By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School wrestling team had a busy, and mostly successful, winter break.
On Jan. 3 and 4, the team attended Cleveland High School’s annual Don York Invite and earned enough points with placing finishes and pick-up matches to take second place with 236.5 points. Pendleton High School won the tournament with 276.5 points.
“We brought quite a few people and we were prepared,” said Sean Burrows, a McNary freshman who had to duke it out with teammate Riley Repp for third place at the Don York tournament.
McNary’s second-place finishers were Louis Palos at 120 pounds; Michael Phelps at 132 pounds; and Zach Hammerschmith at 185 pounds. Burrows was the sole third place finisher for the Celtics, he wrestled at 106 pounds. Fourth place wrestlers were Repp at 106 pounds and Caleb Conner at 138 pounds.
Burrows said going three rounds with Repp left him with a lesson about conditioning.
“I need to build more endurance so I’m prepared and ready for the third-round matches,” he said.
Palos said his preparation for the tournament had him feeling better as the day approached.
“The past couple of tournaments I wasn’t eating well and I wasn’t sleeping, but it felt like everything came together this time,” he said.
Phelps, who spent much of his time in the shadow of an elder brother the past two seasons, has exploded this season.
“It’s been a change in attitude in how I practice that’s made the difference,” Phelps said.
Jason Ebbs, McNary head coach, said the tournament provided valuable lessons up and down the roster.
“For some of our more experienced guys, it was good for them to learn that no one is going to roll over and hand them a title. That was a lesson they needed to learn,” Ebbs said. “All the kids who thought they weren’t the superhero won a match here or there and suddenly we had a group of kids on the podium.”
The Celts had to claw their way back to the podium after starting out around ninth place before finals and consolation matches began.
At the Northwest Duals Dec. 27 and 28, McNary took second in their pool with a 5-1 record. The Celts beat Cleveland, West Albany, Westview and Sweet Home high schools in pool competition. David Douglas was the only competitor to get the best of the Celts in the early going.
McNary didn’t fare quite as well in the final pairings. Losses to Hillsboro High School (49-21) and Sunset High School (36-30) landed the Keizer team in eighth place overall.
McNary’s individual standouts were M. Phelps (7-1), Palos (6-2), Jonathon Phelps (6-2), Gage Mance (6-2), Conner (5-2), Noah Townsend (5-2) and Taran Purkey (5-2), Ebbs said.
The mat men took part in the Oregon National Guard Invitational at Liberty High School Dec. 20 and 21. The 16-team, no-elimination tournament, which helped the McNary wrestlers recoup some of the lost mat time from snow-related cancellations a few weeks earlier, crowned one Celtic champ and several placers.
Hammerschmith won his first three matches by fall no later than the second round. He took down Tualatin High School’s Luke Gossens in a squeaker 5-4 decision and then beat Wilsonville High School’s Justin Hamilton 5-3 for the 195-pound title.
Third place finishers for the Celts were: M. Phelps at 132 pounds (4-1 for the tournament) and Alvarro Venegas at 220 pounds (4-1). Fourth place finishers were: Burrows at 106 pounds (3-2) and J. Phelps at 132 pounds (3-2).
“We’re going the right direction as a group, but it’s way too early in the season to sit back and see what happens,” Ebbs said. “We still have a lot of youth and inexperience and the competition is only going to get tougher in the coming weeks.”