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Day: March 6, 2015

Venegas denied state title, not defined by it

Alvaro Venegas finished second in the state at 195 pounds last weekend. It was a let down for Venegas, but he’s already setting new goals. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Alvaro Venegas finished second in the state at 195 pounds last weekend. It was a let down for Venegas, but he’s already setting new goals.
(KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)


Of the Keizertimes

In the 24 hours after his defeat in the state tournament finals match at 195 pounds, Alvaro Venegas did a lot of soul searching.

Venegas went into the tournament seeded first in the state, and went into the final match with a 51-1 record. He ended up losing 3-2 after his opponent, Brian Barnes, took him down in the third round.

“I dwelled on it for the whole day after, but I thought back to my coaches and the older guys and a title doesn’t define me.

“(Jason) Ebbs said there’s always someone who wants it more than you do. That may not be the case for me, but this guy has been wrestling his entire life. He dedicated his life to it,” Venegas said. “Brian was ready to wrestle. I think I choked. Maybe I got too cocky, but Brian is going to do great for himself,” Venegas said.

Ebbs is McNary’s head wrestling coach.

If that answer sounds humble, it’s par for the course for Venegas. Talking with him after matches this past year, he never had a harsh word for any opponent. He mostly talked about them being “cool guys.”

That attitude defines him more than any title – regional, state or national – ever could.

“As he wrestled through this season, he was the strongest mental wrestler I had seen in a long time. He learned how to control his opponents, how to control the match, and how to control position so that every match was wrestled on his terms,” Ebbs said.

It was a far cry from when Venegas started wrestling at Claggett Creek Middle School in eighth grade.

“I would hear the guys talking about how hard wrestling was. But, getting out there basically naked with other guys, I wasn’t sure about it,” he said.

He took the leap and thought he did fine in practices, but he didn’t win a single match that year. He entered McNary as a heavyweight at 265 pounds.

“I didn’t really work out. But, sophomore year, Zach Hammerschmith and Mason Ross kind of took me under their wing and started getting me to work out. Mason would take me to the gym – usually without my consent -– and he bought me some supplements. Still, I went through the season getting beat up.”

He and Ross spent time that year swinging between the two heavyweight classes, 220 and 265 pounds. When the Oregon Classic came around, he had a crisis of faith, a result of not winning a single match.

“I was ready to quit, but Zach, Mason and Edgar (Jimenez) took me to dinner that night and told me to stick it out. The next day I took part in a cadet tournament and placed third. I was still a chunky 220, but the muscle had started forming and I thought maybe I could do something with this,” Venegas said.

Ebbs kept an eye on Venegas’ development in the following months, particularly when he needed a shot of confidence.

“When we sent him to the district tournament and told him, ‘you are going to state if you perform.’ He did not believe it until he found himself wrestling in the third place match and having already qualified for state,” Ebbs said.

The confidence gained there carried over to the next season.

“I went into junior year and suddenly my body just started falling off. I was working out twice a day. I was wrestling with Zach and he’s a competitive guy. I was eating a lot and still dropping weight,” Venegas said.

When the Classic rolled around again, Venegas weighed 202 and Ebbs approached him about cutting to 199 since there was a four-pound variance according to the rules of the Classic.

“The night before the tournament, the other guys on the team had me and Taran (Purkey) in layers of sweats and we had to tag every other team member. I wasn’t eating or drinking and I lost like 12 pounds that night. Woke up the next day and wrestled like crap,” he said. “I didn’t win a match and messed up my shoulder.”

By the time Venegas began his senior year, he was a lean and muscled 195. He’s started running twice a day and joined the cross country team with some coercion from wrestling teammate Riley Repp.

As he began racking up wins, the sky didn’t even seem like a limit. He was only pinned once and was soon leading state rankings. He capped the Greater Valley Conference season with a district title despite suffering a dislocated shoulder in the finals match.

A week prior, Venegas was joined by his mother on the mat for Senior Night. She’s been mostly wheelchair-bound for the past three years after a diagnosis with multiple sclerosis eight years ago.

“I just try to do as much as I can when I can. My goal is to do more now that my schedule isn’t as weird with wrestling,” Venegas said.

Despite her illness, Venegas said his mother still insists on cooking dinner even if her sons need to help her.

“It’s one of the reasons I’m scared to leave for college. I will do more now, but I feel the responsibility to her,” he said.

Venegas would like to go to Clackamas Community College, home to a powerhouse wrestling squad, where he might get more looks from four-year colleges and universities.

“I’m not quite ready to hang up the towel yet. I would love to wrestle in the PAC 12,” he said.

Ebbs said Venegas’s biggest impact was on his teammates, with or without a state title.

“It was very clear to see the positive impact he had on people, how he made them feel, how he helped them perform better, and how he tried to have everyone operate at a high standard with a ‘team’ mentality. He helped others around him be better and that will not be forgotten,” Ebbs said.

Given the amount of dedication – as well as the results he’s seen – it would be easy for Venegas to rest on his laurels, but that attitude that’s carried him through the ups and downs is still his defining characteristic.

“I saw some of the older guys lose, get angry and talk about how much they hated their opponents,” he said. “Anyone who wrestles … I don’t care if you win a single match, but if you can survive the wrestling room, the workouts, the cutting weight, the getting beat up, I have respect for you.”

Big Toy site gets cleared

After four days of volunteer effort, much of the work was done and a sign was erected to denote the Big Toy location. (Photo courtesy Clint Holland)
After four days of volunteer effort, much of the work was done and a sign was erected to denote the Big Toy location.
(Photo courtesy Clint Holland)


Of the Keizertimes

Even while taking down 198 trees last week, Jerry Nuttbrock could see what the orchards would soon look like.

Nuttbrock was recruited by Clint Holland to help clear out space in the orchards at Keizer Rapids Park, where community volunteers are expected to build the Big Toy play structure over a five-day period in June.

Though the construction itself won’t be happening for another three months, the area has to be prepped for the work. Holland long ago pledged a team of volunteers to help get the ground ready.

“Whatever Clint tells me to do, I do,” Nuttbrock said with a grin on Feb. 26. “I’m removing the trees for the Big Toy. I will later bring in another machine. For the trees that are close together, I can carry two at a time.”

While the machine Nuttbrock used last Thursday morning – rented from Hertz Equipment Rental in Keizer – picked up the trees like they were Lincoln Logs, he brought in a different Caterpillar machine later to push all items toward a big pile.

Cutting nearly 200 trees may sound like a lot, but the orchard has far more trees than that. Mark Caillier, general coordinator for the Big Toy project, marked all the trees for Nuttbrock to cut while Tony Weathers trimmed the trees, following a suggestion from Robert Johnson, parks supervisor for the city.

“Trimming of the trees was done in the last three weeks,” Caillier said later in the morning. “They made a special effort to make sure our area was done for this. This phase is Clint’s baby.”

Nuttbrock said volunteers from the Salem Alliance Church’s Royal Order of the Red Suspenders were on tap to cut the trees up for firewood.

“They will chop it and haul it out,” Nuttbrock said. “It’s a win-win deal.”

Holland has nothing but praise for the work Nuttbrock does.

“Jerry has the brain to see things other people just can’t see,” Holland said. “He brought the dirt in for the amphitheater to get that project going. I bring in the best guys for projects.”

Nuttbrock enjoys doing such work.

“We’ve done some great projects before,” he said. “Clint and I are a team. I’ve been in this business for 40-plus years. In this business, you’re always thinking ahead. I’m visualizing where the parking lot and where the Big Toy will go.

“This is going to be a great amenity of the park,” Nuttbrock added. “What I like is it’s primarily being done with volunteers. This whole park was done with volunteers. Whatever comes in the future will be done by volunteer efforts as well.”

Trees at the perimeters were marked with ribbons, letting Nuttbrock know the outside dimensions for the area.

“The parking lot will come to here,” he said, pointing to an area he had just cut trees from. “The Big Toy will go out from here to the south.”

Like Holland, Nuttbrock had some question about taking out so many trees from a working orchard, but he looks at the big picture.

“In the end, it’s for the kids,” Nuttbrock said. “It’s why I am here.”

For Nuttbrock, taking down a lot of trees is no work at all.

“I’ve taken a lot of orchards out, so 200 trees is not much,” he said. “I don’t even have to think about it. Usually I’m thinking about something else.”

Once the trees were cleared out, a big sign denoting the area as the future home of the Big Toy was put up. Caillier said 600 yards of gravel will be brought in later, roughly a half-foot thick.

During Tuesday’s Community Build Task Force meeting, Holland said the four days spent clearing the trees went well.

“You couldn’t ask for anything better,” Holland said. “The weather cooperated. If you hired people to get this done, you’d be talking one-third to one-quarter of the total project cost. We’re going to try to get the water in, maybe electrical, and the parking lot.”

CBTF chair Marlene Quinn was among those expressing appreciation.

“I want to give kudos to Clint and his group for the time spent out there,” Quinn said as former mayor Lore Christopher gave Holland a kiss. “Fantastic Clint, thank you so much.”

Boys to second round after Newberg scare

Trent VanCleave skirts around a Newberg defender in the first round of the state playoff tournament Tuesday, March 3. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Trent VanCleave skirts around a Newberg defender in the first round of the state playoff tournament Tuesday, March 3.
(KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)


Of the Keizertimes

If the best-laid plans often go awry, the McNary High School varsity basketball team’s were also going sideways and pear-shaped Tuesday, March 3.

The boys faced Newberg High School in the opening round of the state tournament and had to overcome more turbulence than most would have expected in the game.

The Celtics eked out a 48-45 win and will travel to North Medford High School Friday, March 6, for the second round of the tournament. The Black Tornadoes ousted Barlow High School from contention in a 63-49 win.

“Newberg wasn’t more than we were expecting, but they were different. We were game planning around their bigs and their lefty hurt us, but No. 32 (BJ Ulloa) was a big surprise and exposed us in some ways,” said Harry Cavell, a McNary junior.

McNary fell behind the Tigers early. Newberg led by as many as seven points in the first period. By the middle of the second period, the Celts had cut the lead to 16-11. At the halftime buzzer, however, the Keizer team was still trailing 23-16.

“They were really slowing down the game. We were trying to compact the paint and push them out, but we couldn’t get any momentum and we couldn’t get out to the open floor,” said Trent VanCleave, a Celt junior.

From the outset of the second half, McNary was out to set the tone.

“Trent did a good job changing the tide of things in the third quarter. Tregg (Peterson) made some big-time plays as big-time players do. For the most part, we also played without fouling,” said Ryan Kirch, McNary head coach.

On a VanCleave trey, the score sat at 25-24. At 3:19 to go in the third period, Cavell put in the go-ahead basket, but Newberg answered with a bucket of its own and a shot from the foul line. VanCleave tied up the score and Celt senior Devon Dunagan laid in a two-pointer at the buzzer to take control of the game.

In the final two minutes, McNary made the most of opportunities from the foul line and Kirch’s jacket came off as the refs hit the teams with off-setting technical fouls. Dunagan hit one and Newberg drained both of its shots. The score was 45-40.

Newberg got close once more with less than 10 seconds left in the game. One of the Tigers got inside the Celt defense to lay up a shot, but the refs called a fouled before it left his hands and the points, which would have made the score 46-44, came off the board.

Peterson put in McNary’s last two points from the foul line.

Despite the long road trip to North Medford, players and coaches were less concerned with the travel time than the team itself. The Celts have only lost one game this season on the road.

“We’ve got a height advantage (over North Medford), but they’ll get out and run with quick, good guards,” said Cavell.

“The environments don’t matter so much as the style of play. They’ll be more like a South Salem and we split the games with them this season,” Kirch added. “We need to control the tempo and protect the ball while getting points on both sides of the press.”

In other, less traumatizing news for the Celts. McNary’s entire starting line-up received all-league honors. Peterson and Cavell were both named to the first team all-league with Peterson being named Player of the Year. Dunagan was named second team all-league. VanCleave was given third team honors. Mathew Ismay was an honorable mention, but also named Defensive Player of the Year.

The boys also topped the state in average GPA for 6A teams for the second year. Collectively, they averaged a 3.65. It is the second consecutive year that the boys claimed the state title for classroom efforts.

Roundabout spun off to 2016

The roundabout at Chemawa Road and Verda Lane, shown here in a draft engineering version, has been pushed back to 2016, after originally being planned for last year. (Submitted)
The roundabout at Chemawa Road and Verda Lane, shown here in a draft engineering version, has been pushed back to 2016, after originally being planned for last year.


Of the Keizertimes

In between Groundhog’s Day and April Fool’s Day comes this update: a major construction project involving Chemawa Road in Keizer has been delayed.

Previously, the Chemawa Road Reconstruction Project from River Road to Keizer Rapids Park was delayed multiple times before finally being completed late last year.

Now, it’s the roundabout at Chemawa and Verda Lane being delayed yet again.

The roundabout was originally going to be constructed last summer. That timeline was pushed back until this summer, but last week got pushed back another year.

Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, announced the news via a faxed press release Friday evening, Feb. 27. The release was not posted on social media by the city. The issue was not brought up at Monday’s Keizer City Council meeting.

Lawyer said the decision was jointly made between project leaders with the Oregon Department of Transportation, the city and the project’s consultant. The bid opening date is now Nov. 19.

“Officially it changed the end of the week last week,” Lawyer told the Keizertimes on Monday. “There have been concerns about keeping the project timeline. We’ve been working hard to stay on the schedule. It just became very clear the original schedule, while it may have been possible, was becoming more and more unrealistic.”

Prior to the delay, the most recent schedule had called for bids for the approximately $2 million project to be opened on May 21, with construction starting in early July and being completed in about three months.

In light of the most recent delay, Lawyer said the hope is to get the project started sometime next spring.

“The goal is to have it done by the time school starts,” he said. “Construction next year will most likely begin in June but we are a little early in refining the start date right now.”

In January, a date change for an Intergovernmental Agreement for ODOT’s property acquisition for right-of-way acquisition and transfer to the city pushed the date back from the end of that month to the end of 2017. Despite that change, Lawyer said in February the project was still on track for this year.

“They are looking at September or early October for the project to be complete,” Lawyer said at the time.

Lawyer said on Monday more meetings led to the decision for the delay.

“Things have changed for this project,” he said. “The team diligently worked to keep the project on schedule for construction this summer and as of three weeks ago the team thought that would be realistic.”

Lawyer said there are some positives to the delay. For one, bids in the late fall/early winter are usually lower than prior to the construction season. The additional time will also allow utilities to be relocated as needed. There is also the issue of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which begins March 1 each year and mandates nesting birds found in a work zone not be disturbed.

Thus, trees that would need to come down for the roundabout – Lawyer estimated four large fir trees would be impacted – could not be taken down until after nesting season. The federal law must be followed on any project using federal funds, such as this one.

“This wasn’t widely publicized,” Lawyer said of the federal law. “It was discussed for delaying the (Chemawa Road Reconstruction Project) contract. We couldn’t get on the road until we could get the right-of-way. The trees came out like Feb. 29. It was that close. We all knew it wasn’t going to be possible to keep it on this year’s project.”

Lawyer said none of the factors were necessarily more important than the others.

“It was a combination of factors,” he said. “It wasn’t any one thing that jumped out. If you reverse engineer them, those were some of the downsides to getting it done this year.”

Lawyer said there should be no need to wonder if another delay will happen.

“I don’t see that at all,” he said. “We have to stay on schedule. We have to have the right-of-way closed by September to keep this on schedule.”

The roundabout topic typically draws quite a bit of reaction in Keizer. Last week’s Keizertimes web poll, posted on the paper’s Facebook page each Thursday, reached more than 1,400 people and had 26 comments online, on top of the actual poll results. A story on the topic last month had more than 30 comments online.

According to Lawyer, project plans such as the roundabout are developed in stages, working through an ODOT process. The Plan Specification and Estimates has to be turned in several weeks before the bid date.

“They are close to turning that in,” Lawyer said of the project consultants. “The design is basically done.”

Do not be goaded into war

When in doubt, cut taxes or send in American military troops. Those seem to be the only choices for some of the nation’s politicians on the right.

No tax is good—taxes feed the government beast that has an insatiable appetite. Cut off its food source and government will shrink to a manageable size, whatever that is.

Taxes are especially bad when they fund things conservative politicans don’t support—food stamps, unemployment benefits, clean air and water. For some the only good tax is the tax that feeds the military budget. That’s especially true these days when some are calling for American boots on the ground and missles in the air to fight the Islamic State. Or, to follow Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s exortation to take out the regime in Iran before it gets any closer to a nuclear weapon.

In a recent Keizertimes web poll, 75 percent of the respondents were against an increase in the Oregon gas tax even if the money was earmarked solely for transportation and highway projects. The American people do not like taxes, a feeling that thas been re-enforced by talking heads, pundits and politicans for decades.  But there is always money to funnel to defense, which is the only governmental responsibility that gets universal approval.

There is no doubt that the United States needs to spend money on defense. The issue is what that money is being spent on. Millions of vehicles across the nation bear ribbon magnets with a “Support Our Troops” message. Yet, our troops remain woefully underfunded, either on the battlefield or once they get home. Congress and the Pentagon is pushing for the new F-35 fighter. Experts say that this state-of-the-art plane will not perform nearly as well as the two planes it is to replace: the A-10 and the F-16.  The F-35 project is expected to cost upwards of $1.5 trillion. Our troops could be very well supported with a portion of that kind of money. Better equipment in the field, more intelligence and certainly better care for them when they return home bruised, battered and/or broken.

National defense is important, but the defense game has changed over the past few decades. The United States is safe from other nations—no nation-state dare attack continental America. Our current defense strategies must address that some of our prime enemies are stateless and rely on goals other than conquest. There will not be a convoy of military ships heading for the U.S. across the Atlantic; there will be a convoy of jeeps and SUVs racing across the Middle East to build a caliphate the leaders say is the beginning of the End of Days.

The United States ended its major offense in Iraq four years ago and it has been drawing down in Afghanistan. Much of the equipment American used in those wars have been left to the governments with which we were allied. In Iraq much of that military hardware is now in the hands of fighters of the Islamic State (after U.S.-trained Iraq troops dropped their weapons and ran—not unlike our allies in south Vietnam 40 years ago).

American taxpayers have spent about $2 trillion since 2001 to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—two wars we did not win, nor did we lose. We just walked away, as some had been calling for from the very beginning.

It’s unfathomable that in the face of just concluding the longest war in our nation’s history, that some politicans are again beating the war drums.

Should the American government spend money on solving the Middle East?  Is there a solution? Regardless of Netanyahu’s shameful anti-Obama speech, on American soil, in the midst of an Israeli election campaign, the administration should keep it steady as it goes.  No one wants an Iran with nuclear weapons, That’s what we said about North Korea and we did not attack that country. Iran is the target of war chanting because of its neighborhood.

The American people have war fatigue and do not want to see young American men and women sent overseas, especially in a conflict that has no U.S. interests involved. As Lyndon Johnson once said about a war 50 years ago, American boys should not be sent to fight when the people under attack should be fighting for themselves.

The American people do not want to pay more taxes, though most of the taxes they pay are from the state and local levels. Those politicans who have control of the nation’s purse strings can certainly spin a rationale for war (even when it comes from a foreign leader). It would be nice if once in a while they could make the need for improved infrastructure here at home sound as necessary as buyng a trillion dollar jet plane or sending America’s youth back to the Middle East.


The Bibi-Boehner coalition


It was disconcerting to watch Congress cheer wildly as a foreign leader, the prime minister of one of America’s closest allies, trashed an American president’s foreign policy. It was equally strange that the speaker of our House of Representatives interjected the United States Congress into an Israeli political campaign.

It fell to Isaac Herzog, Benjamin Netanyahu’s leading opponent in Israel’s March 17 election, to make the essential point: that this week’s speech was “a very harsh wound to Israel-U.S. relations” and “will only widen the rift with Israel’s greatest ally and strategic partner.”

The rapturous greeting Congress bequeathed on Netanyahu for his attack on President Obama’s approach to negotiations with Iran no doubt created great footage for television ads back home and won him some votes at the right end of Israel’s electorate.

But Herzog’s observation stands: John Boehner’s unprecedented act of inviting the leader of another nation to criticize our own president, and Netanyahu’s decision to accept, threaten to damage the bipartisan and trans-ideological coalition that has always come together on behalf of Israel’s survival.

Netanyahu may have spoken the words, “We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel,” but the rest of his speech painted the president as foolish and on the verge of being duped on a nuclear deal by the mullahs in Tehran.

The Israeli leader reached for the most devastating metaphor available to him, the appeasement of the Nazis that led to the Holocaust. He urged the United States “not to sacrifice the future for the present” and “not to ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.” This is what he was accusing Obama of doing. No wonder House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi described herself as “near tears” over Netanyahu’s “condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran.”

Pelosi was on to something here because the differences between Obama and Netanyahu are not over whether the Iranian regime in its current form is trustworthy. Nobody believes it is. At stake is a balance of risks, a choice between two imperfect outcomes.

On the one side is a deal that buys at least a decade in which Iran will not be able to produce a nuclear weapon and will be subjected to inspections and other limitations. On the other side is a decision to blow up the current negotiations because the guarantees of any likely accord would not be sufficiently airtight.

Yes, the emerging deal does carry the risk that down the road, Iran could get nuclear weapons. But failing to reach an agreement will not necessarily stop Tehran from going nuclear, and an end to negotiations would in no way ensure that the rest of the world would return to effective sanctions. Netanyahu’s rhetoric pointed toward his real goal, which is regime change, but how exactly could that happen without armed conflict?

Netanyahu evaded this by offering a thoroughly rosy scenario. “Now, if Iran threatens to walk away from the table—and this often happens in a Persian bazaar—call their bluff,” he said. “They’ll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.” Really? If the Iranian regime is as horrible as Netanyahu says it is, why does he expect its leaders to be as flexible as if they were haggling over the price of a carpet?

The crux of the difference between Obama and Netanyahu is about a bet on the future. The Israeli prime minister argued that “the ideology of Iran’s revolutionary regime is deeply rooted in militant Islam, and that’s why this regime will always be an enemy of America.” He added, “I don’t believe that Iran’s radical regime will change for the better after this deal.”

Obama’s bet, by contrast, is that a deal opening up space and time provides the best chance we have of encouraging political evolution in Iran. Of course there is no guarantee of this, but it’s a reasonable assumption that ending the negotiations would set back the forces of change.   

Skeptics of an agreement, Netanyahu included, can usefully push Obama to get the longest time line and the toughest guarantees he can, and American negotiators can try to use the threat of opposition in Congress to strengthen the final terms.

But Netanyahu never gave a satisfactory answer to the most important question: What is the alternative? As for Netanyahu’s provocative and divisive intervention in American politics and Boehner’s meddling in Israel’s election, the voters of our friend and ally will render a judgment soon.

(Washington Post Writers Group)

Auvinen new football coach

Jeff Auvinen
Jeff Auvinen

Of the Keizertimes

At a team meeting Monday, March 2, Jeff Auvinen was announced as the Celtic football program’s new head coach.

Auvinen, 48, has taught at McNary High School for 25 years and coached at some level in many sports for 23 of them.

In football, Auvinen has served as varsity defensive coordinator, defensive back coach, head junior varsity coach, junior varsity offensive coordinator, freshman offensive coordinator and freshman head coach.

He also led the Lady Celt softball team for six years, assistant coached the junior varsity basketball team for four years and was head coach of the Lynnwood High School baseball program for a year. McNary administrators received applications from as far away as Montana and Nevada before selecting Auvinen.

“From that we found a candidate that we felt strongly about and it was a unanimous decision by the interviewing committee,” said Erik Jesperson, McNary principal.

For more on the new coach and player reaction, please see the full story on Page A10.