Josh Friesen earns a pin over Kristian Contreras from Bend in quarterfinal match at 170 pounds. Friesen placed second in the division to qualify for the state meet (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
The McNary wrestling team finished in fourth place at the Mountain Valley Conference district meet over the weekend and placed five athletes into the state tournament, highlighted by Max Blanco, who was the 106-pound district champion as a sophomore.
“We thought we would get a few more kids on the podium, but all-in-all it was a solid team showing,” McNary head coach Sam Martin said.
Blanco is McNary’s first district champion since Enrique Vincent won the 120-pound division in 2017.
“It feels good. It’s just a lot of hard work paying off. I just came in with a ton of confidence,” Blanco said.
After getting a pair of quick pins in his first two bouts, Blanco won via technical fall in the semifinals against Mountain View’s Grayson Moore before earning a major decision victory in the championship over Eric Larwin from Bend.
“Max really wrestled really well. He wrestled the way we expected. He has been competing at 113 all year, so he’s used to wrestling bigger guys,” Martin said.
Damian Hernandez forced overtime in the 126-pound semifinal bout, but wound up falling to Brady Johns from Mountain View. Hernandez, however, was not deterred and came back to win his next two matches to place third and qualify for state.
“The semis were a heartbreaker for him. I think he probably wishes he would have taken a better shot in the overtime, but he’s an experienced wrestler. He knows how to let it go and focus on what’s next. He knew what he needed to accomplish and he went out and handled it,” Martin said.
In the 170-pound division, Josh Friesen earned three straight falls to advance to the championship match, including an upset win over the two-seed Sayre Williamson from Mountain View in the semifinals.
“On paper it was an upset, but I don’t think it really was. The kid from Mountain View was tough, but Josh had a little bit of a killer instinct and took advantage of his opportunity,” Martin said.
Although he lost to Sprague’s Riley Davis, who won state at 160 pounds last year, in the championship, Martin was impressed with Friesen’s performance.
“Josh gave Riley Davis one of his longest matches of the year. He really had a good tournament,” Martin said.
Despite being academically ineligible for most of the season, McNary heavyweight Layne Runyan got his grades right in time for the district tournament and made the most of his chance.
Runyan fell in the semifinal bout to Sprague’s Cole Steketee, but came back to win back-to-back matches via pin, placing third and earning a spot at the state meet.
“We expected Layne to finish exactly how he did. It was good to have him back out there. He looked really good and he will be ready to go for state,” Martin said.
McNary’s other heavyweight, Anthony Cruz Lopez, placed second in the division, earning first round pins in his first two bouts.
Joey Barros (106) and Jonathon Canchola (138) were McNary’s other top finishers, placing fourth and fifth respectively — top three finishers qualify for state.
The 6A state tournament will take place at Sandy High School Feb. 25-26, and Martin is hoping to see multiple McNary guys finish in the top six.
“I want to see people on the podium. Max was our first state placer in a while last year, so it would be great to have multiple this year. We have the ability to have multiple state placers,” Martin said.