By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The day before the McNary High School wrestling team’s first tournament of the season, Devin Reynolds was in the doctor’s office pleading his case for why he should be able to wrestle.
His left shoulder had been nagging him for a couple of weeks and recent horseplay during practice had caused it to flame up again, but he wanted to wrestle in that tournament more than most because he knew Reed Van Anrooy of Roseburg High School would be there, too.
“When Devin was a sophomore he looked up to Reed as the guy he wanted to be,” said Jason Ebbs, McNary head coach. “He was tech falled by Van Anrooy as a freshman. As a sophomore he wrestled him all summer and I remember him coming up to me and telling me he’d taken him down once.”
Van Anrooy is no small threat on the mat. He’s a returning two-time state champ and ranked 15th among high schoolers nationwide in the 152-pound division and Reynolds knew he’d have another shot at him during McNary’s annual tournament last weekend.
After doing stress tests at the doctor’s office, Reynolds won out and was cleared.
When it was his turn to step on the mat with Van Anrooy, he made the most of it. Reynolds scored on a takedown and then he got another near the edge of the mat that wasn’t called. A reshot put him within striking distance of a win, but Van Anrooy still held a 4-3 lead with 10 seconds remaining.
Reynolds scored on a reversal and rode the maneuver to a 5-4 win, his first over the high caliber opponent.
“I mean no disrespect to him, but I felt like I controlled that match,” Reynolds said. He was very nearly at a loss for words when it came to describing how it felt. “It’s such a big deal for me, it’s like all the hard work is paying off. Something like this has a huge impact on how I believe in myself.”
It’s also likely to pay off in terms of ranking. Reynolds is still waiting to see what happens, but it’s likely the win will help him crack into the Top-20 152-pound wrestlers in the nation.
“The great thing about a kid like Devin is that even that win isn’t going to stop him from going out and doing what he needs to do to get even better,” Ebbs said.
While it was Reynolds night to shine, the rest of the McNary wrestlers got a taste of just how tough the climb to a fourth regional title is likely to be.
“Our youth showed through,” Ebbs said. “We had some matches where we were kind of competing and then lost by pin. You can’t win if you don’t survive. Now we have to learn how to compete.”
McNary’s weakest showing was against Roseburg, the defending state champions. Celt Mason Ross got the only other win for the Celtics on the mat. He won by pin in 2:48. Adam Nelson won by forfeit in the overall 62-15 loss.
Ebbs hadn’t set his sights on winning that dual meet, but knows the team got something else out of it.
“They understand what tough means, what it looks like, what it feels like, so now they know what needs to be done when we get to practice,” he said.
McNary won a dual meet, 42-36, with Cleveland High School during the tournament. Grant Gerstner won by fall in 1:10, Louis Palos won by pin in 26 seconds, Mike Phelps won in a 6-2 decision, Hector Maldonado won in a 4-2 decision and Reynolds won by pin in 1:04. Between wins, losses and forfeits, the score was tied headed into the final match between Celt Taran Purkey and Warrior Kyle Hammond. Purkey won by pin in 1:21 to give McNary the dual meet win.
After taking a loss in the Roseburg match-up, Palos said it felt good to be getting off his shots in the Cleveland match.
“He was probably a little less skilled than the Roseburg guy, but it felt good to get the win,” Palos said.
McNary also wrestled against a pick-up team of wrestlers left over from the other schools’ varsity roster dubbed the Renegades. A slew of forfeits left the Celts on top with a 76-6 win. Palos won in a 7-0 decision, Phelps won by fall, Maldonado won in a 8-3 decision, Reynolds won by pin in 50 seconds, Evan Kuenzi won in a 10-4 decision, Purkey won by pin in 2:45, Zach Hammerschmith beat teammate Rob Phelps in a 6-1 decision and Gerstner won by pin in 2:57.
Overall, Palos saw room for improvement both on and off the mat for the Celtics.
“We need to work on our set-ups and headsnaps. Some of our stances were too upright and we need to get more comfortable,” Palos said. “Team support was good at the beginning of the duals, but then we got frustrated with some of the matches and we started wandering off. We need to stay and support our guys until the last match.”
Roseburg won the tournament and Dallas placed second. McNary and McMinnville High School were supposed to wrestle for third and fourth place, but teams decided to let the question stand until a regular season match-up slated for Thursday Dec. 6, past press time.