McNary’s Zach Hamerschmith fights off one of the Titans in his match at the dual meet Thursday, Jan. 26. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School mat men found a tougher-than-expected field of competitors at the annual Reser Tournament of Champions last weekend, but one Celt rose above the fray to achieve a first for the Celtic program.

McNary’s Mason Ross took first in his bracket and pinned four opponents in three minutes and 22 seconds and laid claim to the tournament’s Gregorian Award, which honors the wrestler with the most pins in the least amount of time.

“I’ve just been anxious to get back to wrestling,” Ross said. “Everything was going right, no one scored a point on me and all my takedowns were working.”

While Ross competed in the junior varsity tournament, a switch from his usual varsity spot, he was also approved to wrestle just a day prior to the tournament. He had been recuperating from knee surgery.

“Ever since he had the surgery Mason’s been chomping at the bit to get back on the mat,” said Jason Ebbs, McNary head coach. “We were hoping just to get him some good time on the mat and he went out and pulled that off.”

The level of competition was the highest Ebbs has seen in his tenure as a coach in Oregon. The Celts earned a seventh place finish, but were the second-highest 6A finishers at Reser. The tournament ignores OSAA classifications and aims to draw the top talent from throughout the state regardless of school size.

“Even thought the caliber of the tournament rose, we had more placers than we ever had,” Ebbs said.

Eight of the 13 wrestlers who took part in varsity matches still had skin in the game at the start of the second day of wrestling. Celt Devin Reynolds climbed highest taking second place at 132 pounds. Tyler Brown and Anthony Flores grabbed fourth place finishes at 195 and 220 pounds, respectively. Heavyweight Joel Hunter took fifth, and Andy Downer took sixth at 126 pounds while Justin Lowe took sixth at 138 pounds.

Reynolds steamrolled over most of his opponents – his closest win was by 10 points – prior to the finals match, which he lost 5-1.

“It was a good tournament, but I don’t think my head was in it during the last match. I’ve been watching the tape and the only thing I can see was that I needed to be taking more shots and exploding off the bottom more,” Reynolds said.

In addition to Ross’s first place finish in junior varsity brackets, Tyler Jordan took second, Edgar Jimenez took third and Mike Phelps took fifth.

As a team, the Celts’ biggest coup was taking down David Douglas High School, a team they lost to just weeks ago at the Oregon Classic.

Prior to the appearance at the Reser:  the Celts beat the West Salem High School in a dual meet, 57-21.

Highlights for the Celt included a come-from-behind pin by Louis Palos when he took Grant Borsberry to his back in the in the third round as Palos trailed 5-0 in points. Grant Gerstner beat Alex Garboden in a 6-2 decision.

“Both Grant and Alex have experience at high school level post season wrestling and they fought a tough match,” Ebbs said.

Other Celtic winners were: Phelps by pin in 4:56; Reynolds by pin in 2:20; Justin Lowe by fall in 2:37; Jeremy Lowe by pin in 4:25; Cody Ratliff by pin in 2:24; Brown by pin in 1:13; Flores by pin in 1:03; and Hunter by forfeit.

The Titan’s biggest upset came in a 7-2 decision that saw West’s Tristen Snow take out Downer.

As the regular season draws to a close for the Celtics – the regional tournament is slated Feb. 10-11 at Sprague High School – the team will be focusing on the wrestling in the two-day tournament format.

“We want to be able to get to that sixth, seventh and eighth match and still hang on when the score is close or a match goes into overtime,” Ebbs said.

“I think we’re working well as a team and putting in the hard work is going to win us the regional title and put us in the top four in state,” Reynolds added.