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By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School wrestlers traveled to Corvallis for the annual Reser Tournament of Champions last weekend. They expected tough competition, but maybe not quite as tough as they encountered.

“It’s the toughest tournament we wrestle all season long. Any match you want to win is going to be close,” said Jason Ebbs, McNary head coach.

Overall, McNary had one wrestler win his weight class in junior varsity brackets, one take third in varsity and one take sixth in varsity.

Jonathon Phelps took first in the 132 junior varsity bracket, but his toughest match wasn’t the final.

Jonathon faced Sandy High School’s Jonathan Morrell in the semifinals, a wrestler he’d lost to earlier this season. This time, he was determined to reach a different outcome.

“I was more of the aggressor and took him down. When I got on top, I rode him and just kept putting bars and half-nelsons on him to show him who was in control of the match,” Jonathon said.

He was so tired at the end of the third round, 9-4 victory that he took a nap before heading back to the first place match against Eagle Point’s Conor Goines. Jonathon won 4-1.

“He was tough and I could have done better, but I was wiped out,” he said.

Senior Alvarro Venegas, who wrestles at 195 pounds, took his first loss of the season at Reser against Crook County High School’s Gunnar Robirts.

“I went out there and I was scared and he was really good and really big. I brushed off the first shot he took on me easily, but I could feel his strength and it kind of got into my head,” Venegas said. “He shot again and took me down, got a leg ride and turned me in the first minute.”

Robirts went on to win the division by beating the the third-ranked wrestler in the nation at 195 pounds.

After a win in consolation brackets, Venegas won third place in a 5-2 decision over Roseburg’s Will Reddekopp. It was the second time Venegas faced Reddekopp in two weeks.

Senior Michael Phelps took sixth at the tournament after getting ousted from championship competition. Michael gutted his way back to the fifth place match with four wins in the consolation brackets. His largest margin of victory was two points.

“Over winter break, I lost two matches by one point and ever since then I told myself I wasn’t losing by one point again,” Michael said.

Michael lost to Century High School’s Brennan Baccay in the technical fall in the fifth place match.

Venegas said he’d hoped for better turnout from the team on the second day of the event, something which had been strong in past years but faltered this time around.

“Two years ago, we were at Reser and we had people who fell out the first day show up the second day. I got beat up the first day and I still came the next day because we were a family,” Venegas said. “Without pushing each other, we can’t be the team we want to be or anything like state champions.”

If the Celts win their next two dual meets and pull out a victory over Sprague High School February 12, the mat men will be co-Greater Valley Conference champs with McMinnville and Sprague. Ebbs said that training in the coming weeks will look a bit different than it has to this point in the season.

“It’s not just wrestling anymore, it’s strategy and game plans. If we get them to be good, each match is brains instead of brawn,” Ebbs said.