They came from as far away as Crane, Culver and the Oregon Coast. An even dozen teams and about 105 wrestlers made the trip to Joseph Charter School for the 40th annual Jo-Hi Invitational wrestling tournament Jan. 5-6.
Friday and Saturday saw the Joseph gym crowded with wrestlers and fans alike, with about the same crowd size as a varsity basketball game. Coaches guided their grapplers from the edge of the mat with wrestlers responding with renewed vigor or sheer helplessness. Fans walked around the edges of the mat taking video and photos of the epic struggles playing out before them.
Despite the presence of larger schools such as Culver, both Enterprise and Joseph/Wallowa held their own, nailing down four individual championships and a number of second and third-place finishes.
Joseph/Wallowa placed fourth in the tournament with 103 points, just behind Neah-Kah-Nie’s 111 points. Enterprise finished seventh with 83.5 points.
Joseph landed two champions in 113-pounder Steven Beckman, who is also the reigning state champ in his weight class and plowed through all comers at the tournament. Sophomore Guylen Snyder topped off the 152 pound class, winning his championship match by fall. Both Zeb Ramsden and Austin Brockamp of Wallowa garnered strong third-place finishes. Ramsden’s final match featured more flip-flops than a Washington politician on the campaign trail before the freshman won the match by fall.
Enterprise’s two stalwarts, Shane Lund and Cole Farwell, both filed championship notches on their belts in the 120 pound and 132 pound categories, respectively.
EHS up and comer Trace Evan won second at 132 pounds, wrestling against his state reigning champion teammate while Dylan Staigle wrestled his way to the third slot at 138 pounds. Drew Widener got the nod for fifth place at 220 pounds. while Klint Norton suffered a knee injury and had to settle for fourth place at 285 pounds.
Joseph coach Tim Kiesecker said he was happy with the performance and was pleased with the tournament overall, although there were about 80 wrestlers fewer than last year’s total.
“After the long Christmas break, we wrestled pretty well, and I’m pretty happy with where we’re at,” he said. He also lauded the performance of Zeb Ramsden with his third-place finish.
“He always gives 110 percent, and I think he might make it to state this year,” he said
Kiesecker also told of the addition of a new team, Neah-Kah-Nie, that hails from the Oregon coast and traveled the longest distance.
“They told us they loved our tournament, and they’d be back next year,” he said.
Outlaws coach Troy Farwell said one of the tournament highlights was watching Evans get into the finals.
“His semifinal match was the state runner up last year,” he said. “To go out with confidence and beat a kid who was second in state last year is a big deal for a freshman.”
He added that Evans has a shot at going to state this year.