Hillsboro's Medina, Banks' Ellis head class at state wrestling championships
We are the champions. Well, they are in regards to Banks' J.J. Ellis and Hillsboro's Ayana Medina, who both won individual state championships at the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union State Wrestling Championships this past Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22-23, at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.
Medina, who also qualified for the boys championships by placing second at the Northwest Oregon Conference District Championships two weeks prior, won the 105 pound weight division by defeating Scio's Riana Martin in the semifinals, then later Century High School's Nimo Sheikh in the final by a major decision, 14-6. Shortly following her victory, the freshman regretted to an extent not being able to wrestle with her boys, but ultimately and rather obviously felt she made the right decision.
"I wish I could've wrestled with the boys, but I knew I could make it farther in the girls division…and I think I made the right decision," said Medina. "I was shooting for it, but definitely didn't picture myself accomplishing this. I'm so overwhelmed. I can't believe I just did that, but I couldn't have done it without my team."
Or her coaches, one of which had nothing but praise for the young Spartan wrestler.
"I couldn't be more excited about the direction and vision of that young lady right there," said Hillsboro head coach Stephen Moreno. "Ayana has had a goal all year long and followed through. Nimo (Sheikh) is an amazing opponent and a competitor that's difficult for Ayana because she's so dynamic, but she learned from her previous mistakes and wrestled a great match."
Her team, both boys and girls represented as well, with the girl Spartans placing second and the boys 10th. Along with Medina, Hillsboro's Emma Blackwell — another freshman — placed second in the 110 pound division, while their teammate Riana Jenkins finished third at 170 pounds.
Not to be outdone, the Spartan boys were led by a pair of third place finishes by senior Nick Peterson (160) and junior Trevor Schubmehl (220). In addition, they got a fourth by junior Tristan Keffer (126) and sixth by senior Christopher Day (182).
As a competitor, Peterson wasn't initially thrilled with the notion of third, but later appreciated the finish for what it was.
"It's kind of rough, but I like coming back and winning my next match, even if it was for third place," Peterson said following his third place match. "I was real upset after my semifinal, but my coaches came back and talked me back into things, and I'm happy with how I ended it."
Moreno was extremely happy with both teams, and said he hoped it would springboard them to greater things next year.
"We won all the matches we were supposed to win, and I'm proud of all our kids," Moreno said. "It's been a great year and hopefully it means more success next year."
Banks' Ellis won his second consecutive title, defeating La Grande's Spencer Gerst 3-0 in the 220 pound final. This year's championship felt a bit different to Ellis, who said it was made more difficult by some personal problems he was battling off the mat.
"This year I wrestled for a different reason," Ellis said. "I had some family issues going on and I didn't really want to wrestle this year. At first the only reason I wrestled was to impress a girl, then I found a reason to wrestle for my friends and others who supported me through my hard times."
The junior, who placed second as a freshman, said he was at first relieved and excited about his second title, but shortly after also realized it too marked the beginning of a quest for a third championship next season.
"Being a two time state champ felt great for about 10 minutes, then I realized I have to do it again next year," he said. "I'll have to put in the hard work physically and mentally."
His coach, Dan Herb, said Ellis' title was impressive, but was made more so by the circumstances surrounding a repeat attempt.
"He's the returning state champ and because of that people expect you to win and it puts a different kind of pressure on you," Herb said. "He did good and competed well, but that's J.J., he's wrestled in a lot of big tournaments so he's really never nervous. It seems like it's just another match to him."
But it wasn't. It was an opportunity to heal, and the Brave made the most of it.
"It was a good escape because the wrestling room was and is the one place where all my worries disappear," said Ellis. "It's almost like a second home in a way."
Banks' Tanner Thompson was the Braves' only other placer, finishing sixth in the 145 pound division.
Century too was represented at the state championships. In addition to Sheikh, the Jaguars' Lilliann Restrepo placed second in the 152 pound weight division, losing in the final to Grant Union's Trinity Hutchison 5-1. On the boys side, the Jags had six qualifiers, three of which placed. Ernesto Alvarez placed sixth (152), senior Loudyn Reese placed fifth (195), and his younger brother, sophomore Brody, placed third in the heavyweight division after a heartbreaking quarterfinal loss, defeating No. 1-seeded Jacob Barnes of McMinnville in the third place match.
"I'm happy, but I know I could've done better and that I should've been in that final," said Reese. "I could've wrestled smarter and maybe worked a little harder in the training room, but this definitely inspires me for next year and I'm already looking forward to and am fired up for next season."
Forest Grove had three entrants in the tournament. Senior Erick Ouofre (195) lost to top-seeded Santos Cantu in the opening round, junior Gavin Rice (182) won two matches before falling 4-3 in the quarterfinals to Jack Rademacher of Sandy, and senior Ivan Torres (126) placed fifth, losing his opening round match before stringing together four wins en route to a 3-1 decision over Tualatin's Sami Victoriano in the fifth place match.
"I was out for three weeks with a knee injury, so I only had two weeks to prepare, so honestly I was surprised by my performance," said Torres. "I've been wrestling for four years and to make it to the state tournament for three of them, it's a great accomplishment for me."
The Glencoe boys were paced by junior Sutton Yazzolino who finished fourth in the 152 pound division, losing in the quarterfinals before stringing together two straight wins before a 4-1 defeat to Roseburg's Austin David in the third place match.
The Tide girls were led by Elbereth Ragsdale who placed third at 135 pounds.
None of Liberty's three boys qualifiers, Tanner Santesson, Adrian Hinojosa and Rafael Hinojosa placed, but on the girl's side, senior Faith Strode placed third in the 115 pound division.
Roseburg won the 6A team competition narrowly defeating Newberg 263-256. Sprague was third 188, Mt. View fourth 151, and West Linn fifth 133. Century was the highest local finisher, placing 16th (61).
Crescent Valley won the 5A with 187.5, Crook County was second (186), Dallas third (163.5), Thurston fourth (152.5), Crater fifth (119). Hillsboro was 10th (77.5).
Tillamook won the 4A with 264.5, Sweet Home was second (241), La Grande third (189), Baker/Powder Valley fourth (129), and Cascade fifth (105.5). Banks was 14th with 46 points.
Hood River Valley won the girls competition with 48 points, Hillsboro was second 38, Bend 33, Grant Union 32, La Pine 32. Century was sixth with 27, Liberty and Glencoe tied for 26th with 9.