After nearly a month off since their last wrestling meet, the Canby Cougar wrestling team had a different return to competition than expected.
The McMinnville tournament was officially the first tournament of the season to be held without fans, the school announced on Friday.
Following new Covid recommendations amid a surge of new infections fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant, McMinnville High School officials opted to move forward with the competition — but with empty bleachers.
While this may have quieted the stands, it failed to deflate the Canby Cougar wrestling team, which roared to yet another dominant performance in the 16-team tourney.
The Cougars placed first among the field of 16 with 193 total points, beating second-place Tillamook by 15. Third-place South Salem was even further back with 144 points, while Sandy placed fourth with 122.5.
Ty Ewers (126 pounds) was the lone Cougar to win his respective weight division. Ewers, who is 10-0 on the season, beat Milwaukie’s Theodore Baldwin by a majority decision in the championship round, winning the decision 12-5.
Four other Cougars — Thomas Marquez (138), Ethan Ensrud (160), Jackson Doman (170), and Cash Montgomery (180) — made it to the championship round but ultimately placed second.
Montgomery and Ensrud lost by fall, while Doman lost by decision to Stayton’s Connor Hollenbeck and Marquez lost by decision to South Salem’s Rene Cruz. Only one of Canby’s wrestlers failed to place in the meet.
“Canby entered 12 wrestlers into the tournament and 11 wrestlers placed,” head coach Jeremy Ensrud told the Current. “The team is wrestling very well. We still have some areas we can improve, but overall, we have a very competitive team.”
Stayton, a school that sent only five wrestlers to the tournament, saw three of them come home winners. Hollenbeck (170), Wyatt Hooper (132), and Mauro Michel (132) were victorious in their respective classes. Despite their small numbers, Stayton placed eighth in the tournament totaling 95 points.
Canby’s numbers and experience helped the Cougars leave Saturday as champions. Few teams in the state seem to be able to meet the depth that coach Ensrud has at his disposal, and this has been borne out in Canby’s 2021-22 season results so far, which have included two tournament first-place finishes and a three-way dual win.
As the season continues, it appears clear that whether there are fans or not, the Cougar wrestlers are likely to end up where they’re most comfortable: on top.
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