By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
SPRAGUE — Thirty seconds into his finals match at the district wrestling tournament, Alvarro Venegas, a McNary High School senior, dislocated his shoulder.
“The best we can figure it, he had an underhook on me and when I tried to pry down it just popped out,” said Venegas.
The match was stopped immediately and a trainer was able to pop his shoulder back into place. Venegas passed some quick strength tests and was talking with head coach Jason Ebbs about whether to continue.
“He told me it was my choice, that wrestling isn’t everything, but this is something I’ve wanted since freshman year,” Venegas said. “It was scary, but I wanted it so badly.”
Venegas rode out the next 5:30 of the match to take the district championship in a 5-2 decision.
“It feels amazing, I was in the same match last year and lost. After it was over, I cried and hugged all my coaches,” he said.
On Monday afternoon, Venegas – the top ranked wrestler at 195 pounds in the state with only one loss this season – was back on the mat preparing for the state tournament slated for Feb. 27-28 in Portland. He’s also running before and after school.
Venegas is one of seven wrestlers representing the school at the state tournament after placing third or better in the district tournament.
In addition to the top placers – more on them in a moment – Gage Mance took fourth place after losing to teammate Taran Purkey in the third place match-up. William Smith also took fourth. Riley Repp landed in fifth place, and Carlos Vincent, Ryan Edsall and Isaiah Putnam placed sixth.
Putnam pulled off one of the most monumental feats in the Celtic ranks. After Purkey dropped to 170 pounds for the tournament, there was an opening at 182. Putnam was wrestling up 16 pounds and still managed to place.
Overall, McNary placed third as a team.
Joey Kibbey (106 pounds, second place)
Junior Joey Kibbey dropped weight to wrestle at 106 pounds in the tournament, and had a spot in the semifinals by mid-afternoon the first day.
He ended up losing in the finals to McMinnville High School’s Alvaro Flores.
“I wrestled him freshman year and he beat me pretty badly, but this was only one point that gave him the title. I was really happy with the match despite that,” Kibbey said.
He hopes to get his hands on Flores again in the state tournament.
Brayden Ebbs (120 pounds, second place)
Freshman Brayden Ebbs was the No. 1 seed headed into the tournament and won his first two matches with a pin in 15 seconds and a major decision.
He drew Forest Grove’s Christian Guerra in the finals.
“It was 2-2 all the way through the third round,” Ebbs said. “Then it went into overtime. I shot in, got a leg and was close to taking him down. I flipped my hips, turned around and missed a half-nelson. He flipped his hips and got around on top of me.”
That single move gave Guerra the district title.
Jonathon Phelps (126 pounds, second place)
Jonathan Phelps was disappointed he didn’t take first in the tourney, but his final opponent was Matthew Johnson of Forest Grove, a longtime rival.
“It was a best two out of three this season, I beat him the first time and the second time he won 11-3,” Phelps said. “This time, he just kept getting his takedowns.”
Johnson won it in a 7-2 decision.
Michael Phelps (132 pounds, second place)
Senior Michael Phelps turned in his best-ever performance at the district tournament, but ended up forfeiting the finals match due to a lingering knee injury.
“After the first day, it was hurting pretty bad and I decided I wanted to save it for the state tournament,” Phelps said.
He said his semifinal match-up gave him the biggest scare of the tournament.
“It was 0-0 the whole time and he locked up a cradle on me, but I got out of it and scored on the reversal,” he said.
Wyatt Kessler (145 pounds, third place)
Sophomore Wyatt Kessler had the toughest route of McNary’s top placers. Two wins took him to the semifinals, but a loss there meant he had to wrestle twice more to get back in the mix, Both opponents were from Sprague. He won both.
“It meant that much more because it was beating them at their own house,” Kessler said. “It also meant a lot because I had to sit out last season after knee surgery.”
His first match of the tournament, Kessler beat the No. 3 seed in a major decision. He entered the tournament seeded sixth.
Taran Purkey (170 pounds, third place)
While excited to be going to the state tournament for the second time, senior Taran Purkey was disappointed that his road to placing at state will be one of the tougher ones.
“The first match at districts was actually the toughest one. He was a good wrestler, I was just better,” Purkey said.
Purkey dropped 12 pounds to wrestle at 170 in the tournament and said it’s both an exciting and nerve-wracking situation.
“The nice thing is none of them will know what I bring to the match, but I won’t know much about them either,” Purkey said.