Celt Carlos Vincent grimaces as he attempts to free his wrist from his opponent. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Celt Carlos Vincent grimaces as he attempts to free his wrist from his opponent. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Four McNary High School wrestlers were key to picking up the team’s first win, 44-28, over McMinnville High School since the Grizzlies joined the Greater Valley Conference.

“It was a four-man puzzle, and we had some kids step up who had never been bumped up a weight class before. You do that and it’s like a flip of a coin. It was a string of kids that came out of their shell and did some good things,” said Jason Ebbs, McNary head coach.

McNary hosted the meet Thursday, Dec. 17.

It came down to needing a 195-pound wrestler to win the duel, Ebbs added. To make that happen, Celt Jesse Gomez wrestled at 160 pounds and lost by pin. Up next Carlos Vincent, usually a 160-pound entry, wrestled at 170 and won in a 16-8 major decision. Blake Gerstner wrestled at 182 pounds and won a barn burner with a 15-9 final score. McNary’s Isaiah Putnam, who was giving up about 20 pounds by the time he took the mat at 195 pounds, won in an 8-2 decision.

“It was a good milestone. McMinnville is one of the teams that floats near the top and we knew they had four studs coming out this year. We ended up losing those matches, but we competed well even in those matches,” Ebbs said.

The evening started with the 106 pounders and Celt Brooke Burrows taking on August Hirsch. Burrows dominated throughout, but struggled to turn Hirsch for a pin as the match wore on.

“I realized it wasn’t working, so I decided to try for a tech fall,” said Burrows, who has been part of McNary’s Mat Club for about eight years. Burrows got close to her goal of the tech fall, but simply ran out of time. She won in a 19-8 decision. “It helps that I only have brothers,” she said. “It’s made me really competitive.”

At 120 pound Joey Kibbey won by pin in 1:30; Jon Phelps won by pin in 1:12; and Wyatt Kesler won in a 16-0 tech fall.

Keifer Smith finished out the night for McNary with a win by pin in 1:34.

“I had never wrestled him before, but I like those matches better. I felt confident, like I was going to win from the start,” Smith said.

Smith said a win over Silverton High School the prior week set the table for the McNary-McMinnville match.

“When we wrestled Silverton, we weren’t expected to win, but we won and that flipped the switch for us. We realized we are good enough to compete with some of the top teams,” Smith said.

Burrows said a focus on being a team also helped.

“We did a really good job of communicating and cheering each other on, and we were just there for each other,” Burrows said.

At the Oregon National Guard tournament Saturday, Dec. 19, Phelps made it all the way to the final match and finished second as the result of a major decision; Brayden Ebbs finished third by pinning his final opponent in the third round.

In addition to Phelps, a number of Celtics managed good showings. Kibbey made it all the way to the third round at 120 pounds;  Sean Burrows and Gerstner won five matches in consolation rounds to finish 17th; and Kesler, Putnam and Smith also made it to the third round.

With winter break looming, the Celts are now challenged to keep their spirits up and bodies in shape.

“We’ll be having some workouts and some morning runs, but honestly we just need to stay in the mindset of being as good as we are,” Smith said.