By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
For McNary High School seniors Kyle Bonn and Blake Gerstner there’s more on the line this wrestling season than simple wins and losses.
Gerstner said, “We’ve all been working hard together since freshman year and …”
“It’s time to see those results,” finished Bonn.
McNary’s wrestlers return to the mat Friday, Dec. 4, hosting a tournament with Cleveland, Dallas and Roseburg high schools. All three schools are perennially some of the best in the state.
“We have a bunch of seniors this time around who have good work ethic, good attitudes and should give us a lot of good leadership. I’m excited to see how that comes together,” said Jason Ebbs, McNary head coach.
Ebbs said this year’s batch of wrestlers features more first-year competitors than any season in recent memory.
“We have some work to do, but, as usual, the team we have in February is going to be a different one than we’re putting on the mat this week,” Ebbs said. “We’ve got some good fundamental athleticism and they’ve got a good team attitude. Our intensity of practice is higher earlier this season than it was last year and no one is buckling under that.”
The Celtics’ top returner is Brayden Ebbs, son of the head coach. The younger Ebbs ousted the defending state champ and nearly beat last year’s No. 1 seed at the state tournament before finishing sixth as a freshman. He’s nursing a broken finger at the moment but is expected to return to form.
Returning senior Jon Phelps was expected to be a top contender in the state tournament last year, but was pulled from competition in the first day due to a concussion. Senior Joey Kibbey finished his junior year one match shy of placing in the state tournament.
“Bonn, Sean Burrows and Carlos Vincent should all be big contributors for us this year,” Ebbs said. “We’ve also got a fistful of freshmen who could make some waves for us.”
Ebbs had his eye on Luke Hernandez, Brooke Burrows and Ricky Vincent in particular.
“We aren’t the most skilled group yet, but we have a lot of guys who are willing to try really hard. They’re hard workers and they’ll go at it until they’re completely out of energy,” Bonn said.
Gerstner wanted to see the Celtics coalesce more this year than thay managed last season.
“I’d like to see us come together as more of a family. This year our team is big euongh that we’ll connect better,” he said.
As far as personal goals, Bonn said it was all about fundamentals.
“I’m going to be focusing down and getting the fundamentals absolutely perfect, getting to the nitty gritty details of the sport and in all of my moves,” he said.
For Gerstner, his priority is going with the flow of each match.
“I want to work on my skillset, but also more on instinct and not thinking so much while I wrestle,” Gerstner said.
The team drew about 50 students into its ranks this season, but Ebbs expected that to grow with the recent re-funding of middle school wrestling programs.
“It’s going to be good to watch the momentum for the sport pick up again,” Ebbs said. “I want to get to the point where we have 70 to 90 kids in the gym like we did a few years back.”