By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
When Wes Heredia was a freshman wrestler at McNary High School, Jason Ebbs made him a promise.
“He was all buggered up with his knee and I promised him that if he went to wrestle the novice tournament he could be done,” Ebbs, head coach of the McNary wrestling program, said. Three days before the district tournament another wrestler broke his wrist and Ebbs tried to renege on the deal. He wanted Heredia to not only take part in the district tournament, but wrestle up a weight class.
“His first answer was ‘no.’ I used every trick I could to convince him, but I’d already made that promise. In the process of Wes saying no, a teammate, Josh Buckles, walked by and told him it was a great opportunity. Before my eyes he flipped,” Ebbs said.
When he looks back over Heredia’s career as a high school wrestler, which ended last week with him earning the state title in the 215-pound weight class, Ebbs sees that moment as pivotal.
“That was a really big building block for him,” Ebbs said. “He took a bigger leap than he was prepared to take at that time, and when he came out as a sophomore he decided he was going to work really hard to get what he wants.”
The lesson for Heredia ever since has been one of working through the pain, much like he did in his freshman year.
“It was a matter of doing what I needed to do for each match and each tournament,” he said. He lost only two matches during duals and tournaments in the 2010-11 season, both to John Hatch of Newberg early in the season, and Heredia beat Hatch twice before heading into the state tournament.
Heredia defeated Mick Dougharity in the finals of the state tournament in an 11-4 decision to capture the title.
“Going into the match, I was kind of nervous. Walking to the mat, all I could think was this is state finals. I was excited to be there and I wrestled smart,” Heredia said.
From the sidelines, Ebbs said spectators would never have known Heredia’s inner turmoil.
“No one touched him in that state tournament,” Ebbs said. “He walked right through every person, and didn’t get put in danger once in the finals match. Everything his opponent did, every strength we knew he had, Wes countered 100 percent effectively.”
As a team McNary finished tied for fifth place in the state with Oregon City High School.
“We had some goals and dreams of bigger and better, but it’s a privilege to come back say we took fifth and we could have done better,” Ebbs said.
McNary sent only one other wrestler to the mat in a finals match, defending state champ Levi Martinez. Martinez was dethroned by Robert Barton of Sprague in the 119-pound weight class after a thrilling finals match.
“I knew [the semifinal match] was going to be my hardest match I worked and trained for and I had a blowout, but when I got to the finals I was on the mat and thinking about everything but wrestling,” Martinez said.
Outside influences were weighing heavily on Martinez throughout the season, Ebbs said, but Martinez is one of the wrestlers he would be proud to stand by anytime, anywhere.
“For him to perform the way he did is special. Many people around him that are still proud of him,” Ebbs said.
McNary sophomore Devin Reynolds took fourth in the 125-pound weight class capping a stellar season. Reynolds took a beating in a match with Cody Sabin, but emerged victorious in overtime.
“With three seconds left, I was beating him by a point and I let him go out of a front headlock and he tied it up,” Reynolds said.
Despite the pain, Reynolds kept his semifinal match with Nathan Piader a close 6-4 before the final buzzer.
Given his status as a relative newcomer, Ebbs sees bright skies ahead for Reynolds.
“We had a couple of times when he had to change his technique in the middle of a match and that’s a very high-level skill. For a high schooler to be doing that, that’s great, for a sophomore to be doing it, it’s phenomenal,” Ebbs said.
The Celts’ final placer was senior Stevin Urban, who grabbed sixth place in the hotly-contested 160-pound weight class. Urban was losing his quarterfinal match against Toney Chay before turning it around and pinning him.
“Stevin is a dangerous cat,” Ebbs said. “He found a way to stay in and next thing you know he whipped that poor kid over in a head-and-arm. By the time he was done that kid was begging to be pinned.”