By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.–There was more to meet the eye when North Salem and McKay wrestling met up at McKay High School Wednesday evening in the main gym.
If you ever wonder up to the upper gym, where the McKay Wrestling team throws down for practice, they are banners overseeing the gym of the history of the Royal Scots Wrestling program.
If you look closer, in the early 2000s, you’ll see A.Pickett and T.Thomas. Yeah there was another T.Thomas in the late 2000s, but that particular one is an assistant coach.
For Viking Head Coach Andy Pickett and McKay Head Coach Troy Thomas, there friendship dates back to their middle school mat club days and they became friends at McKay and that friendship continued on Post-Prep wrestling days as they coached together and Thomas was there at Pickett’s wedding last summer.
Though they’ve traded in the singlets for whistles, it’s still find to compete versus the other.
With Pickett, it’s been a blast even though he’s now on the other end of the fight with another school.
“It’s a blast,” said Pickett. “I love having battles with him, it’s kind of weird though being honest, being at McKay and being on the other side because I coached at McKay for like seven or so years, so from graduating from McKay, I love seeing the success that Troy had this year.
“He’s done a great job building the program, they’ve been as tough as they’ve been in 15-20 years, so I’m proud of that, I wish him the best of luck and hope he keeps it going.”
With Thomas, it’s awesome, but he hates to lose, even to a friend.
“On one hand it’s super awesome, especially since we wrestled and coached together, but I f—ing HATE losing, even to a friend,” said a passionate Thomas.
Even with the athletes, they have that same love-hate relationship with it as members of each squad do sparingly train with one another over the off season.
“It’s fun to wrestle with them,” said McKay’s Shane Tennis. “We love each other like family. There a different school, we do wrestle them but at the end of the day everyone likes each other.”
“It’s more of a love-hate relationship,” said North’s Ian Carlos. “Everyone knows everyone, we’re all getting together wrestling so, it’s like I said, it’s a love-hate relationship .”
But, somehow has to lose and someone has to win in the sport of wrestling. It was close though.
The Scots Sergio Mendez made the right move at the right time to squeak out a win over the Viks Desire Rukundo and Carlos battled the length of JoJo Jones as both look to carry these experiences into their final duals Thursday and into Districts next week.
“I was trying to see if what I can work on and see if he was going to open up for a second…if I can get a shot in at that perfect moment, it’s all about timing,” said Mendez.”It got me a better view of what it is to tie up with someone really strong, see what I can work on from that. It’s not about strength in this sport, it’s about technique in this sport.”
“There’s going to be a couple lengthy guys out there no matter what, it’s just how it is,” said Carlos. “So wrestling them now, it just helps me figure out what to do, what to fix, what I need to do better. It’s just practice, it’s all practice from here on, it’s just a big help.”
You saw how much each wrestler of either team wanted to win as it went back and forth all match long.
“It’s a little bit of a last gasp inside of me, you got to do whatever you got to do to win,” said North’s Isaak Vipperman. “It sucks, it hurts, but you use everything you got.”
But it came down to the last match to determine if it’ll be a Scots win or if it’ll go to criteria with McKay up 36-30 entering the heavyweight match between the Vikings Obbelis Garcia and McKay’s Anthony Alvarez.
It too was a battle as both benches went wild and West Salem watching on the other mat, but Garcia found a way to take the match to force the criteria tiebreaker to occur.
“It was crazy, charismatic rage, a great high,” said Garcia on the environment en route to his win. “You can feel it on the amt when people are pounding, saying your name. The intensity is high for sure.”
“As a leader, you got to push to the third round, even if it’s tied up or if your up. You got to finish with any type of energy you got in your body and that’s what wrestling is all about.”
After some math and figuring out, the Vikings won on Tiebreaker ‘H’ as they won 37-36 over McKay.
“It’s been a crazy year, I wasn’t expecting that,” said Pickett.”I thought we were out of the dual knowing we’re going to forfeit four weight classes, but their kids battled and it was awesome, it was pretty exciting.”
Both teams would drop their matches to the Titans, 51-24 for North, and West had to hang on for a 39-31 victory over the Scots with a Heavyweight pin the difference for the Titans
As both teams host Senior Night Thursday at home, North with West Albany and the Scots with Forest Grove.
“It was crazy, the whole crowd was into it once that winning pin,” “Everyone from McKay you saw got all sad, but it was pretty heartbreaking for me,” “You just got to forget about it and come in with a new mindset tomorrow and forget today ever happened and you got to think of it as a new day and new opportunity to come in and kick some butt.”
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