By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Jason Ebbs wasn’t just McNary seniors Wyatt Kessler, Sean Burrows and Carlos Vincent’s coach for four years. He also knew them as young children on the Celtic Mat Club and as friends to his son, Brayden and daughter, Taylor.
“That’s just a different deal right there,” Ebbs said. “That’s the product of being a coach in the community for 14 years. I’m no longer (just) a coach. There’s some friendships there. There’s some relationships there and just trying to help kids make the next step into the world and be great. They’re good people. I’m happy to be by their side, for sure.”
Kessler, Burrows, Vincent were recognized on Thursday, Feb. 9 before a dual with Sprague, along with first-year senior wrestlers Carlos Flores and Isaiah Rhodes, who Ebbs has enjoyed getting to know.
“I love the first-year seniors that come out,” he said. “We usually end up with one or two of those. That’s awesome and it’s nice to have that opportunity to build a relationship with them.”
At 132 pounds, Burrows used a take down in the first round and a reversal in the second to win his final home match at McNary 4-2 over Jordan Short in a battle of two district placers last season.
“I’ve been wrestling here for 10 years. I had to come out here and leave everything,” Burrows said. “I wrestled really hard and I feel like he broke first and I was able to keep pressuring him.”
The win wasn’t enough for the Celtics to knock off one of the best teams in the state as Sprague came away with a 56-12 victory.
“We knew that Sprague was a tough team and winning this duel was a pretty daunting task but I was extremely proud of every kid going out, standing tall and fighting until the end,” Ebbs said. “They usually bring a little bit of the best out of us and a good competitive spirit. Our kids seem to step up and work hard to perform, win or lose, and they do the same to us. One thing I can always count on Sprague for is a good old-fashion rivalry and we love it. It helps keep our sport alive. Kids are excited. Moms and dads are excited and you can’t lose when that’s happening.”
McNary’s other points came from Enrique Vincent, who at 120 pounds, returned from injury after missing much of the season with an injury to edge Luke Merzenich 10-7, and Brayden Ebbs, who at 145 pounds pinned Dalton Lethco-Willis in the second period.
Sprague won four matches by pin fall and two via forfeit.
Both the Olympians and McNary will compete in the district meet at West Salem on Friday, Feb. 17 and Saturday, Feb. 18.