sophomore Zachary Keinonen move halfway toward becoming a four-time champion.

“I can’t say enough about the performance these kids put on,” coach Neil Russo said. “We put 11 kids in the state finals, and these kids think that’s normal, that it’s expected, but anyone who’s been around wrestling a while knows that’s not normal.” 

Russo pointed to the team’s performance in the quarterfinals (14-5), semifinals (11-3) and blood round, where its only loss in three tries came at 138 in an all-Newberg match to decide who would make the podium. 

“The kids fed off each other, and it was so fun to watch them do that,” Russo said. “The bar has been set.” 

And it’s a bar that Keinonen and 113-pounder Isaac Hampton, both sophomores who won state titles, expect to clear in two years.

“It’s been amazing,” said Keinonen, one of six Newberg sophomores to make the podium. “I love this team. I’m really going to miss the seniors. They’re a bunch of great dudes, and a lot of them were in the finals. But there were a lot of us sophomores, too, and we’re going to outdo them when we get to state as seniors.”

Newberg’s third consecutive team title finished a weekend that saw favorites rule supreme. For the first time at the largest classification’s state meet, all 14 top seeds won titles, including five Sprague wrestlers as the Olympians went 5-0 in the finals to pull away from third-place finishers West Linn and Roseburg, which tied with 163 points apiece.

Senior David Sherman, who repeated as 220-pound champion by defeating Newberg’s Hayden Hampton 3-2 in their final, probably spoke for many in attendance afterward.

“Anytime Sprague wins over Newberg, it’s a good day,” he said, smiling.  

Sprague senior Brayden Boyd beat Newberg senior Ethan Ritchie for the third time in a state final, this time at 120, and classmate Brook Byer (182) also won a third title before heading to Stanford. Junior Riley Davis added a second title at 170 and Cole Steketee (285) won his first. 

The Lions had two finalists and seven placers, second to Newberg, and earned a team trophy for the first time since 2014.

“We have a lot of good things happening,” coach Doug Samarron said. “It’s come and gone in waves, and now we’re on an upward trend. I’m not sure what the secret is, but we’re riding the wave.”

Roseburg brothers Gage and Nash Singleton each won a title — Gage, a sophomore, won his second at 106, while Oregon State-bound Nash (132) won his third — to lead five Roseburg wrestlers to the podium, the program's fewest since 2013. 

Mountain View fans saw junior Drew Jones move up from second at June’s state meet to win the 138 title. The Cougars placed fifth in their final 6A meet before dropping back to 5A in the fall. 

Oregon (OSAA) 6A wrestling state tournament: Meet the champions, placewinners, top teams