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Neah-Kah-Nie’s Bennett claims second straight state championship, Heavyweight Jonnson third

Senior Tristan Bennett takes his place atop the podium at the wrestling state championships. – Citizen Photo by Max Kirkendall

What better way to close out your wrestling career than to end it with a gold medal. For Neah-Kah-Nie Pirate Tristan Bennett, that goal was met at the 2019 state wrestling championships.

By Max Kirkendall
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Last year’s champ at the 220 weight class, Bennett was a heavy favorite at this year’s tournament Feb. 22-23. Bennett cruised his way through the bracket with a first round pin over Zach Vigil of Glad in round one, a pin at the 58 second mark over Gabriel Tambellini of Rouge River in the semifinals and a pin at the 50 second mark over Cole Kennedy-Gooch to secure his second straight state title. The final win gave Bennett a perfect 20-0 record this season.

“Tristan continued to be dominant in his weight class,” head coach Chris Bennett said. “He had been battling a pinched nerve in his back, which had him in a lot of pain on the first day of the tournament. His back felt quite a bit better on Saturday and he was able to win both his semifinal and final matches pretty quickly.”

Tristan finished his career at Neah-Kah-Nie as what Chris calls the most successful Pirate wrestler of all-time. Tristan ended his career with a 137-8 record, finished third as a freshman, second as a sophomore and first as a junior and senior.

“He certainly had a great wrestling career and I will miss having both him and Travis Jonsson on the team next season,” coach Bennett said.

But Tristan was not the only Pirate at the tournament. In fact, Neah-Kah-Nie qualified five in total for state. Eochaid Fry at 132 unfortunately lost two tough matches on day one to put an end to his season and Jett Johnston lost two matches while suffering an injury, ending his season at the 195 weight.

Travis Bennett entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed at the 182 weight and had high hopes entering the tournament.After a first round win over Nick Glover of Reedsport, Travis unfortunately lost in the semifinals to Dyllan Houser of Rogue River. In the consolation, Travis again suffered a close loss, keeping in just one spot shy of the podium.

Fellow senior Travis Jonnson finished with the bronze medal, losing just one match in the tournament to the eventual state champion.

The Pirates had one more placer in heavyweight Travis Jonnson, who took third in the competitive weight class. Jonnson won by fall in the quarterfinals over Klint Norton of Enterprise before losing to state champion Justin Malone of Central Linn in an ultimate tie breaker, putting an end to his state title hopes. Jonsson then beat Kenneth Johnston of Siletz Valley/Eddyville Charter by a 3-0 decision in the consolation and then beat Daniel Herinckx of Rogue River by fall to claim third place.

The win was Jonnson’s third time placing at safe with a fourth place and second place finish the previous two years.

“I was very happy for Travis Jonsson for finishing his career with a third place finish,” coach Bennett said. “He has been a lot of fun to coach throughout his time in high school. He wrestled a tough tournament and came up short in overtime in his semi-final match.”

As a team, the Pirates ended with a seventh place team finish with 40 team points. Although the Pirates fell short of their ultimate goal as a team, coach Bennett said they were very pleased to see their buddies at Tillamook take home the team trophy

“We spent a lot of time wrestling with their group in the mat club and in the off-season and it was very fitting for that group to win a team title together,” coach Bennett said. “They are a great group of kids and coaches that I am proud to be associated with.”

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