McNary’s Mike Mata locks down his Cleveland High School opponent. The Celts won their dual with Cleveland, but fell to Roseburg, Dallas and Cascade high schools. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

High hopes and a throng of returning wrestlers wasn’t enough to keep backs off the mat in the McNary High School Invitational Tournament last Friday, Dec. 2.

The Celts finished fourth with 222.5 points, behind Roseburg High School with 286 points, Dallas High School with 252 points and Cascade High School with 240.5 points in the six-team tournament.

Perhaps the most surprising thing for Jason Ebbs, Celtic head coach, was the level of competition the tournament drew this season.

“We had some pretty tough guys in the mix this year, but we competed well considering the level of competition,” Ebbs said.

Notable entries for McNary included junior Devin Reynolds, who made quick work of his four opponents, and Mason Ross who exited the with a 2-0 record.

“The opponents were good, I was happy with how I wrestled and had lots of confidence,“ Ross said. “I’ve wrestled the guy from Roseburg a few times and we’ve had tough matches, but I pinned him this time.

Justin Lowe wrestled four matches and won three of them.

“I was wrestling on my feet and better on the bottom, which is usually my weakness,” Justin said.

Ebbs credited Justin’s brother, Jeremy, with excellent effort despite a pair of losses.

“We gave him the right matches, but he’s going to grow and develop in those matches more than he would if he just went out and beat a guy,” Ebbs said. “He had two of the toughest guys in the gym that night.”

Ebbs was encouraged with the effort of the junior varsity ranks, which squeaked out a 39-36 victory over the Roseburg team on its way to an undefeated tournament record. It bodes well not only for the immediate future, but the team’s ability to reload once several seniors graduate after this season.

At the varsity level, he said the tournament served as a measuring stick to see where the team is at what is yet to be accomplished. Specifically, he wants to see the team overcome its 45-16 loss to Roseburg.

“We had a couple of forfeits that hurt us, but we also had some close matches. Edgar Jimenez was wrestling out of his shell by about 15 pounds in his match and kept it to 5-4 in a loss. Anthony Flores and Zack Hammerschmith had close 3-1 losses. If we turn those around and fill in the gaps, we’ve got more of a dual on our hands,” Ebbs said.

In dual match-ups, McNary beat Cleveland 35-27 and lost to Roseburg 45-16, Dallas 35-24 and Cascade 41-33.