By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

McNary went 2-6 in the Greater Valley Conference this season but head coach Jason Ebbs expects a stronger finish at the district meet on Feb. 17-18 at West Salem.

The biggest reason is the Celtics are finally getting healthy.

“We’re trying to slowly but surely put the puzzle pieces back together,” Ebbs said. “I’ve never had a season like this season. We haven’t put our best guns out on a mat one time.”

Led by Brayden Ebbs, who was the GVC champion at 138 pounds last season as a sophomore, McNary expects to fill 24 of 28 spots at the district tournament, only missing 195 and 220 pounds.

Winning a second GVC title won’t be easy for Brayden, who has jumped to 145 this season, where he’s lost two matches, once to Ian Carlos of North Salem and then to Michael Abeyta of McMinnville.

“Both guys were good tough matches,” Brayden said. “I can compete with both of them. I feel pretty strongly going into districts. I always compete well there. I just want to wrestle my best. 145 is probably the toughest bracket in the state of Oregon right now and I’m glad to be a part of it and making it one of the toughest brackets in the state.”

Senior Wyatt Kesler (152) and junior Isaiah Putnam (170) are both looking to return to the state tournament as well after both placed third in the GVC last season.

Kesler missed the final two weeks of the season after injuring his knee in practice.

“Every season there’s all these things you can’t predict and plan for and we’re taking our turn,” coach Ebbs said.

“It’s unfortunate because Wyatt has done a lot of good things for himself over the years and he deserves a good district tournament and a good state tournament. One thing I do know, given everything, he’ll do a good job making the best of it.”

At 132 pounds, senior Sean Burrows hopes to improve on his fourth place finish at districts a year ago and senior Carlos Vincent (160) is looking forward to competed at districts after missing last year’s tournament with an injury.

At 120 pounds, Enrique Vincent also placed at districts last year but the rest of the Celtics lineup is inexperienced.

“Most importantly we’re going to be gaining experience,” coach Ebbs said. “We’re going to be taking a lot of young kids to that tournament and they need to get that experience and they need to come back next year and grow. So when we get those (young) kids in that tournament, everything we do is a win. We’re going to smile, pat them on the back and work hard and fight. And when they come back next year, we’re going to have higher expectations.”

Wrestling starts Friday at noon.

Semifinals and consolation rounds will take place on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m.

Third through six place matches are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. followed by finals at 4:30.

The top four in each weight class advance to the state tournament, which is the following weekend, Feb. 24-25, at Memorial Coliseum in Portland.