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By René Ferrán 

Three years ago, four wide-eyed freshmen arrived at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum for their first trip to the OSAA wrestling state championships. 

DJ Gillett, Daschle Lamer, Hayden Walters and Destiny Rodriguez took their first steps toward the record books that weekend, winning their first state titles. But little could they have known the twists and turns their journeys to Sunday morning would entail.

A worldwide pandemic. A rescheduled sophomore season that culminated with state tournaments organized by the Oregon Wrestling Association. A junior season in which the OSAA tournaments were spread around the state. 

Then, when it looked like everything was back to normal, a snowstorm hit the Portland area midweek that threatened to cancel their final shot at state glory. 

Through it all, they endured, and a day later than they’d expected, the four of them entered the record books as Oregon’s latest four-time state champions, joining 45 others who preceded them.

“It kind of hit me when I pinned her,” said Rodriguez, the West Linn 155-pounder who became the second girl to join the four-timer club with a 47-second pin of Hood River Valley’s Lauraine Smith. “I was really happy that we were able to get back in here for my last state championship.” 

Destiny Rodriguez (West Linn) photo by Leon Neuschwander 

Destiny Rodriguez (West Linn) photo by Leon Neuschwander 

Gillett, who was the first of the four to win a title in 2020 (he was a 106-pounder that year), became the first to achieve four-timer status with a 4-0 decision over Thurston’s Holton Halstead in the 5A 138 final. 

“This has been my goal since fifth grade, my first time coming here as a spectator,” Gillett said. “I came here every year and looked up to these guys like my idols. And now I’m one of them.”

Gillett then took a moment to soak in the cheers cascading from the stands.

“It’s amazing here,” he said. “Some of my teammates, James Rowley, Chance (Lamer), they didn’t get their senior year here, which is a shame. This is a special environment. It’s really amazing to be here. It’s great to start it out here and to finish it here.”

DJ Gillett (Crescent Valley) photo by Taylor Balkom 

DJ Gillett (Crescent Valley) photo by Taylor Balkom 

Daschle Lamer choked up as he watched his Crescent Valley teammate win his fourth title. Then, Lamer went out and became the third member of his family to win four titles, also needing just 47 seconds to pin Thurston’s Sawyer Casarez.

“Just the pressure here is a lot more intense, which I love,” said Lamer, who had Chance up from Cal Poly in attendance and his father, Chad, sitting in his corner as one of his coaches. 

“I really wanted to just live up to expectations, because I know a lot of people were wanting it. There was a lot of pressure. But I’m a diamond. I get created under pressure. That’s when I shine the most.”

Chad Lamer, who announced this winter that this season will be his last as Raiders coach, welled up with tears as he reflected on Daschle’s journey to join older brothers Legend and Chance as four-timers

“Obviously, you want to see your kids succeed,” he said. “It means a lot, knowing they made Oregon a better wrestling state. I’m really proud of them. They put a lot of hours into this sport. Even if you’re talented, you’re not going to win four titles unless you’re putting the time in, and they did. They’ve done it all.”

Daschle Lamer (Crescent Valley) photo by Taylor Balkom 

Daschle Lamer (Crescent Valley) photo by Taylor Balkom 

Rodriguez could relate. The national champion and World U-20s qualifier finished her high school career undefeated, with 69 of her 71 matches ending by fall.

“I’m so happy,” she said. “I know I’ve worked hard for this. I know that I deserve this.”

Walters didn’t know a month ago whether he’d get the chance to win his fourth title. The Crater 220-pounder, who transferred over the summer after winning his first three titles at Crescent Valley, dislocated his right wrist in the final of the Reno Tournament of Champions and missed the next two months, with doctors clearing him to practice just before the postseason. 

“I didn’t know if I was going to come back,” said Walters, who completed his fourth title run with a first-period pin of Silverton’s Brash Henderson. “Missing out of most of my senior year wasn’t obviously what I had planned. But God’s got different plans, so trust in Him and get it done.” 

Hayden Walters (Crater) photo by Taylor Balkom 

Hayden Walters (Crater) photo by Taylor Balkom 

While two potential four-timers had their dreams dashed this weekend — Crescent Valley junior Everest Sutton lost in the 5A semifinals Saturday, and Roseburg junior Gage Singleton lost in his 6A 113-pound final Sunday — three others will be back next February hoping to add their names to the list. 

Juniors Mike Miller of Illinois Valley, Kyle Sieminski of Sweet Home and Zachary Keinonen of Newberg started their journeys during the COVID-shortened 2021 spring season. Twelve months from now, they’ll hope to end them in celebration under the Coliseum’s bright lights. 

4-time Oregon wrestling champions

David Baker, Parkrose, 1948-51, 113-120-121-121

Lee Allen, Sandy, 1949-52, 96-104-113-123

Scott Cardwell, Lowell, 1978-81, 123-136-141-141

Jeff Cardwell, Lowell, 1981-84, 123-141-157-168

Dan Russell, Gresham, 1983-86, 123-136-141-157

Dan Casarez, Lowell, 1984-88, 136-148-157-168

David Vizzini, Phoenix, 1988-91, 96-96-115-130

Heath Harvey, Lowell, 1990-93, 123-130-136-136

Dustin Leno, Willamina, 1992-95, 106-123-123-126

Shawn Finnicum, Dayton, 1994-97, 136-151-172-185

Talon Hofman, Burns, 2001-04, 130-140-152-160

Barry Johnson, Dayton, 2002-05, 119-130-135-140

Zack Giesen, North Valley, 2003-06, 125-135-160-171

Miguel Baltazar, Culver, 2005-08, 112-119-125-125

Alec Ortiz, Willamina/Newberg, 2006-09, 145-171-145-160

RJ Pena, Sprague, 2006-09, 112-125-140-145

Cy Swartzlander, Burns/Lakeview, 2006-09, 103-103-119-125

Tommy Siciliano, Newberg, 2007-10, 103-112-119-125

Zac Cardwell, Lowell, 2008-11, 152-160-171-189

Mike Rodriguez, Hillsboro, 2008-11, 119-125-130-135

Zac Brunson, Churchill, 2009-12, 135-145-160-170

Joey Delgado, Hermiston, 2009-12, 103-119-135-138

Brandon Griffin, Sprague, 2009-12, 160-171-189-182

Quinn Johnston, Gold Beach, 2009-12, 103-112-135-145

Jared Kasch, Culver, 2010-13, 103-112-126-120

Lucas Randall, North Marion, 2010-13, 125-130-138-145

Tyler Berger, Hermiston/Crook County, 2011-14, 125-132-138-152

Alex Rich, Crescent Valley, 2012-15, 126-126-132-138

Hans Rockwell, Riverside, 2012-15, 106-113-126-132

Samuel Shields-Colbray, Hermiston, 2013-16, 195-195-195-195

Heath Hartley, Nyssa, 2014-17, 106-113-120-120

Haydn Maley, Roseburg, 2014-17, 170-182-195-220

Layne Van Anrooy, Roseburg, 2014-17, 138-152-160-160

Travis Wittlake, Marshfield, 2015-18, 152-160-170-170

Dax Bennett, Harrisburg, 2016-19, 132-152-182-170

Legend Lamer, Crescent Valley, 2016-19, 106-120-138-152

Lorenzo Vasquez, Culver, 2016-19, 106-113-120-126

Emma Truex, Phoenix, 2017-20, 126-125-125-125

Santos Cantu III, Sprague/Crescent Valley, 2017-20, 195-195-195-195

Beau Ohlson, Mountain View, 2017-20, 113-126-138-145

Chance Lamer, Crescent Valley, 2018-21, 106-113-126-145

Ayden Garver, Newberg, 2019-22, 113-126-145-145

Mauro Michel, Cascade, 2019-22, 106-113-126-132

James Rowley, Crescent Valley, 2019-22, 145-160-182-182

Gabe Whisenhunt, Crescent Valley, 2019-22, 106-113-126-126 

DJ Gillett, Crescent Valley, 2020-23, 106-120-132-138

Daschle Lamer, Crescent Valley, 2020-23, 120-152-170-170

Destiny Rodriguez, West Linn, 2020-23, 145-155-155-155

Hayden Walters, Crescent Valley/Crater, 2020-23, 182-195-195-220

Meet the champions: Class 6A | Class 5AClass 4A | Class 3A | Class 2A/1A | Class 6A/5A GirlsClass 4A/3A/2A/1A Girls

Photos of championship matches: Class 6A, 5A | Class 6A/5A Girls | Class 4A, 3A, 2A/1A, 4A/3A/2A/1A Girls

Wrestlers to watch at state: Freshmen | Sophomores | Juniors | Seniors

Previewing the state meets: 6A | 5A | 4A | 3A | 2A/1A | 6A/5A Girls | 4A/3A/2A/1A Girls

Recapping the district meets: 6A | 5A | 4A | 3A | 2A/1A | Girls