Rockne Roll/News-Register##
McMinnville wrestlers Brian Barnes, left, and Michael Abeyta, will lead the team this year as they look to compete at state.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## McMinnville wrestlers Brian Barnes, left, and Michael Abeyta, will lead the team this year as they look to compete at state.
By Rusty Rae • Of the News-Register • 

Barnes, Abeyta lead Grizzly grapplers


McMinnville High School’s wrestling team features both ends of the competitive spectrum this season – four grapplers with the highest expectations, and a bevy of younger members head coach Jordan Barich promised may be short on technical skills but top on the toughness scale. Of the 35 Grizzlies out for the team, Barich noted 30 are first- or second-year competitors.

Barich expects Brian Barnes will compete for, if not win, his third straight state title in the heavyweight division. Barnes represents the complete package in the world of wrestling and serves as the poster boy for all reaching for excellence.

“There are not many people that I have come across who work as hard as Brian. And the thing is with Brian, the more success that he has achieved, the harder he has worked to improve and refine his skills,” Barich said.

Barnes is the complete package with respect to skills, with the ability to compete in any of the three styles of competitive wrestling, freestyle, Greco-Roman, and the high school-dictated collegiate style. At the start of the season, his record stood at 124-13. That’s impressive, but even more striking that 102 of those wins have been by pin.

Domination is a way of life for Barnes, who during a recent tournament pinned the Washington State Champ in less than a minute. How far he will progress this season remains to be seen, but if Barnes continues to improve, a three-peat is surely in the cards.

Michael Abeyta is another Grizzly wrestler who figures to be competing for a top position in the state meet. He finished second in the state tournament last year and has done nothing but work in the off-season to improve his skills, including a summer of workouts and tournaments. Although currently on the shelf with an injury, Abeyta, who will wrestle at the 145 weight class, has been with the program three years. Barich said, “Michael has had some training earlier in the art of wrestling, but then had a three-year hiatus from the sport. Wrestling skills seem to come easily to him and he has picked up things naturally.”

Abeyta placed sixth in state as a freshman and second last year, and, like Barnes, is a diligent worker.

“Michael hates to lose. That is what drives him. In whatever he does, whether it is a video game or wrestling, he will find a way to beat you.

“He has all of the tools to win the state title. He has to get through the current injury issue and then we have to make sure that he is working hard at getting better each day,” Barich added.

Two other members feature high potential: Junior Stevie Ryan, a member of the football team with two years of experience wrestling, who will see action in the 170-pound weight category, and senior Max Morton, who missed last season while in Japan on a student exchange program.

Of Ryan, Barich noted, “Last summer was the first off season that he was involved in a wrestling program. I am counting on him to score points for us and to make up for the loss of points to kids who graduated from last year’s team.”

Of Morton, who will wrestle between the 145 and 152 weight classes, Barich said, “Although we lost him for a year, he has not missed a beat and he may be a surprise to many. He has been a pleasant surprise in preseason workout and in tournaments that we have competed in thus far,” he said.

Of the thirty-odd others filling spots on the team, Barich said, “They may be short on technical wrestling skills, but the one thing they are long on is toughness.

Barich said the Greater Valley Conference involves strong competition, with Sprague the pre-season favorite. “We will be somewhere in the middle of the pack and I hope that our younger kids can improve enough by district that we can finish in the top three.”

Everyone’s eyes will be on Barnes and Abeyta, but the key for the Grizzly wrestling team will be the progress made by Ryan, Morton and the youngsters during the course of the season. As they go, so go the Grizzlies.