MILTON-FREEWATER — It’s not quite Christmas but the Mac-Hi Pioneers are celebrating with some holiday festivities anyway in Milton-Freewater this week. The Mac-Hi Christmas Wrestling Tournament kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday with a full day of grappling scheduled.
Saturday will be the first of the just two times that Pioneer wrestling fans can see their varsity squad in action this season locally, and possibly the lone opportunity with the full squad on the mats. Mac-Hi has only one other home wrestling date on the calendar this winter, a dual meet with Baker on Feb. 7, but with only one squad in town — and a smaller sized one at that — Pioneers coach Beau Chester probably won’t have his full arsenal on display.
The dual meet with Baker falls on the last weekend of the season before the Pioneers head to their regional tournament in La Grande on Feb. 15-16.
There are plenty of matches for Chester to slot his boys into this weekend with nine other teams descending on the border town. Among the attendees, which span three states, are a few larger schools from Washington — such as Walla Walla High and the Tri-Cities’ Chiawana and Southridge.
The big schools, which equate to Class 5A competition in Oregon standards, are invited to 4A Mac-Hi’s tournament because of those numbers, Chester said. The more matches the better for his and the even smaller schools in the competition. The OSAA allows its wrestlers to compete in 50 matches before postseason time and coaches want their athletes to get as close to that number as possible.
“I have them bring in everybody, the whole team,” Chester said. “The nice thing is everybody can fill out 16-man brackets.”
The Pioneers have gotten off to a strong start this season, especially wrestlers Brayden Moller, Tavis Hodgen and Jeffrey Jones. The trio has hit the finals of each of the first two tournaments Mac-Hi was entered in this season.
The Pioneers will also get another top wrestler into his first action of the season at home Saturday. Chandler Fortune has watched his teammates head out for meets the past two weeks while sitting out with a knee injury, a holdover from football season. But now Fortune has been cleared to compete and he’ll debut -at the Christmas Tournament.
Other area teams in this year’s tournament include Heppner and Irrigon. Both schools wrestle at the Class 2A/1A level, and along with Parma, Idaho, will be among the smaller programs in attendance.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (541) 966-0839.