By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

'Lots to prove' for wrestlers

Keinonen and the rest of the Special District 3 coaches met Tuesday to figure out the seeding for the regional tournament, which starts today at Tualatin High School. McMinnville earned 13 seeds — including three No. 1 seeds — on the brackets, a nod for going undefeated in regional dual meets this season, and Keinonen said he thinks the Grizzlies can qualify anywhere from eight to 12 wrestlers for the state tournament and win the regional tournament.

“I’d hope it’s no less than 10,” he said.

With his very next breath, Keinonen answered the question he knows all the other teams in the district will be asking.

“We have to earn it,” he said. “We haven’t won anything. We have lots to prove.”

Wrestling starts at noon today and runs through 7 p.m. with the quarterfinals. The semifinals of the championship brackets start at 10 a.m. Saturday, and the finals are scheduled to start at 6 p.m. The top four wrestlers in each bracket make it to the state tournament, meaning if a wrestler makes it to the semifinals, they are in.

The Grizzlies three top wrestlers were given No. 1 seeds, putting the target on their backs. Senior Jered Sublet earned the No. 1 seed at 132 pounds. Junior J.T. Barnes was seeded first at 152, and Tiger Paasch is seeded No. 1 at 170. Those three could earn high seeds in the state tournament should they wrestle well this weekend.

“Thought we did very well,” Keinonen said of the places on the brackets his team earned. “I don’t think we can do much better.”

McMinnville earned one two seed — freshman Bobby Crowston at 138.

The Grizzlies have four No. 3 seeds. Aspen Nelson at 106, Bryce Branson at 120, Manny Humlie at 126 and Rylan Blair at 152.

Solomon Souza (120) and Dalton Donaldson (126) are both No. 4 seeds.

The final three seeds for Mac are: Steven Weant, No. 5 at 106; Cameron Strybing, No. 6 at 170; Chris Cerda, No. 6 at 195.

The seeds are nice, Keinonen said, but Mac will need athletes to outperform their seed to score enough points.

“They get you on the bracket,” Keinonen said, “but bottom line, you have to have guys wrestle better than their seeds to win the tournament.”

Keinonen said he’s bringing 23 wrestlers to the tournament. The Grizzlies will be walking a tight line if they hope to win. Sprague, McNary and most teams in the region are bringing 26 to 27, putting Mac at a disadvantage in the points it can score.

“We have to make sure no one goes two-and-out,” Keinonen said. “Everyone must contribute.”

The Grizzlies finished their regular season undefeated in dual meets vs. their regional competitors. Included in their wins was a 45-28 win vs. Newberg — the first time Mac has defeated its rival since Dec. 12, 1980. Wins like that have given confidence to many of the wrestlers, Keinonen said, but the unique nature of wrestling means none of those victories matter this weekend. If the Grizzlies don’t follow through this weekend, it will be a disappointing ending to what has otherwise been a breakout season.

Keinonen said he knows this. If a wrestler lost during the season, they had time to correct whatever was wrong and get better. Not anymore.

“You don’t really get to fix it this weekend,” Keinonen said. “It’s final. But that’s what makes it fun.”

Notes: The state wrestling tournament is Feb. 22-23 at Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

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