In front of a packed house at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland in February of 2017, Mac-Hi’s Spencer Wells had his first crack at a state championship as he wrestled in the 220-pound final in the Class 4A bracket of the OSAA State Championships. However, Wells came up just short of the ultimate prize, as he lost the match in a 10-3 decision to Louie Sanchez from Cascade to finish as the state runner-up.
“I was proud about it,” Wells said Wednesday, recalling his emotions following the match, “but I certainly wasn’t happy with coming up short.”
Wells gets another shot at the prize this weekend, as he is one of nearly four dozen local wrestlers making the long trip to Portland for the OSAA state tournament that begins on Friday morning, and one of numerous seniors in their last shot to win a state championship. It’s a goal that Wells has had since the final seconds ticked away in the championship match just one year ago, because it’s the one goal left in high school. He already has district championships — three to be exact — and he already has medals and awards from winning various tournaments over his four-year career.
And the state championship is the only one that’s missing.
“It’d mean a lot,” Wells said. “I haven’t wrestled as long as most guys that win state, but it’d be cool to see as much work as I’ve put in pay off. It’d be a good way to end my high school run.”
Wells draws in to the Class 4A bracket as the No. 2 seed at 220 pounds for the second straight year. He’ll begin his tournament on Friday facing Umpqua High junior Zachery Downard. But looming at the top of the bracket is Cascade’s Sanchez as the No. 1 seed again, and Wells is hoping for a rematch in the final — if both re.
“I would love another rematch,” Wells said. “We dualed with Cascade at the (Oregon) Classic but I couldn’t wrestle because I had a concussion, so I had to watch my partner wrestle him (Sanchez) ... but anything can happen, just take it one match at a time.”
Wells is joined by Pioneer seniors Joshua Torres (195 pounds), Zach Crisman (138) Brandyn Chaney (182) and Cruz Garcia (285) that are trying to end their senior year and high school career on top. Mac-Hi coach Chad Kilburg said the group has been very focused in practice this week and he expects some big performances from them.
“They’re taking it more serious this year,” Kilburg said, “and they’re far more focused.”
In the Class 5A bracket, Hermiston also boasts a wealth of seniors aiming to go out on top, including Joey Gutierrez, Beau Blake, A.J. Tuia and Zach Kirkpatrick. Gutierrez finished third in the state last year at 182 pounds and this year he comes into state on a roll and sits as the No. 2 seed at 195 pounds, where he will face Central’s Gabriel Collins in the first round.
“I know I can compete at a really high level,” Gutierrez said recently. “It’s whether the moment or being in the moment or the jitters get to me. I’ve just got to relax and know that I’ve done it hundreds of times and it’s just another match.”
Elsewhere, wrestlers such as Riverside’s Andrew Barker, Echo’s Kenneth Bevan and Hermiston’s Blake also aim to improve upon their state placing as juniors. Barker earned a sixth place finish at 120 pounds last year, and returns as the No. 4 seed at the same weight. Bevan, meanwhile is on a new team and at a different weight. He competed at 220 pounds as a member of the Hermiston Bulldogs last season, earning a fifth place finish, however comes back to state as the No. 4 seed at 195-pounds as a member of the Echo/Stanfield Cougars in Class 3A.
Blake finished fifth at heavyweight as a junior, and returns as a senior as the No. 5 seed at heavyweight.
Here are a few other storylines to follow this weekend:
BULLDOGS GOING OUT QUIETLY: Since 2001, not many wrestling programs in the OSAA have been as good as the Hermiston Bulldogs at the Class 5A level. Hermiston has won 10 team state championships in that span, including nine consecutive titles from 2007-2016.
But over the last two years, the program has slipped in the state standing just a bit. The Bulldogs finished in fourth place in 2017 with 14 wrestlers and 138 points, and this year the team has only 10 wrestlers qualified and only two returning state placers. Wrestlers such as Joe Gutierrez, Beau Blake, A.J. Tuia and Sean Stewart are set up for solid weekends, but the Bulldogs will need several unseeded athletes to wrestle above their potential and compete well if bumped to the consolation bracket for the team to make noise in their final run in the OSAA.
BEDOLLA FINALLY GETS IN: Through his first three years of high school wrestling, Pendleton’s Brendon Bedolla had moderate success throughout the season, but couldn’t get through the district bracket for a trip to Portland.
But as a senior, Bedolla finally put it all together. He holds a 31-12 record now and has a district championship in his back pocket after running through the 138-pound bracket as a No. 6 seed. Now, Bedolla finally gets to wrestle on the floor of Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the first time.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: Along with a bevy of veterans competing this weekend are a few underclassmen and future stars. A few names to watch: Hermiston’s Sean Stewart, Mac-Hi’s Kiez White, and Riverside’s Ethan Snyder.
Stewart, a sophomore, could be one of the Bulldogs’ next wave of stars as he won the district title at 220-pounds last week to earn his first trip to state and is the No. 4 seed in the 5A bracket. White has had a stellar freshman season, compiling a 21-5 record and recently wrapped up the 106-pound district championship in his first attempt. Now, White makes his first trip to state as the No. 3 seed in the 4A bracket.
Snyder is another freshman sensation, going 24-10 so far as a freshman for the Pirates, and lines up unseeded in the 3A bracket at 138 pounds.
Listed below is a list of all 43 wrestlers competing this weekend broken up by school, and each first-round matchup.
Seedings — (195) No. 2 Joey Gutierrez vs. Gabriel Padilla, Central; (220) No. 4 Sean Stewart vs. Crayton Gillespie, Crater; (106) No. 5 Ruben Madrigal vs. Jacob Banry, Crater; (145) No. 5 AJ Tuia vs. Serrano Patrick, Corvallis; (285) No. 5 Beau Blake vs. Ashten Brecht, Dallas; (160) No. 8 Zach Kirkpatrick vs. Nicholas Nelson, Dallas. Unseeded — (106) Adrian Delgado vs. No. 7 Freddy Barajas, Eagle Point; (113) Isaac Lambert vs. No. 1 Tanner Ulrey, Crater; (120) Gage Shipley vs. No. 5 Ryan Bibler, Dallas; (182) Jake Palmer vs. No. 2 Jake Rademacher, Sandy.
Seedings — (138) No. 4 Brendon Bedolla vs. Colson Spencer, Dallas; (126) No. 7 Alex Rendon vs. Jacob Ashley, Milwaukie. Unseeded — (113) Caleb Tremper vs. No. 8 Brandon Pomeroy, Milwaukie; (152) Isaac Urbina vs. No. 2 Tyson Resko, Wilsonville; (160) Aiden Patterson vs. No. 4 Patrick Holgate, Dallas; (170) Kirk Liscom vs. No. 3 Joseph Bisseck, Lebanon; (195) Aiden Henderson vs. No. 3 Avery Jaramillo, Thurston.
Seedings — (220) No. 2 Spencer Wells vs. Zachery Downard, Umpqua; (106) No. 3 Kiez White vs. Tristan Spencer, Sweet Home; (195) No. 3 Joshua Torres vs. Brian Reger, Tillamook; (138) No. 4 Zach Crisman vs. Tanner Thompson, Banks; (182) No. 8 Brandyn Chaney vs. Mat Thome, Elmira. Unseeded — (170) Patton Wright vs. No. 7 Alec Roberts, North Marion; (285) Cruz Garcia vs. No. 6 Maxwell Merritt, Banks.
Seedings — (106) No. 3 Fernando Ortega, first round bye; (120) No. 4 Andrew Barker, first round bye. Unseeded — (113) Abraham Silva, first round bye; (132) Christian Reyes vs. Jacob Skjei, Willamina; (138) Ethan Snyder, first round bye; (182) Ivan Salgado vs. No. 3 Kaden Gilbert, Warrenton.
Seedings — (126) No. 3 Silvestre Vasquez, first round bye; (170) No. 3 Alex Miranda-Walls, first round bye. Unseeded — (126) Kyler Shelton vs. No. 4 Asher Ruchti, Pleasant Hill; (152) Josue Aguilera, first round bye; (195) Brady Harrington, first-round bye; (220) Tucker McAllister, first round bye; (285) Kaleb Kendrick, first-round bye.
Seedings — (195) No. 4 Kenneth Bevan, first-round bye. Unseeded — (126) Kyle Ranger, first-round bye; (132) Hayden Hilliard vs. Brandon Isaacson, Rainier; (145) Mychael Pointer, first-round bye; (182) Logan Butler vs. Leonel Rosas, Dayton.
Unseeded — (145) Zach Bredfield vs. No. 3 Hunter Lewis, Toledo.