By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.—Around the mat room at McKay High School, there’s a mixture of new and familiar faces on the mat as the Royal Scot Grapplers prepare for another long haul of a season ahead.
Some of those new faces are freshman who are coming in from the middle school level have given the program a new kick in the rear when practice began on November 14 said Head Coach Troy Thomas.
“It’s really exciting. Obviously the middle school wrestling coming back to Salem Keizer School District is a big advantage,” he said. “It gives our wrestlers one more year of experience which allows us to compete with the best wrestlers in the State.”
One of those freshman is expecting to make some noise at the varsity level this year at the 106 pound class, filling a hole that McKay needed as they forfeited the weight a lot last year.
Her name, Norely Lara. Yes a girl wrestler, but the freshman has been competing in the mat club McKay helps put on and has competed pretty well in offseason tournaments with a scrappiness and grit that has Thomas excited to see what she can do at the High School level this year.
“I like it, I like it a lot,” said Thomas on Lara. “I think when you have a really tough kid in the lineup, it rubs off on other kids and you end up having a really tough lineup all the way from 106 to 285.”
Lara has been competing against some of the 113, 120 and 126 pounders and have competed well as she should be a great lead off for the Scots lineup.
Shane Tennis, one of Lara’s drill opponents and a returner from last year’s squad, is excited to have some power up front to help out the backside of the lineup.
“I’m pretty excited, I feel like we’re going to have a good team this year,” said Tennis. “Because everyone’s working their butts off, getting everything done that needs to get done. It’s actually starting to pay off, everyone has the motivation to keep moving forward and getting their exercise up so that they can have the energy to finish in the match.”
Every day during these three ‘Hell Weeks’ practices leading up to the December 3 season opener features end of practice conditioning as Thomas and his assistant coaches run practice similar to a college practice with no slacking and demanding everything you have in every rep.
One of the bodies hanging around, 2016 alum Adam Dryden. Dryden, a 170 pound runner-up, was in town for the Thanksgiving holiday and stopped by to see his old teammates wrestle.
“It’s awesome,” said Dryden. “I love being back here, helping out with the team and throwing in my two cents, it’s kind of nice.”
Though Dryden isn’t helping the team on a regular basis, there’s several McKay grads who are there helping out, but it doesn’t hurt to spar against an old teammate.
“It was pretty fun,” laughed Matt Jarding. “I miss it. I just remember last year watching him and Andy (Rubio) go at it, so it was really exciting to actually go at him again.”
Jarding is coming off a knee injury he sustained early last year that opened the door to Andy Rubio to a District Title at 160, but Jarding will be floating around that same weight for his senior season.
Regardless of the weight, Jarding, along with Andy’s younger brother David at 145/152, are expected to go deep this year in the middle weights with wild card Cyrus Mora in the mix.
“I’m really excited because obviously I was out last year and I got to come back a little bit and train in the spring with the freestyle group over at North Salem,” Jarding said of his comeback. “But to be actually back in McKay and practicing on the same old mats, it’s a great experience and I’m really excited to be competing again.”
Pushing into the heavyweights, the big returner will be Salavador ‘Chava’ Carmago at the 220 level, and with Carmago, Jarding and the returners, it’s important for them to lead the charge when the coaches aren’t looking.
“It’s like extra coaching,” Jarding describes the extra help. “It’s hard to put the responsibility of 30, 40 kids on three coaches, it’s just too much for them to handle so having a few extra guys come in is very important.”
With that extra help, either from the wrestlers, the coaches or former wrestlers; the Scots have more than built off the foundation they laid down last year to improve on their ninth-place finish in the Greater Valley Conference.
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