By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
McNary High School’s Brayden Ebbs was crowned the 138-pound Greater Valley Conference wrestling champion at the regional tournament Feb. 12 and 13.
Ebbs, a sophomore, is one of four Celtic wrestlers who will represent the school at the state tournament next week.
It was the second consecutive year that Ebbs reached the regional finals match. He was determined to come out on top this time around.
“The first thing that came to mind was I didn’t want it to end up like last year, going all the way to the finals and losing because I wasn’t thinking straight and making a mistake,” Ebbs said.
The district title came down to a match between Ebbs and a longtime friend, Landon Davis of Sprague High School.
“Landon and I have been friends since we were little and we know a lot about each other when it comes to the ways we wrestle. I knew it would be a tough match,” Ebbs said.
Ebbs won in a 12-2 major decision.
Ebbs placed sixth at the state tournament as a freshman and thinks he’s got a better-than-average shot at improving on that finish.
As a team, McNary placed third overall. Celts Jon Phelps, Wyatt Kesler and Isaiah Putnam will join Ebbs at the state tournament after finishing third in their respective weight classes.
Phelps, a 132-pound senior, made it to the semifinals before losing a 5-1 decision to Sprague’s Michael Murphy.
“That’s one I wish I could have won, but it means I have to work harder and train harder in the time between now and state,” said Phelps.
He was grateful for a good draw in the brackets, saying it was the first time in his four years that it swung in his favor. He won his third place match by pin in the second round.
“I was feeling a bit under the weather the first day, but thankfully it cleared up and I got a boost of energy the second day,” Phelps said.
Phelps is hoping for a top three finish at state, but was ready to appreciate whatever he could get from it.
“I’d be ecstatic just to place in the state tournament,” he said.
Kesler’s third place match was his longest of the tournament, and he won by pin in 1:29.
“He was an unseeded kid coming into it and did really well in the tournament,” Kesler said. “The biggest thing was keeping focus and staying confident throughout the tournament, and wrestling the way I needed to wrestle.”
His goal is keeping that focus, and not getting nervous in a match, as he heads to the state tourney.
“I hope to win it, but there are a couple of hammers in my weight class and I’ll need to overcome them,” he said.
Putnam, a sophomore, finished third at 170 pounds after narrowly missing a shot at going to state as a freshman. He was seeded third going into the regional tournament this year.
“I was pretty upset about losing in the semis to the No. 2 seed this time, but I knew I just had to wrestle back and meet my seeding,” Putnam said.
He lost by pin in the third round of his semifinal match, but rebounded to win his next match by fall and his third place match in a 9-1 decision.
“At the beginning of the season, my goal was to qualify for state. Now, I feel like I’ve got two weeks to set a new goal whether it’s winning as many matches as I can or trying to place,” Putnam said. “Everyone on the team really matters, but there are some wrestlers who are valuable to the coaches and the program. I think it helps me become more valuable to the program. If I’ve been able to do this well as a sophomore, I get excited thinking about what I’ll be able to do for the program and younger wrestlers as a senior.”
Other notable finishes for McNary were: Joey Kibbey and Ricky Hernandez, fourth and fifth, respectively, at 113 pounds; Kyle Bonn, fourth at 220 pounds, Keifer Smith, fourth at 285 pounds, and Nick Hernandez, sixth at 120 pounds.