Grizzlies throw down Newberg
From 1953 to the start of this season, the McMinnville Grizzlies had defeated Newberg in wrestling just two times, but the signs were there that the gap was closing. The Tigers edged the Grizzlies last season in a tight dual meet in McMinnville. This season, McMinnville completed Thursday what it came so close to doing last year, defeating Newberg 45-28 on the Tigers’ Senior Night.
It was the first time since Dec. 12, 1980 that McMinnville had won a dual meet vs. Newberg. According to Dec. 13, 1980 article in The News-Register, before 1980, the last time McMinnville had beat Newberg in wrestling was in the 1950s.
“The tide has turned a little bit in my opinion,” said McMinnville coach Shawn Keinonen, who graduated from Newberg and grew up taking part in Newberg’s annual domination of its Yamhill County rivals. “It’s nice to get the monkey off the back.”
Keinonen came to McMinnville in 2008 wanting to make a name for himself, but he has been in the shadow of Newberg and his former coach’s family. Tony Russo is the old coach at Newberg and Keinonen’s mentor. Russo’s nephew, Neil, took over the team and has continued to do well. Pete Russo, Tony’s dad, coached Keinonen’s dad. Neil coached Keinonen’s brother.
Another connection: Jordan Barich is an assistant for Keinonen. Barich’s dad is Neil’s assistant.
“Just from a mental standpoint it’s good to win,” Keinonen said. “Newberg doesn’t own us anymore. This is a building block.”
The Grizzlies did it this year with a tough group of wrestlers in the middle weight classes Keinonen said he thinks is as good as any group in the state.
“We knew in the middle that if we could get on a roll there were big points out there,” he said.
There were. Mac started with a 6-0 lead after Newberg forfeited at 106 pounds, but the Tigers earned those points back in the next two matches. Hugh Hammond beat Steven Weant 13-2 at 113, and Garret Rider beat Bryce Branson 8-4 at 120 to give the Tigers a 7-6 lead.
Mac reeled off five consecutive wins to gain some distance. Sol Souza grinded out a 5-2 win at 126 vs. Bryson Hockett, and then the Grizzlies won their next four matches with four pins to earn big points. Mannie Humlie pinned Joe Landry-Snyder 44 seconds into the first period at 132, and Bobby Crowston followed that up with a pin in the third round at 138 vs. Justin McConville.
Jered Sublet gave the Grizzlies a 27-7 lead with a pin at 145 on Jack Kerwin. At 152, J.T. Barnes tied Matt McCarthy up like pretzel, pinning him in 1:08.
“It’s amazing,” Barnes said. “I love when we get on a roll like that.”
Zane Burgess pinned Mac’s Alex Keiss at 160 pounds to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 33-13, but senior Tiger Paasch got those points back in a hurry at 170. Paasch pinned Sebastion Haney in 1:17, giving the Grizzlies a 39-13 lead with four matches left. The Tigers were already going to win at 220 and 285 by forfeits — giving them 12 points — but they would need a technical fall in at least one of the two remaining matches to earn enough points to catch Mac.
“I love wrestling behind those guys.” Paasch said. “It pumps me up.”
Devin Russo beat Cameron Strybing 7-2 at 182 for Newberg, but the win earned Newberg three points, ending any hope that the Tigers could catch the Grizzlies.
In the final match of the night — at 195 — Chris Cerda provided the punctuation on the historic headline. Cerda trailed Will Fox 2-0 after the first period and was trailing early in the second period when he took advantage of a mental lapse by Fox. Fox stood up straight for a brief moment and Cerda attacked. Within seconds Cerda had Fox on his back and the referee was blowing his whistle, signaling a pin. The Mac bench and Mac fans in the stands erupted in a loud cheer, caught off guard by the suddenness of the ending.
The win pushed Mac’s regional dual meet record to 8-0, and the Grizzlies can finish undefeated if they win at 5:45 p.m. Thursday at home vs. North Salem. Keinonen said it would be nice to finish undefeated in those dual meets, but he doesn’t want his team to let up. The biggest matches of the season are still in front of them, and a win vs. Newberg won’t mean much if the Grizzlies can’t finish things out.
“I hope we keep working hard,” he said. “There are some big tournaments yet to come.”