By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
PORTLAND—McNary senior Brayden Ebbs has heard from all of his coaches that the most honorable thing a wrestler can do at a tournament is place third.
At the state tournament, Ebbs took that to heart, defeating Oliver Myers of Newberg by a 13-0 major decision on Saturday, Feb. 17 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in the 160-pound third place match.
“After my semis match, I told myself I’m not taking anything less than third,” Ebbs said. “I think it was supposed to be a close match but something flipped in my mind and I wrestled what I think is my best match and I just put the points on the board that I needed to. ‘Score first, score fast and keep on scoring’ is what my club coach always told me.”
McNary head coach Jason Ebbs said Brayden was as focused as he’s ever seen him.
“I think Brayden did what you hope all your best wrestlers will do,” coach Ebbs said. “He came out in the third place match and he was at the peak of his intensity and ready to roll. This is the first time that I’ve ever seen Brayden wrestle such a focused style, in those last three matches, the semifinals, the consolation semifinals that goes into overtime, i’ve never seen him stay so focused on his technique and his strategy and what he needs to do instead of worrying about scoring and worrying about being ahead or behind. He matured really well this year and did some of his best wresting here. I’m proud of him.”
Ebbs earned an 11-2 major decision and two pins on Friday to reach the semifinals, where he lost to No. 2 seed Josh Grant of Century 6-3.
Grant scored the first two points on a takedown off a scramble. Ebbs then tied it on an illegal hold and an escape but couldn’t complete the comeback.
“Almost caught him twice in a head and arm (move) that could’ve been pretty lethal,” coach Ebbs said. “Turns out that guy (Grant) had some magic hips and didn’t quite break far enough and couldn’t quite seal it up. It was definitely a good close match and could have gone either way.”
In the consolation semifinals, Ebbs defeated Mitchell Sorte of West Albany for the third time this season. Like the district finals, the match went to overtime after Ebbs tied it on reversal with about 10 seconds remaining in the third period. Ebbs then won on a takedown in the extra period.
While the state tournament ends his career at McNary, Ebbs plans to continue wrestling in college. He may play football as well as Southern Oregon and Grand View University have offered him in both sports.
“If I don’t end up doing both, I’ll just wrestle,” Ebbs said. “I think that would be fun (to play both) but there’s no way I could stop wrestling. I love it.”
McNary junior Enrique Vincent found it hard to crack a smile as he stood on the podium after placing fourth in the state at 126 pounds. Vincent finished third the year before at 120 pounds.
But Vincent was also aware of what he was up against. After losing to No. 2 seed Phillip Kue of Centennial 7-1 in the semifinals, Vincent wrestled No. 1 Gaven Jolley of Sherwood, a two-time state champion, for third place after Jolley was disqualified in the semifinals. Jolley defeated Vincent 7-4.
“I had all this hype,” Vincent said. “Everyone had all this hype for me going up and I do worse than I did last year. If you look at the bigger picture it’s because I wrestled the No. 1 and 2 seed this time.”
Vincent, the No. 3 seed, fell behind Kue early on two takedowns and two near falls.
“All the nerves I was trying to make into excitement in my body,” Vincent said. “I wasn’t as powerful and he took me down right off the bat and I was a little shocked there. I was stunned and then I couldn’t get off bottom.”
Vincent wrestled his best in the third period.
“I think Enrique got caught in the headlights a little bit early and got taken down quick and that’s when Kue does his best work when he’s on top,” coach Ebbs said. “He’s big and long and strong and good. By the time we got to the third round, Enrique was starting to put some work together on his feet and put him in danger, almost scored several times. If Enrique starts the first round like he did the third round, he could have made that a closer match but Phillip Kue’s tough. He’s just flat out tough.”
Vincent nearly let his emotions get the best of him against Colton Fleming of Aloha in the consolation semifinals. Fleming put Vincent on his back in the first period before he was able to kick out.
“I came up with too much power. I was angry,” Vincent said. “He held me there for what felt like 10 seconds but it was only like three seconds.”
Vincent trailed late in the match before pinning Fleming in the third period.
He was excited to get a shot against No. 1 Jolley.
“I came out all aggressive and he matched my aggressiveness,” Vincent said.
“That Jolley kid is probably the toughest kid here,” coach Ebbs said. “I was extremely impressed with how Enrique wrestled Jolley. They got after it and Enrique actually wrestled really well. I think Enrique did his best wrestling in the third round and needed to start that way in the first round.”
McNary sophomore Nicolette Para (135) finished fourth in the girls state tournament after losing to Grants Pass senior Kaitlyn Dara in the semifinals and then Hood River Valley junior Elena Kroll in the third place match.
Parra grew up a lot in her sophomore season, which included taking second at the state qualifier last month in Thurston.
“The Nicolette that wrestled this year compared to the Nicolette that wrestled last year is night and day different,” coach Ebbs said. “She’s gotta grow and learn from this and mature from it and things will happen her way.”
At 220 pounds, McNary senior Blake Norton reached the quarterfinals, where he lost to Sandrey Mitberg of Beaverton 8-2.
“It really was a much closer match than the score showed,” Ebbs said. “We made a couple of mental errors and we were right in that match and can’t afford to do that at this level.”
Norton bounced back to get a 14-1 major decision over Gresham senior Kodey Kromer in the consolation bracket before being pinned by Gavin Moore of Tualatin, ending his tournament.
“He’s still got a bright future and a good heart and we’re gonna try and see if we can’t help him get to a college and start wrestling,” Ebbs said. “He’s just got the fire going.”
McNary junior Nick Hernandez (138), who battled knee injuries his freshman and sophomore seasons, got a pin in his first match at the state tournament before losing by technical fall to No. 4 Vincent Washington of Grants Pass in the second.
Hernandez regrouped to win three matches in the consolation bracket, two by pin fall, before being eliminated with a 5-0 loss to Roseburg sophomore Archer Bergeron.
McNary freshman Grady Burrows also earned a pin in his first state tournament match. Burrows was then sent to the consolation bracket after getting pinned in the second period by Westview senior Zaire Foster. Burrows won his first consolation match on a pin in the first period but was then eliminated by getting pinned by Jeremiah Van Cleve of Gresham.
“His last match that he lost was winnable and close and great,” Ebbs said. “That’s the experience that we’re trying to draw from here so when he comes back he’s got through the speed bumps and he’s ready to wrestle tough and start getting on the podium. That’s why it’s so important to get those kids here young and get through the learning curve.”