By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
McNary senior Brayden Ebbs and West Linn junior Sean Harman, two of the top 160-pounders in the state, have known each other for a long time, training on the same club team, All-Phase Wrestling, since they were little.
But they’ve never met in high school competition.
Ebbs hopes to change that at the OSAA State Championships Feb. 16-17 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.
“We’ve been best friends for a very long time,” Ebbs said of Harman. “We’ve gone on out of state trips together, multiple camps and we’ve been very close for a long time. We have trained a lot together. He’s actually helped me become a tougher wrestler.”
Harman, undefeated at 40-0, enters the state tournament as the No. 1 seed. He won the 152-pound state title last season and is part of a wrestling family that includes a grandfather, father and two brothers who have all wrestled for Navy.
“When we were younger I actually used to beat him a lot but he got a lot better as he grew older and he became a great wrestler,” Ebbs said. “As long as I make it to the finals, I know it’s going to be a good match between me and him and there’s going to be a lot of respect from both sides and I think it will just be a fun match to be a part of, too.”
To get to the finals, Ebbs, the No. 3 seed, will have to first get past No. 2 Josh Grant of Century.
Grant, a senior, lost to Harmon 5-2 in the semifinals last season, and took third in the state.
“He’s a tough wrestler but me and my dad (McNary head wrestling coach Jason Ebbs) have prepared and we know what we’re going to do and what we need to avoid,” Ebbs said. “I think I have a pretty good shot of beating him.”
McNary junior Enrique Vincent was just happy to qualify for the state tournament a year ago.
That won’t be the case this time around.
Vincent is the No. 3 seed at 126 pounds after winning back-to-back district titles.
Leading his bracket is No. 1 Gavin Jolley, a two-time state champion out of Sherwood and Phillip Kue, the reigning 113-pound state champion from Centennial.
Vincent lost to Kue at the Oregon Classic last month.
“My coaches and my parents, everyone said I wasn’t wrestling like I normally do and at first I went into the match intimidated,” Vincent said. “I wasn’t wrestling like I normally was, aggressive wise or technique wise. I was just stalling out and trying to get any point I could and that didn’t work out that well. My game plan is to go in and do what I normally do.”
Vincent wants to improve on last year’s performance when he placed third in the state at 120 pounds.
“This year I’m not scared at all and I’m just looking towards that finals match,” Vincent said. “Last year was my first time there so I thought I’d be lucky to place but this time I better place and I better place higher than third.”
McNary sophomore Nicolette Parra also has her eye on the finals of the girls state tournament.
Parra finished second in her 135-pound weight class out of 47 girls on Jan. 26-27 to qualify for the exhibition tournament. The OSAA Executive Board voted Monday, Feb. 12 to create a separate state championship division for girls beginning in 2018-19.
Parra will open the tournament against Grants Pass senior Kaitlyn Dara. Mostly likely awaiting her in the finals would be Central Linn junior Sarah Conner, who defeated Parra in the qualifying tournament and won the 132-pound state championship last season.
Parra has spent her break from competition getting in better shape.
“I’ve really been taking care of my body because my health wasn’t that great at qualifying,” Parra said. “I’m not really worried about. It’s like any other tournament.”
McNary senior Blake Norton is seeded fourth at 220 pounds after winning the district championship at McKay on Feb. 3.
Norton has something in common with No. 1 Brett Nicholson of Aloha and No. 3 Julian Stone of North Medford. All three wrestled in the state tournament as heavyweights last year and were eliminated early. Daniel Serik, the No. 2 seed out of David Douglas, hasn’t wrestled in the state tournament before.
McNary junior Nick Hernandez and freshman Grady Burrows will make their debuts in the state tournament after finishing third at 138 pounds and fourth at 106 pounds in the district.
Headlining the 138 bracket are David Douglas senior Kyle Beal, who was the state runner-up last season, and West Albany senior Sawyer Myres, who placed sixth last year.
David Douglas senior Max Hodge and Sprague senior Bollong Joklur are the top two seeds at 106.
The state tournament begins Friday at 8:30 a.m. Finals are scheduled for Saturday at 6:30 p.m.