Celts wrestlers battle at district meet

McNary’s Ivan Vallejo (blue singlet) tries to bring his opponent to the mat in the first round of the 145-pound bracket. (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings)

The McNary wrestling team had 24 kids compete in the Mountain Valley Conference District Meet last weekend (Friday, Feb. 15 and Sat. Feb. 16) at Sprague High School.

Even though the Celtics placed seventh as a team with 97 points, they were able to get two wrestlers to the state meet at Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

Grady Burrows (113 lbs.) and Gilbert Parra (138 lbs.) each qualified for state by placing third in their respective divisions. 

Burrows, who is a sophomore, started the meet off by receiving a bye to advance to the quarterfinals, where he defeated South Salem’s Hunter Downs-Getchell via fall in the second round.

But much to his dismay, Burrows was pinned in the first round of his semifinal bout, taking him out of contention for the district title. 

Instead of getting down on himself, Burrows rallied back to dominate his next two bouts, winning his consolation semifinals match and third-place match by major decision.

“That semifinal match lit a fuse under me after I lost,” Burrows said. “I knew that I needed to win this out so I could go to state.”

This will be the second straight year Burrows will be heading to the state meet. 

Winning the third-place match was especially sweet for Burrows, considering that he had lost to his opponent — McKay’s Connor Everetts — earlier in the year.

“Grady did one of my favorite things there is to do in this sport. He beat a guy that beat him earlier in the season,” McNary head coach Jason Ebbs said. “He put together a really good match.”

Parra also won his opening match via fall, and then got a 6-2 victory in the quarterfinals to advance. 

Parra then took on Sprague’s Luke Merzenich in the semifinals and gave the eventual district runner-up everything he could handle, but ended up losing a 12-9 decision.

Gilbert Parra (in the black and white headgear) goes into attack mode in his 138-pound match. (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings)

“Gilbert really did an excellent job for himself in that match. I didn’t know if he would be able to keep the score that close,” Ebbs said. “He has really changed his game that last few weeks and changed the expectations for himself. He wrestled extremely well.”

Parra faced tough opponents in his final two bouts, but the junior stepped up to the challenge and won both matches via decision, earning his first ever trip to the state meet.

“It was a real dream come true,” Parra said about his qualification. “At the beginning of the year, I didn’t think I was going to be able to go. I’m really proud and excited to go to the state tournament. It’s honestly one of the happiest moments of my life.”

Both Burrows and Parra will be low seeds at the state meet — which takes place Friday Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23. But Ebbs, is greatly encouraging his guys to aim high. 

“We got to shoot for the sky,” Ebbs said. “The second you hand out too much respect for your opponent, you have already figured out that you’re going to lose. We want to have high goals.”

McNary also had three other wrestlers make the podium over the weekend. 

Cameron Parks (138 lbs.) Garrett Wampler (182 lbs.) and Aldo Villalvazo (220 lbs.) all finished in fifth place for McNary in their respective weight classes. 

Parks started off in the consolation bracket and won his first three matches with ease (two falls and a forfeit). Even though he lost in the consolation semifinals, Parks came back to win the fifth-place match over Titus Nagle from Summit with a thrilling 8-7 decision.

Wampler, on the the other hand, had an easy route to the semifinals in the championship bracket. After receiving a bye in the first round, the 182-pounder got a first round fall in his quarterfinal match.

Wampler lost his next two bouts, but the senior was able to bounce back by pinning Sprague’s Owen Scott in the fifth-place match. 

Villalvazo reached the quarterfinals by receiving a bye in the opening round of the championship bracket. After losing a tough 6-3 decision to Jacob Lehnherr from Bend, Villalvazo won his next three consolation matches to make it to the fifth-place bout where he would face off against Lehnherr once again.

This time, however, Villalvazo was victorious, winning via 3-1 decision. 

Out of the 24 wrestlers that competed, 22 of them are set to return for the Celtics next season.

“I felt like we grew a ton this weekend,” Ebbs said. “Every one of our wins comes with guys wrestling with more confidence next year.”

Matthew Mehlhoff takes Mountain View’s Keyshawn Mooers to the mat in the second round of his 152-pound bout. (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings)