Celt Michael Phelps wrangles for an escape in his West Albany match Thursday, Jan. 29. Phelps won 7-5 on a night when much of the team struggled. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Celt Michael Phelps wrangles for an escape in his West Albany match Thursday, Jan. 29. Phelps won 7-5 on a night when much of the team struggled. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School varsity and junior varsity wrestling teams both took a beating in a dual meet with West Albany High School Thursday, Jan. 29.

On a night when the Celts struggled to find any sort of momentum, both teams lost. The varsity squad fell 42-31, the JV team fell 51-30.

“I feel like, as a team, we’re dwindling. Our heart for wrestling was there earlier in the season and we were losing it,” said Taran Purkey, a Celt senior. “On the other hand, we redirected ourselves at practice the next day and focused on wrestling rather than talking to each other.”

The varsity Bulldogs took a hefty lead in the lighter weight classes, but there were some bright spots even in the losses. Junior Joey Kibbey, at 113 pounds, had a lead over West Albany’s Connor Schaffner going into the final round and held onto it despite impressive effort on the part of Schaffner. Schaffner managed to score a near fall in the final seconds that put him up 10-8 at the buzzer.

Freshman Brayden Ebbs won by pin at 1:59; Jonathon Phelps turned in a dominating performance en route to a 12-3 win by major decision; At 138 pounds, Michael Phelps pulled out a 7-5 win; and Kyle Bonn got the team’s only other pin in 33 seconds over West Albany’s James Lunski.

“When I first went in there, I realized that he was really strong, but not very fast. I also worked his head a lot, but couldn’t bring him down. At the same time, I saw that his legs were spread most of the time and realized it would make for a quick snatch-and-grab,” Bonn said.

Head Coach Jason Ebbs said the Celts remain focused even though the loss cost McNary a shot at being co-Greater Valley Conference champs.

“If it was easy, we’d never get tested. We’ve been looking for this to happen and we have to bounce back,” Ebbs said. “Now we look at the district tournament and we’ve got some guys that are going to be trying to raise the bar and show what we can do there.”

Bonn said there is a sense of family that’s still lacking compared to previous years, but that there’s still time to turn it around.

“If we have a team of leaders, for each other, then we can’t help but have success,” he said.

In junior varsity matches, Riley Repp scored a pin in 19 seconds and Adam Nelson took a second-round win by pin. Most of the JV squad’s points came through forfeits by the Bulldogs.