Buss and Lade bring home state titles at PDX

Left: Siuslaw senior Mason Buss climbs to the top of the medal stand to claim his first place medal for the 195-lb division. Right: 1st place finisher Macali Lade of Siuslaw (middle) joins fellow sophomores, and friends, Julia Towers of Taft (left) and Destiny Weaver of Glendale on the medal stand for the 110-lb division. Courtesy photos

Historic storm proceeds historic performances on mats by Viks

March 1, 2023 — It was a season of overcoming adversity for the Siuslaw wrestling team. Throughout the year, many of the team’s best wrestlers dealt with injury and illness. It seemed each week there was another unexpected challenge for the team to overcome — but overcome they did when, at district, eight Viking wrestlers qualified for state.

The momentum continued last weekend in Portland when Siuslaw brought home two state titles, a second place and two third-place finishes at the Oregon State Activities Association (OSAA) State Wrestling Championships at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.

Before all that success momentum was slowed a bit by some unexpected, non-wrestling, adversity.

On Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 22, the team departed Siuslaw High after a festive send-off from fellow classmates. State wasn’t scheduled to start until the following day, but the team got an early start thinking they would beat the winter storm that was rumored to be headed towards the Pacific Northwest.

“We didn’t beat the weather,” recalled Neil Wartnik, Viking head coach. “We hit snow pretty much when we got to the 205 [I-205, an interstate near Portland]. By the time we got near our destination on Sandy Boulevard it was coming down good and we got trapped on an off ramp behind a jack-knifed semi.”

It took the bus containing the Siuslaw wrestling team five hours from that point to get to its hotel, which was just four-tenths of a mile away from where they had initially stopped.

After they reached their hotel, the snow continued to fall around the state, but especially in the Portland metro area. When the storm was done it had dropped 10.8 inches of snow on PDX, the second-most for the city in one day in recorded history. As a result, the entire first day of the tournament was cancelled. What had been planned as a two-day event would now all be crammed into one day, Friday, Feb. 24.

That one day was a historic day for Siuslaw wrestling.

Buss’ state title at 195 lbs. marked the fruition of a lifelong dream for the veteran wrestler that saw the last year in the journey be maybe the most difficult as Buss suffered a knee injury with a little over a month left in his senior season. Luckily by state his knee was starting to feel better but because he was healing, preparation for the big event had been minimal.

“Mason didn’t really practice on the mat the two weeks between district and state,” said Wartnik.

If there was any rust for lack of mat time it didn’t show as Buss beat his first opponent in just 14 seconds and this next in 51 seconds. His semifinal opponent took his just 44 seconds to pin.

“Those first three matches he was like a laser just going through anything – boom, boom, boom,” said Wartnik.

That set him up with a match against a league rival, Bryce Chilgren of Harrisburg, for the state championship at 195-lb. The two had already met a handful of times this season including at district where their rivalry intensified when Buss beat Chilgren.

Buss was glad to get a familiar opponent in the championship match which makes sense when you’ve beat every single opponent you’ve faced this year.

“Facing the same guys more than once is usually a relief since I know that I’m better,” said a confident Buss.

He showed how much better he was in the championship match with a dominating 9-2 victory to complete his undefeated season and bring home the state championship at 195-lb.

Buss’ undefeated season is only the second in Wartnik’s 28-year SHS coaching career.

After the win Buss was surprised at how much weight had lifted from his shoulders.

“It was a little bit of a different feeling than I expected,” said Buss. “I was totally ready to be overcome with emotion and excitement, but it turned out to be a bit more of a relief since it was my last chance and I had put a lot of pressure on myself to win.”

Buss knew he couldn’t have won this title without lots of support but it’s one person in particular that he points out as being particularly important, his father and Siuslaw wrestling assistant coach Stecher Buss.

“I think my dad will always hold a special place because he’s been my coach for 15 years at least and has probably missed less than five of my career matches,” Buss said.

In addition to Buss’ historic undefeated title, history was also made on the girls side when Lade became the first female in Siuslaw wrestling history to bring home a state championship.

Lade opened the tournament with a relatively easy win to set up a semifinal match against a familiar face, Destiny Weaver of Glendale. Lade and Weaver had met five times this season already with Weaver winning four of those. The familiarity with Weaver and her lack of success against her didn’t concern Lade.

“Destiny and I are actually very close friends outside of the wrestling world, so having to make her my enemy is very confusing,” explained Lade. “To be honest though the second I step on that mat the person in front of me just turns into another opponent despite if I know them. Both Julia [Towers of Taft] and Destiny are sophomores like me, meaning I get to wrestle with them for the next two years.”

Lade dominated Weaver to advance to the final.

“Macali really kind of dismantled Destiny,” recalled Wartnik. “It was like 10-2 when she pinned her. Macali was not only good enough to win but I think she really surpassed Destiny to move to a different level.”

The final was against another familiar foe, Towers of Taft. The two also met in the district final a few weeks prior. Lade had to worker harder than she had in her previous two matches but still had a relatively easy time against Towers, pinning her in the second round to bring home a state championship in the 110-lb. division. As soon as the referee indicated victory the sophomore hopped in the air, pirouetted then gracefully bowed to the crowd, looking more like she had just won a gymnastics competition than a wrestling match. The crowd went wild.

Lade recognizes the significance of her state championship.

“Making history and being the first girl state champion of Siuslaw is an unexplainable feeling,” said Lade. “It almost doesn't even feel real. The second I won I was so filled with emotion I didn't even know what was going on. All I know is that I worked very hard to get to that moment when they raised my hand. It has been my goal since day one. I thought it was just going to be a dream, but I made it a reality. Though just because I won a state title doesn't mean I'm finished, I'm still going and won't stop for nothing.”

Besides the two state championships, the Viks brought home a handful of other medals.

After a tough early match junior Dayne Muller reached the championship match of the 220-lb. division where he met #1 seed Mishael Mauck of Banks and lost a close match 3-2.

“What I told Dayne as he came off the match is let your disappointment be the fuel for next year's fire,” said Wartnik. “He had a great year. I’m so proud of Dayne. He’s a team leader in so many categories.”

Senior Hunter Petterson had quite a journey to his third place medal.

After falling to the top ranked wrestler at 132 lbs. to open the competition Petterson was cruising through the consolation bracket when he got locked up with Connor McCarty of Scio.

“As he’s fighting the tie on his neck was so tight on his carotid artery that he ultimately went unconscious,” said Wartnik.

It was determined that the hold McCarty had on Petterson was illegal so once he regained consciousness and was checked out by medical staff, he was declared winner and allowed to advance.

After that somewhat scary incident it appeared Petterson found renewed energy.

“He wrestled the most inspired matches we’ve seen him wrestle all year,” said Wartnik. “He was brilliant in those last two matches.”

Petterson was so brilliant he captured third place at 132-lb.

Junior Jane Lacouture, wrestling this season for the first time, lost to the top wrestler in the state in the 155-lb. semifinal match. She bounced back to win two matches to finish the event to claim third place.

“You don’t expect that out of a first year wrestler,” said Wartnik. “Its just really exciting. I hope she’ll continue to love wrestling and train because she’s someone who has the ability to wrestle in college if that’s what she wants to do.”

It took sophomore Joel Sissel five hard fought matches to bring home a fourth place medal after finishing sixth last year as a freshman.

“I haven’t had very many sophomores place at state,” said Wartnik. “Great job by Joel. He contributed a lot to the team’s success.”

Two freshmen competed for SHS at state.

Jacob Mann’s day was short. Early in his match against 1-seed Daevon Vereen of Banks the two wrestlers banged heads. Medical staff determined Mann was concussed. His tournament ended then.

Fellow freshman Danin Lacouture opened with a tough draw, losing to eventual 135-lb. champion Sariah Zepeda of Gervias. This first trip to state represents the beginning of what looks like a promising high school wrestling career for Danin.

Through the efforts of these wrestlers the Viking teams had impressive finishes in the team standings.

The five Siuslaw boy wrestlers scored 83 points to earn fifth place at state. The four schools above them in the standings all had at least 12 wrestlers on their team making the Viks five-man score all the more impressive. La Pine, with 195 points was 3A boys champ.

On the girls side Siuslaw scored 38, good enough for sixth in the 4A/3A/2A/1A standings. The La Pine girls joined their male counterparts to win the 4A/3A/2A/1A state title with 77 points.