By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
McNary High School senior Alvarro Venegas was the only Celtic wrestler to emerge from a tournament with a clean record Friday, Dec. 5.
Venegas won his first match, against Dallas High School’s Bailey Hise, in a 12-2 major decision, but it didn’t start off the way Venegas expected.
“I’d wrestled him last year and beat him, but I went to take my first shot and he threw me. He’d definitely gotten better,” said Venegas.
Venegas pinned his next opponent, Cleveland High School’s Elvis Morrison, in 36 seconds. In the last segment of the three-way dual meet, the Celts faced perennial powerhouse Roseburg High School. Venegas drew Indian Will Reddekopp at 195 pounds.
“He was a cool guy, but I knew I was well-coached and I had a plan. It was tough match and he fought all the way to the end,” Venegas said. “His head snaps were hard. I hit the ground every time.”
After ending the third round in a 1-1 stalemate, Venegas took the win, 2-1, in a tie-breaker round.
Overall, the Celt mat men had something of an up-and-down tournament. They beat Cleveland 57-22, but lost to Dallas, 40-23, and to Roseburg, 60-15.
After Venegas, only four Celts managed more than one win: Brayden Ebbs at 126, Sean Burrows at 132, Taran Purkey at 182, and Gage Mance at 195.
Ebbs won his match with Dallas’ Noah Sickles 9-4 after a slow start.
“In the third round, I got him on his back a couple of times with near-falls,” Ebbs said.
Ebbs won his second match with a pin in the third round, and fought back from trailing after the first round.
“I got him on his back and got the leg in and pinned him,” Ebbs said.
Burrows won his Dallas match in a 14-4 major decision and pinned his Cleveland opponent in 5:25. Purkey pinned his Cleveland and Roseburg opponents in 1:36 and 2:47, respectively.
Mance got a pin as time wound down in the second round of his match with Dragon Joshua Naughton. He pinned Cleveland’s Nathan Thai in the waning seconds of the first round.
“I wrestled the Cleveland guy last year and got slammed pretty hard at the beginning of the match, but this year I was prepared for him,” Mance said.
Mance wrestled up a weight class, 220 pounds, in the Roseburg dual and ended up on his back in the first minute.
Other winners for the Celtics in the Cleveland dual were Michael Phelps in a 1-0 decision and Joe Hunter by pin in 4:00. Riley Repp got a win by pin in 5:02 over Roseburg’s Noah Stumbo.
Venegas and Ebbs were on almost exactly the same page as they forecasted what they want the team to work on in upcoming duals.
“We did a good job of cheering everyone on the edge of the mat while other people were wrestling, but even I went up to the stands to talk to somebody once. We need to keep our focus on the wrestler in the match,” Venegas said.
Ebbs wanted to see the team take it a step further.
“As soon as Roseburg had one of us on our back, their entire team was clapping and shouting trying to intimidate us. We need to be like that,” he said.