The Sweet Home High wrestling team seems to travel as a pack.
The Huskies won the second annual Pape Linn County Championships at South Albany on Friday afternoon, scoring 235 team points and placing 11 wrestlers in the top three of their respective weight classes.
Throughout the day, the green and black clad grapplers clustered in groups around the gym and in the stands. The members of the group smiled, clapped, laughed and generally supported each other as the wins and points mounted.
“Yeah, they do that,” coach Steve Thorpe said. “They support one another, they celebrate each other. They also hold each other accountable. They coach each other, and it’s good to have that. They know that they’re constantly with each other and they take care of each other. And, they’re happy. They like wrestling.
“You know how in the trenches you find out who you can trust. These kids are put through it pretty hard in our program. And they know that sometimes we’re all we got but that’s all we need. It’s part of the Sweet Home wrestling family thing.”
It comes from good leadership, Thorpe said.
“I think Kobe Olsen been a good leader for me, returning senior state champion," he said. "Ricky Yunke is another kid that has done a really good job of leading. … You got those other kids like Dylan Stutzman who is a senior who leads. They’re doing a good job.”
Olsen (132) won his weight class while Yunke (145) finished second. His brother Robbie Yunke bested teammate Dylan Stutzman in the 126 final.
“It’s harder to wrestle someone on the same team,” Robbie Yunke said. “Because he and I really know each other.”
Robbie Yunke wasn’t surprised that his Huskies built a big lead on their way to a tournament win.
“I expected it," he said. "This team is pretty strong. Although we’ve got a bunch of freshman coming up, most of them are really good. I believe we’ve got two freshmen in the finals.”
Junior Bryce Coulter (195) shared his teammate’s confidence.
“We were expecting it,” Coulter said. “Because we have a lot of tough guys and we’re a pinning team. We get a lot of bonus points that way. We have a lot of guys placing in the finals.”
Host South Albany placed second with 202 points with wins by James Logan (195) and Angel Huerta-Cuerta (220), and second-place finishes by Lane Hersha (285) and Anthony Pulido (120).
Pulido talked about the distractions of being a host school and the Bulldogs season.
“You have to clear your mind and go out there trying to make a name for your school. Not really worry about yourself and try to make something happen to you for the team. You have people trying to come and talk to you, but you just have to clear your mind,” Pulido said. “The team is looking pretty good so far. (Thursday) in our league dual we went undefeated.”
Third-place Lebanon was well-represented by senior Tanner Sallee (182), who won his 20th consecutive bout while winning his weight class. Six of those 20 wins came in the 94-team Sierra Nevada Classic held in Reno, Nevada. Sallee won his bracket, which had more than 64 wrestlers.
“It takes lot of hard work and patience,” Sallee said of what he thinks it takes to endure a tournament of that size. “You gotta be smart on your feet and you gotta wrestle tough. And, I gotta thank my practice partners … they really busted my butt.”
West Albany junior Mitchell Sorte (160) won his class thanks to an injury forfeit in the final.
“I think we have three guys in the final,” Sorte said. “That’s pretty good for our team this year.”
Central Linn (119.5 points), Harrisburg (113), Scio (100.5) and Santiam (21) rounded out the field of competition.