March 2, 2022 -- The Siuslaw wrestling team competed at the boys and girls OSAA state wrestling championships last week. The Vikings came home with four medals — one for the girls and three for the boys — and a huge sense of accomplishment. This was the kind of reward that only comes when a team completes a season that was as difficult as the 2021-22 season was.
Viking head coach Neil Wartnik has been a wrestling coach for more than 30 years. According to him, this season may have been the most challenging of his career, making the team’s accomplishments at the state meets all the more rewarding.
“When you look at look at our performance through the lens of the entire year, I think we did really well,” said Wartnik. “This was just a really hard year with so much adversity. Mainly from sickness and then with the untimely passing of Coach Robert Forsythe. Very few of our athletes had consistent, unbroken training through the season. Most of the kids were forced to miss time for one reason or another. To see how they performed at state after a year like this … well, it’s pretty exciting.”
First, on Thursday, Feb. 24, two representatives from the Siuslaw girls team made the four-plus hour trip to Culver High to compete in the OSAA Girls Wrestling State Championships. They were freshman Macali Lade and senior Hayden Muller.
First was Lade, who wrestled at 110 pounds. Sticking with the theme of adversity, Lade faced a scary situation leading up to the state meet.
At the district meet, on Feb. 5, Lade passed out during a match. Her doctor ordered her to take more than two weeks off, meaning she had very little time to prepare for the state championship tournament. This made her performance all the more impressive.
As if she hadn’t missed any practice at all, Lade came out of the gates fast. In her first match she pinned Grant Union’s Zoey Beam to advance to the quarterfinals. She lost her next two matches, but Wartnik was still very pleased.
“Keep in mind that Macali wasn't able to do any conditioning for almost three weeks and she didn't have a chance to really do much reviewing of her opponents’ techniques,” said Wartnik. “She wrestled with poise and courage, and I was just so impressed by her performance.”
Lade earned 4 team points for the Vikings on the day.
Next was Muller at 135, who had dealt with injury all season.
Muller won her first two matches before losing to Kira Kerr of LaPine in the semifinals. After another loss, she bounced back to pin Marlene Ramirez of McKay to take home the fifth place medal.
“Hayden was very aggressive in her matches,” said Wartnik. “Considering at state she’s competing against the best of Portland, the best of Salem, the best of Medford … and a bunch of much larger schools, she had a great showing. Hayden will be missed next year.”
Muller earned 13 team points, giving the team 17 points on the day. The team finished 40th out of 86 schools, most of which sent more than two wrestlers to the meet.
Two days later, on Feb. 26, the Viking boys had their chance at state. The OSAA 4A Boys Wrestling State Championship was held at Cascade High in Turner.
First was junior Yoskar DeLaMora, who wrestled at 126 pounds. DeLaMora went 1-2 on the day.
“I just love Yoskar,” said Wartnik. “Such a hard worker who cares a bunch and always gives you his best.”
Most importantly, DeLaMora earned three team points on the day, which would later figure big into the final team standings.
“Every point mattered,” said Wartnik. “Those three points Yoskar scored ended up making a huge difference.”
Next, Wartnik talked about sophomore Cort Waggoner at 220, who also went 1-2 and earned three, equally important, team points.
“The coaching staff agrees that Cort was our most improved wrestler,” said Wartnik. “Great listener who added some technique this year and it showed with his performance. He’s really grown that way. The fact that his first trip to state he earned a win — really impressive.”
Three Vikings won medals at state.
First, Joel Sissel. The freshman came into the season with high expectations as one of the most decorated middle school wrestlers in Siuslaw history.
For Wartnik, sometimes grapplers can get by with strength alone in middle school but are in for a rude awakening when they reach high school and face more technically skilled wrestlers. Sissel wrestled a remarkable six matches and won three of them at the state meet to earn eight points for the team.
The fact Sissel not only reached state his first year of high school but medaled was quite impressive, according to Wartnik, and shows that he’s got a bright future ahead.
“I'm really excited for Joel,” said Wartnik. “We’re very hopeful for his future. Joel has definitely made a great transition from being a great youth wrestler to a great high school wrestler. Big, big performance from him on Saturday.”
Sophomore Dayne Muller also had a great day. Dayne won his first two matches and, after a loss in the semifinal, bounced back to take fourth and give the team 16 points.
“It was a great, great performance,” said Wartnik. “Love to see him finishing fourth, higher than his seeding [Dayne was seeded sixth], and he scored a bunch of points for the team.”
Top finisher for the Vikings was junior Mason Buss.
After Buss won his first two matches, it set up a much-anticipated showdown against Sweet Home’s Ethan Spencer. This was a rematch from districts on Feb. 12, where Spencer beat Buss in a tight 6-5 decision. Buss was looking for revenge.
“His match with Spencer was electric,” said Wartnik. “The whole gym was on fire. It opened with Mason catching Spencer by surprise with a hip throw technique that is used to take a person straight to their back.”
Spencer later returned the favor and threw Buss. The match went back and forth — but Buss prevailed in the end.
Buss would lose to Junction City’s Carson Henderson in the final, but Wartnik could not have been more pleased by Buss’ second place medal and 18 team points.
“After his huge emotional victory in the semis, sometimes it’s hard to bounce back. But beating Spencer was one of those mountains that you have to climb to earn future accomplishments,” said Wartnik. “He didn’t take a state championship this year, but he’ll sure have a shot next year. We’ll train and I promise Mason will do the best he can.”
Siuslaw finished the day with 47 points, which tied them for 12th with Sky-Em League rival Marshfield, just behind Junction City with 55.
LaGrande won the team OSAA 4A State Championship with 275.5. Sweet Home was next with 250.5, followed by Tillamook with 187.
“I’m just so proud of the whole team,” said Wartnik. “I’ve been through the hardest year of my career and I’m still smiling, so that’s something. Everyone but Hayden is back next year, so hopes are high.”
For full results of both meets, go to trackwrestling.com