By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School Mat Club was well-represented in the regional tournament Saturday, March 8.
The team posted four state qualifiers and several top finishers.
Brayden Ebbs took first at 100 pounds; Tony Castaneda took second at 90 pounds; Jacob Doerfler took third at 195 pounds; and Sam Partida took fourth at 117. All four boys qualified for the statewide tournament.
Zach Milstead, at 220 pounds, and Isaiah Putnam, at 160 pounds, placed in the top six. Ian Kramer, at 150 pounds, and Marcus Hess, at 80 pounds, finished in the top eight.
The state qualifiers competed last weekend and Brayden placed second in the 110-pound division; Jacob placed third at 195 pounds; and Tony placed third at 90 pounds.
Whiteaker Middle School placed fifth as a team.
The placings at the state level are the best finish on record for the Celtic Mat Club, said Jason Ebbs, McNary head wrestling coach.
“Despite no organized wrestling program or competitions within the middle schools, we are still producing competitive athletes capable of performing at the state level. All three state placers have been in various mat clubs over the years and training to compete at the higher state and national levels,” Ebbs said.
In recent years, due to budget cuts, wrestling programs at the middle and high school levels have operated on a strictly volunteer basis, and the effect is beginning to show.
“Keizer, at one time, had 40 to 50 wrestlers actively competing at the middle school level at both middle schools. That meant 80 to 100 middle school kids staying after school, learning the sport and training for competition. Unfortunately, we now have very few kids involved anymore,” Ebbs said.
While it means somewhat less prestige for McNary wrestling overall, Ebbs added that the real effects will be felt much more broadly.
“It is nice to still be able to hear about positive stories focused on our kids, and student athletes, but if we don’t get back to supporting these positive outlets – whether it is wrestling, football, volleyball, basketball, etc. – we will see a change in the culture of our schools and community,” he said.