Sandy sees five wrestlers place as the team finishes fifth.

by: SANDY POST: DAVID BALL - Sandys Devin White closes out a pin in his first-round win over South Albanys Dakota Carter on Friday.The Sandy Pioneers flew under the radar at the Class 5A wrestling championships on Friday and Saturday and quietly climbed the leader board to a fifth-place finish. They came away with 97 points, finishing behind Hermiston, Dallas, Lebanon and Eagle Point.

“We weren’t quite where we wanted to be with our team score, but I’m happy with the way the kids wrestled,” Sandy coach Larry Topliff said. “Our guys wrestled some really great matches, even some that we lost.”

The Pioneers suffered a few expected losses along the way, but made up for those with some very strong performances, namely from Devin White and Jeremy Funk.

White entered the 170-bracket as the No. 3 seed and he was in the zone early in the tournament. He won each of his first two matches by fall in less than three minutes to quickly qualify for the semifinals. White met No. 2 seed Pyper McCallum from Pendleton in the semis and it was a battle for the full six minutes, but White held on for a 3-1 win.

The title bout pitted White against top-seeded Colton Sallee from Lebanon. It became obvious in the opening moments that neither wrestler would win the match by fall and the victor would be determined by the scoreboard. White and Sallee circled each other for most of the first round and both took a defensive approach. Sallee nearly scored a takedown when he grabbed White and flipped him on his head, but White grabbed hold of Sallee and never went down.

With the bout scoreless after the first round, Sallee assumed the down position to start the second. He escaped to get on the scoreboard first. The pair grappled in the middle after Sallee’s point and both had opportunities to turn a mutual hold into a takedown. Sallee eventually broke free near the edge of the circle and secured the takedown just before the second round ended.

White earned his point with an escape early in the final round to make it a 3-1 match. The Sandy senior took more risks with shots in an attempt to tie the bout, but Sallee stayed clear. Sallee saw a slight opening on one of White’s shots and turned it into a second takedown of his own. White didn’t have enough time to make anything happen after that and Sallee prevailed for a 5-1 win.

Despite the loss in the finals, White earned 22 team points and had a smile on his face as he stepped onto the second-place position on the podium. White finished the season with a 38-5 record.

White was followed on the 5A finals mat by teammate Jeremy Funk. Funk had no trouble with his first two opponents, defeating both by fall in less than 2:30. He claimed a thrilling win in the semifinals over Hood River Valley’s Steven Swafford by a mark of 6-4 in overtime.

Funk’s ride to the 182-pound title bout was impressive at every leg, but it ended in the championship. Funk had to square off against Jefferson’s Haszell West who went into the match with a 30-2 record. Funk fended off West for most of the first round and kept the match scoreless for about 90 seconds. West secured a takedown late in the round and he wrestled like the top seed in the bracket for the rest of the match.

Funk was aggressive and took chances throughout the bout, but West was so fast and strong that he wasn’t susceptible to Funk’s attempts. West proved without a doubt that he was the best 182-pounder in the state and defeated Funk 13-3.

Funk went home with the second-place medal despite never placing before. He was one of five Pioneers to place in the top four in the tournament.

“It is so important to get these guys placing early because it is a lot of pressure,” Topliff said.

Three of Sandy’s five placers return next year, and 12 of the team’s 15 state qualifiers will be back.

“We have a lot of guys coming back and we have a really strong eighth-grade class coming up,” Topliff said. “I think we will be better next year than we where this year.”

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