SHS celebrates its seniors


Photos by Cameron Jagoe/

Siuslaw wrestling hosts annual Senior Night

Feb. 1, 2023 - On Jan. 25, the Siuslaw wrestling team hosted its annual Senior Night festivities to celebrate the accomplishment of two grapplers wrapping up storied careers as Vikings. 

Mason Buss and Hunter Petterson have both overcome adversity — this season and throughout their athletic journeys — but, with just a few events left in the 2022-23 season, they appear ready to put the finishing touches on each of their amazing high school wrestling careers. 

First, Petterson was introduced. He was joined by members of his family who presented him with balloons and flowers to honor him on this, the final home wrestling meet of his high school career. 

Petterson arrived in Florence as a new student from Missouri his freshman year. From the beginning, he worked hard to make a positive impression on everyone he met, which isn’t always easy if you’re the “new guy” at a new school. 

Further complicating things was some adversity along the way. 

“Sophomore year, Hunter was doing very well at the state tournament,” recalled Wartnik. “Late in a match to determine medal placement, we’re ahead by one point and, off of the mat, the guy he’s wrestling does something totally unsportsmanlike and ends up hurting Hunter with some kind of shoulder injury.” 

Hunter and his coaches decided to finish that match, which may have exasperated the injury.

“Turns out the injury was bad enough that he had to be in a shoulder brace for a long time,” remembered Wartnik. Last season, Petterson’s junior year, was also one of challenges. “Hunter was rated number two or three in the state when he contracted COVID and was unable to compete in regionals or state,” explained Wartnik. “He wasn’t even suffering from a fever by the time state rolled around. He was just forced to quarantine.” \

This season, Petterson started well and was racking up the wins — but the adversity continued when he was injured at the Coast Classic in North Bend on Dec. 9. He returned at the Nick Lutz Invitational a few weeks ago and Wartnik noticed a change in him. 

“I was talking to Hunter recently and he said, ‘I’ve come to realize some people are just not going to understand me and I can’t prove anything to them,” recalled Wartnik. “I’ve just decided I need to let go of that and just go do what I can do.’ The last month of training has been fantastic, and he’s come back to the team like a ball of fire.” 

It will be an exciting finish to this season for Petterson and Viking fans can rest assured if challenges do appear during these final weeks of the season, he will be ready. 

Regardless of how this season ends, his teammate Buss will go down as one of the greatest mat-men that Siuslaw High has ever seen. He was introduced next and joined by his father, Stecher (an assistant on the team) and his mother, Vanessa. They honored him with balloons, flowers and other treats. 

Buss finished third at state during his sophomore season and second last year during his junior year. Last summer, Buss traveled to Fargo, N.D. to compete against wrestlers from all over the country. He was injured in his first match and didn’t compete as he had hoped to. Though an injury was not what Buss or his coaches were hoping for, according to Wartnik it was an important factor in the success he’s finding during this current season. 

“I think it [Buss’ performance in Fargo] was really a transition point,” recalled Wartnik. “We’ve seen him train this year like we never have before. He is a living example of how we want our other kids to act.” 

Buss has been a part of the Siuslaw High wrestling scene for a long time. 

“Mason’s dad [Stecher] has been coaching with me since his older brother wrestled here, 2009-ish,” recalled Wartnik. “I got to know Mason when he was just a little guy.” 

Buss never missed his chance to get on the mats growing up and those chances were many with his father’s coaching job. By the time he reached high school he was well on the way to a great grappling career but was still developing his skills as a leader. 

“Mason was a quiet young guy,” remembered Wartnik. “I’ve seen him open up and become perhaps the finest leader I’ve ever had on a team.” 

Buss’ work ethic has also showed steady improvement. 

“I remember in his early years he didn’t have a picture of what it meant to train vigorously,” said Wartnik. “He went to so many camps though and learned from some of the best in the nation.” 

Even with this being Buss’ final year wrestling for the Viks, his coach thinks his impact will last for years to come. 

“We use a phrase on our team: ’cutting trail’,” explained Wartnik. “Basically, what it means is there’s certain people that open the way for others. The show others the way and ‘cut’ the way for future wrestlers to move on through. Mason, like the leaders he learned from in the last, has ‘cut trail’ for future Viking wrestlers.” 

Though Buss is currently nursing an injury, he is expected to be ready to defend his undefeated record and top ranking at district in a few weeks. 

Buss, Petterson and the Viking boy wrestlers will have a week or so off before their district meet Feb. 10-11 in Scio. The Siuslaw girl wrestlers on the other hand take the mat this weekend in Cottage Grove for the OSAA Girls 4A/3A/2A/1A Special District 2 Championships. 

“There will be a lot of schools and we’ve got great girls teams in our region,” said an excited Wartnik. “Sweet Home, La Pine, Henley and Hidden Valley… that’s some stiff competition but we’ve got six young women who are amazing.” 

Matches at Cottage Grove High School for the Special District 2 Championships start at 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3, and 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 4. 

The top four finishers in each weight class will qualify for the state competition, in Portland, on Feb. 23-24.