Steven Beckman has put himself among the best to ever don a wrestling singlet in the state of Oregon.
The senior on the Joseph/Wallowa Eagles wrestling team clinched his third consecutive Class 2A/1A state title Friday and Saturday in Portland, finishing off the championship with a dominant 12-0 major decision over Reedsport’s Christian Solomon in the finale at 113 pounds.
And he did so despite suffering an injury early in the season that left the hopes of the three-peat in peril.
“We went to Culver the second week of the season. He was in a big match and he dislocated his elbow,” Joseph/Wallowa Head Coach Tim Kiesecker said. “We didn’t even know if he was going to get an opportunity for a third time.”
Beckman returned to the mat early for the Jo-Hi Invite and suffered a rare setback, one that jump-started his path back to the top.
“I wasn’t supposed to come back until early February,” he said. “January was my home tournament and senior night. I came back for that with a big brace and (my shoulder) was taped. I was pinned in the second round. That alone I used as fuel to push myself and overcome the injury. After that I started training about three times a day to get back in shape and get strength back in my arm.”
That training paid off. The title capped three years of dominance at the state tournament for the senior, who took the top spot at 106 pounds as a sophomore and a junior. Seven of his nine matches at state the last three years he has won by fall, many of them in the first round.
He was in similar form this weekend, needing just 56 seconds to pin Glide’s Dennak Towne in the quarterfinals and only 66 seconds to take down Vernonia’s Shawn Long in the semifinals.
“I knew that nobody in the state was working as hard as I was,” Beckman said.
With the win, he becomes the first wrestler in the tri-county region to win three state titles, and adds his name to a list of three- or four-time champions in Oregon history that, entering this weekend, contained fewer than 170 individuals, regardless of classification or weight class.
“It shows I’ve worked as hard as those people have, and I’ve put in what it takes,” Beckman said. “I know what it’s like to win and I know what it’s like to have that pressure. I know what it’s like to fight to stay on top.”
The championship helped boost the Eagles, who had all four of their wrestlers place individually, to a fourth-place finish overall. Joseph/Wallowa scored 59 points for fourth, one point ahead of Pine Eagle, which took fifth. Perennial power Culver scored 136 points to claim the top spot.
Interestingly, the team finished right where Kiesecker pegged it all season long in the OSAA coaches poll.
“I had us in fourth all year. I knew where our kids were at and I kept putting us down at four,” he said.
Zeb Ramsden (132) was one of the keys for Joseph/Wallowa. The third seed reached the championship match with a quarterfinal win over Vernonia’s Byron Cook by a 4-0 decision before taking down Lowell’s Tyson Brasfield by fall in 6:49 in the semifinals. Lowell’s Kasey Erwin edged Ramsden by a 4-1 decision in the final, dropping him to second.
Austin Brockamp (170) shook off a quarterfinal loss to Glide’s Zack Holland by fall to win his final three matches for third place. After the loss, he won in the consolation quarterfinals over North Lake’s Damon Ward by a 7-0 decision, topped Jefferson’s Cody Adams by fall in 4:22 in the consolation semifinals and finished with a win in the third-place match over Riddle’s Donoven Hargraves by fall in only 43 seconds.
Jonah Staigle (195) went 2-2 to take fourth. Staigle alternated wins and losses, starting with a victory in the quarterfinals over Neah-Kah-Nie’s Jett Johnson by a 5-3 decision before losing in the semifinals to Glendale’s William Kidwell by a 17-11 decision. He then won in the consolation semifinals over Gold Beach’s Darren Bright by a 4-1 decision but finished with a loss in the third-place match to Jefferson’s Riley Davis by an 11-3 major
Beckman wasn’t the only 2A/1A state champion this weekend.
Logan Butcher, the only wrestler representing the Imbler Panthers, claimed the top spot at 145 pounds with an 8-6 decision over Culver’s Hunter Augustynovich in the championship, becoming the first individual to win a title for Imbler since A.J. Plummer won at 119 in 2010.
“I’m just on cloud nine,” the senior said. “I can’t believe I did it.”
Augustynovich had Butcher’s number this season, including pinning Butcher in last week’s district tournament.
“My coaches really watched when I was wrestling, figuring out what (Augustynovich) was good at, what he wasn’t good at, how I can improve on the mat and how I can capitalize on his mistakes,” Butcher said of the difference in the championship.
Butcher trailed entering the final round, but he scored two takedowns and two near-falls to pull ahead, then added a late escape.
Imbler Head Coach Doug Hislop said Butcher didn’t go into the match with a defeated attitude despite the prior outcomes against Augustynovich.
“He wrestled like anything was possible,” Hislop said. “I felt like he was in control of that kid.”
Butcher entered state as an underdog on paper, as he was not only unseeded but was pitted against the No. 1 seed, Jefferson’s Connor Fairchild, in the quarterfinals. He scored a 9-4 decision to win that first match, then earned a 4-1 decision over Bonanza’s Joshua Fellows in the semifinals to get the rematch against Augustynovich.
The win over Fairchild may have gotten into the heads of his remaining opponents, Butcher said.
“I feel like it put stress on the other wrestlers once I beat that No. 1 seed,” he said.
Both Hislop and Butcher said the added one-on-one focus Butcher received in the week leading up to state, as he was the only Imbler wrestler still practicing, gave him an extra boost.
“We had him isolated,” Hislop said. “I really believe this in my heart — Monday and Tuesday, he showed more gains than he did in any two-week sessions, partly because we were one-on-one.”
Butcher’s efforts resulted in 18 points for Imbler, which placed the Panthers in 20th.
Union/Cove’s Jaxon Blackburn took third at 126, and the lone Bobcat wrestler scored 11 points to place the Bobcats in 24th.
Blackburn went 3-1. He won in the quarterfinals over Myrtle Point’s Clifford Johnson by a 9-2 decision, lost in the semifinals to Reedsport’s Elijah Carson by an 8-4 decision, then won his consolation semifinal match over Gold Beach’s Dylan Edwards by a 4-2 decision. It set up a rematch against Johnson in the third-place match, and Blackburn dominated, winning by an 18-4 major decision for third.
The Enterprise Outlaws scored 10 points for 25th. Trace Evans (138) placed third for the Outlaws. He edged Knappa’s Luke Goozee by a 9-8 decision to open the tournament then lost in the semis to Central Linn’s Caleb Day by a 6-4 decision. He recovered to win in the consolation semifinals over Oakridge’s Branden Arient by a 4-1 decision, and won in the third-place match over Lakeview’s Wyatt Patzke by a 9-3 decision.
Klint Norton (285) went 0-2 for Enterprise and didn’t place.