Jan. 14, 2022 — The Siuslaw wrestling team is hitting its stride as it moves into the midpart of the season. After hosting their first meet of the season on Jan. 6, Siuslaw traveled to Pleasant Hill on Jan. 8 for the Billies’ annual King of the Hill Tournament.
In Siuslaw’s last year in the conference, the Sky-Em Dual Meet Championships came to Florence for the first time. The entire league (minus Marist who doesn’t field a wrestling team) came to town and the teams, using a round robin format, met each other in a dual.
Siuslaw received a bye in the first round then met the Cottage Grove Lions in round 2. Each team won one match by forfeit. Of the remaining 12 matches, the Vikings won 10. SHS easily took their first dual 57-22.
“I don’t think Cottage Grove expected to lose,” said Viking Coach Neil Wartnick. “We got on a roll and just kept winning matches. That happens sometimes in sports. Sometimes one team just gets hot.”
Siuslaw’s second dual was against Elmira. The Viks won 6 to the Falcons’ 5 matches. Siuslaw beat Elmira 36-24.
Marshfield was Siuslaw’s next matchup. The Pirates had beaten the Vikings two weeks prior in a dual meet in Coos Bay, so this was an opportunity for revenge for SHS. Marshfield won 7 to the home team’s 4 and took the dual 42-27.
In the final dual of the night, Siuslaw met Junction City needing a win to stay in the hunt for the meet title. Both teams had numerous forfeits and only six bouts were contested. Each team won three but, thanks to the fact all three of SHS’s wins were by fall, the Viks outscored the Tigers and won 42-27.
Siuslaw, Marshfield and Junction City each went 3-1. The tie-breaker was total team points. Cottage Grove finished with 154. Marshfield had 159. Siuslaw scored 162. The Vikings won by three points, the amount a team gets for a single decision. One fewer win and the title would have gone to Marshfield.
Wartnick didn’t know what to expect from his wrestlers coming in. Many, because of sickness and/or holiday travel, didn’t have much time to prepare before the home meet. He was pleased that they simply made it through the night. The victory was a bonus.
“We’ve had a lot of kids who have been sick and unable to train,” said Wartnick. “I know all teams have that, but as a coach you kind of hope that you get lucky and escape all that. Right now, I feel like the boys team is really starting to get healthy and the girls are getting healthier too.”
Next up for the Viks was the King of the Hill tournament on Jan. 8 in Pleasant Hill. The two additional days had alleviated some of the Siuslaw sickness concerns and the team came in feeling more prepared than they had at the previous competition.
The extra preparation time paid off. The Vikings came out on fire and won their first 10 matches to start the competition.
“It was fun to watch to watch the kids go out there and just roll up the wins,” said Wartnick.
Highlights from the boys side include a comeback victory for freshman Joel Sissel for the third place trophy at 170 pounds.
Sissel was down and about ready to lose the match in the closing seconds when his opponent, Sage Baker of Douglas, attempted a double leg take down but was called for a “slam,” resulting in a loss of a point. This point tied the match and sent it into overtime, where the freshman grappler secured victory and the third place trophy.
“For a freshman to come in and defeat an experienced varsity wrestler like Baker, that was pretty fun,” said Wartnick.
Also at 170 pounds was Viking junior Mason Buss. He lost in the final to one of the top wrestlers in the state, Kaleb Oliver of Oakland, and though he didn’t come out on top, according to Wartnick the experience was what was important.
“That was a great performance by Mason,” said Wartnick. “Even with a loss, the experience was good for Mason. Sometimes you wrestle the best and it tells you what you need to do to get to the top of the mountain.”
The lone first place finish for the Viking boys was sophomore Dayne Muller at 195.
Muller dominated the competition in Pleasant Hill. No opponent made it out of the first round until the championship match, which Muller won 15 seconds into the second.
“Muller was dominant and looking fundamentally better than I’ve ever seen him,” said Wartnick.
Philomath was the boys team champion with 204.5 points. Siuslaw had 155 for second and behind them was Springfield High with 136.
Highlights for the girls team were second place finishes by two seniors, Brooke Olson and Hayden Muller.
“With Brooke I see a lot of improvement,” said Wartnick. “She’s getting stronger. And Hayden, she always wrestles tough.”
Wartnick did feel like the grind of the long wrestling season may have hit the girls team at this meet.
“The girls were tired,” said Wartnick. “Hopefully this week they can recover. We’ll see a lot of the same competition this Saturday at our tournament (Jan. 15) so they’ll get another chance against many of these same wrestlers.”
A combined team from Elmira and Crow was the girls champion at the King of the Hill, with 28 points. Creswell was next with 24, then Oakland, who scored 19.
Siuslaw will host the 20-team Nick Lutz Invitational on Jan. 15 at 9:30 a.m. Because of the spread of the Omicron variant and tightening of regulations from the OSAA, the event will be held without spectators. The event will be live streamed at www.nfhsnetwork.com/events/siuslaw-high-school-florence-or/gam771f204773.