By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Leading up to the regional tournament, set to begin at 3:30 p.m. at Sprague High School Friday, Feb. 10, one might have expected the McNary High School wrestlers to have been deep into drills and practice on Monday.
They weren’t. They were playing dodgeball for 10 minutes to start practice.
“I think we’ve got what it takes to win the regional title. As dodgeball goes, there’s hand-eye coordination and being quick on our feet. It turns play into work and makes it even more fun,” said Celt Cody Ratliff.
If the Celtics’ just-ended regular season has been any indication of future success, Ratliff has reason to be confident. McNary went undefeated in dual meets for the first time in memory for many coaches. A heads-up win over Sprague High School finally pushed the Celts over the barrier a few weeks ago. The Olys had been a perpetual thorn in McNary’s side for the more than a decade.
A win at the regional tournament would mean a threepeat for the Celtics. The team won the last district title in 2010 and the first regional title in 2011.
“We started off really well and we finished really well. It would be awesome to get a threepeat,” said McNary’s Rob Phelps. “We need to continue working on setting up our shots better. That really helped us last week against Newberg, McKay and Tigard.”
McNary put the finishing touches on an unblemished record with wins over all three teams last week.
In a three-way dual with McKay and Newberg, The Celts took 52-20 and 61-14 wins, respectively.
Newberg dominated in the lower weight classes, but the team’s decision to take a forfeit to Celt Devin Reynolds changed the tide of the match as eight McNary mat men took down their Tiger foes: Justin Lowe won in a 4-2 decision; Jeremy Lowe won 19-6 major decision; Phelps won in a 4-3 decision; Zach Hammerschmith won by pin in 1:54; Grant Gerstner won by pin in 3:09; Ratliff won by pin in 3:33; Tyler Brown won by pin in 4:00; Anthony Flores won by pin in 1:05; and Joel Hunter won by forfeit.
Phelps had one of the more thrilling matches with Newberg. He scored a reversal in the third round that gave him a win.
“When I walked out on the mat I knew I had to beat the Newberg kid. I had a lot of motivation going into that match.,” Phelps said.
The situation with McKay was almost identical with McNary dominating the upper weight classes, but Louis Palos scored a 10-5 win by decision at 113-pounds that padded the Celtic score. He was motivated by a last-second loss to his Newberg opponent, said Jason Ebbs, McNary head coach.
Other Celtic winners were: Reynolds by pin in 3:23, Ju. Lowe by pin in 5:23; Je. Lowe by forfeit; Phelps by pin in 5:22; Hammerschmith by forfeit; Gerstner by forfeit; Ratliff by 11-2 major decision; Brown by an injury forfeit; Mason Ross by pin in 3:47; and Joel Hunter by pin in 34 seconds.
The Celts’ 51-24 win over Tigard High School wrapped up their perfect dual meet season. Tigard challenged McNary throughout the line-up with several victories, but lots of pins and a technical fall carried the Celts over the Tigers.
Mike Phelps won by pin in 3:46; Palos took a 15-0 win by technical fall; Andy Downer won by pin in 1:59; Reynolds won by pin in 1:04; Ju. Lowe won in a 16-5 decision; Je. Lowe won in a 7-1 decision; Gerstner won by pin in 5:24; Brown won by pin in 1:46; and Flores won by pin in 55 seconds.
Looking ahead to the regional tournament, Justin Lowe wanted the Celts to have the same confidence they were feeling on Monday at practice.
“We can’t be nervous. We have to be confident. I was nervous last year because it’s a big deal because the crowd is huge, but you have to be confident,” he said.