McNary’s Brandon Blanco (blue singlet) tries to get position on Cleveland’s Sean Lee in a 106-pound bout. (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
In their season-opening tournament, the McNary wrestling team finished with a 2-2 record in their four dual meets at the third annual Jerry Lane Invitational on Friday, Dec. 6 — which took place at McNary High.
The Celtics picked up their two victories against Glencoe and Cleveland.
“The product that we put on the mat for our first time out was as good or better than the product we put out at the end of last season. It was good to see our off-season growth. I think our kids are growing stronger mentally and they are just maturing overall,” McNary head coach Jason Ebbs said. “We’re going to be a pretty good little dual team.”
McNary senior Matt Mehlhoff (160 lbs.) had one of the best tournament showings of his career, going 3-1 on the night with all three of his victories coming via first-round fall.
“(Mehlhoff) has never been a superstar on the team, but he has always been the guy behind the scenes that always is putting his hours in the practice room and getting better week by week,” Ebbs said. “He should start raising his expectations.”
“Going 3-1 definitely gave me a boost of confidence,” Mehlhoff added.
Mehlhoff’s lone defeat came in the dual against Dallas. Although he ended up getting pinned by Dallas 160-pounder Colson Spencer in the second round, Mehlhoff believes that was possibly his best match of the day.
“Honestly, I felt like it was a pretty even matchup. He kind of took over late, but I thought we both wrestled well,” Mehlhoff said.
Freshman Brandon Blanco also had a solid night for the Celtics in the 106-pound division, picking up a pair of pins and a forfeit win.
Grady Burrows (120) and Gilbert Parra (145) — the Celtics two representatives at the state meet last season — each picked up three victories as well. Parra earned a major decision victory to go along with his two other victories, which came via pin. Burrows also pinned two of his opponents and won his other match thanks to a forfeit.
Joshua Friesen (138) and Rigoberto Hernandez (126) contributed to the cause by adding a pin apiece.
The Celtics jump into their Mountain Valley Conference slate on Wednesday, Dec. 18 when they take on Sprague at 7 p.m.
McNary had a hard time competing with Sprague last season as the Olympians have one of the best programs in the state. But Ebbs welcomes the challenge that Sprague presents for his team.
“Last year was last year. You don’t want to dwell on it, but at the same time, we want to use it as motivation. We should always be chasing the best teams in the state. Our kids should be learning to wrestle at that level,” Ebbs said.