By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Ready to bid adieu to that cabin fever? The McNary High School Celts are offering up plenty of chances to get out of the house this weekend without traveling too far.
In addition to basketball games at West Salem High School Friday night, the wrestling and swimming teams are headed to district tournaments Friday and Saturday. McNary is hosting the regional wrestling meet beginning at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, and continuing 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. The swimming teams will be in action both days at the Kroc Center. Races begin at 3:15 p.m. on Friday and continue at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
On the swimming front, McNary Head Coach Kim Phillips is is expecting big performances out of Perry Groves in the 50 and 100 freestyles, Alex Fox in the 200 individual medley and Sloane Yerger in the 100 butterfly in boys races. Kiana Briones in the 200 IM and 100 breast and Anjelica Glassey in the 100 backstroke are looking like strong contenders for the girls.
Phillips was eager to see how the girls fared against the other Central Valley Conference teams after a season where swimmers kept surprising her with record times in a multitude of races.
“Who knows what they’re capable of,” Phillips said. “I think a lot of teams are overlooking us in general.”
Phillips also had high hopes for the boys 400 free relay team, which could be a spoiler.
In wrestling, the Celts have three returning state qualifiers looking to make waves again this year: Louis Palos, Zach Hammerschmith and Alvarro Venegas.
Palos won a regional title and placed in the state tournament last year, but faces one of the toughest roads of any of the Celts this time around said Jason Ebbs, McNary head coach.
“What you have is a group of talented wrestlers: Humberto Santana (McKay), Diego Trujillio (North Salem), and Jeff Whitaker (Tualatin) who have refined their talents to perform very well against good competition,” Ebbs said. “Louis has some ownership in what he is trying to accomplish this season and I don’t think anyone will have an easy time with him.”
Hammerschmith is another returning regional champ and he’s undefeated in the region so far this season. He fended off challenges from tough opponents like Tualatin’s Luke Gossens and Franklin Gionnone, but isn’t prepared to settle for anything less than placing in the state tournament, Ebbs said.
“I see his focus in practice and I really believe he has the right mindset to make that goal happen this year. He has done some of his best wrestling when he has been challenged or his back was against the wall, including beating a first-ranked ranked Oregon City opponent by pin earlier this season,” Ebbs said.
Venegas’s out-of-nowhere achievement in getting to state matches last year lit a fire under the junior who is undefeated this season in the region.
“The light really came on for Alvarro last year when he qualified for the state tournament. Since then, he has gotten leaner, stronger, faster and much more confident in his skills. He will have a couple guys put up a good fight for the regional title this year, but there is no one Alvarro has not already seen,” Ebbs said.
Venegas’s only loss this season was to McMinnville’s Brian Barnes in a tournament outside the league competition, but Ebbs said it will be a different match this time around.
Attendees should also be on the watch for the Celts’ one-two punch at 106 pounds. Junior Riley Repp and freshman Sean Burrows have pushed each other all season long and hope to go to state matches side-by-side.
“Kids don’t always like to hear this, but the best element for training you can have in wrestling is a partner in your own room that won’t let you take a day off. Both of these kids rarely miss a practice and they don’t fear hard work,” Ebbs said.
Juniors Taran Purkey and Steven Wilkerson are poised to be spoilers for their competition having landed spots on the varsity roster this year for the first time. But there are a throng of Celts with winning records in the CVC that could find themselves in the spotlight including Jon Phelps, Mike Phelps, Jordan Cagle, Caleb Conner, Ryan Edsall, Noah Townsend, Kyle Bonn and Joey Delgado.
“For the bulk of our guys, the difference between reaching our goals or missing them will come down to one or two tough matches where we have to beat a guy that beat us earlier this season. The best part is when the last buzzer rings and they look you in the eye and they realize what they’ve done, what we’ve been telling them all season, ‘You can beat this guy,’ and they just won,” Ebbs said.