Assistant wrestling coaches Jeff Rinehart, left, Marc Eylar, right, and the Bulldogs look forward to the Ray Westberg Invitational scheduled for Saturday at Ellensburg High School.

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Ellensburg wrestling is in a freeze, but it’s the thaw that counts.

The Bulldogs’ Jan. 6 meet at Selah and their home meet with Othello Thursday are to be rescheduled after COVID-19 concerns while the Jan. 8 tournament at Class 1A Cascade High in Leavenworth was canceled, so it’s time to see what becomes of the Ray Westberg Invitational, in memory of the late great Ellensburg High teacher and coach for whom head coach Jeremy Wolfenbarger and assistant coach Jeff Rinehart wrestled, scheduled to include 26 teams and to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“It’s a tough tournament, bringing in good competition from all classes, B to 4A,” said Bulldogs assistant coach Marc Eylar, 41, who won the 1998 Class 1A title at 108 pounds for the Okanagan program his grandfather started in 1968, wrestled at Central Washington University and coached Kittitas’ program for a decade. “I, unfortunately, never had the opportunity to meet Westberg, but when you hear his former wrestlers talk about him, he obviously had a positive lifelong impact. It means something to wrestle at the Westberg, and if you are fortunate enough to win it, it’s special.”

The key is to preserve opportunity in what becomes 16 days since freshman Tyler Bacon won the Eastmont Cat Classic 106-pound championship and Ellensburg emerged second behind four-time defending Class 2B state champion Tonasket Dec. 29 in East Wenatchee.

Abraham Lopez (106), Jacob Bacon (145) and Sean Davis (182) came up second, Breck Hammond (170) and Richard Wellington (220) went third, Leif Holmgren (113), Logan Stolen (195), Jack Eylar (126) and Konner Carlson (132) tied for third and Elijah Pearson (120), Luke Bayne (152) and Deklin Graham (220) took fifth.

Per the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Dec. 17 update to the K-12 COVID-19 Requirements for Summer 2021 and the 2021-2022 school year, masks are not required for athletes while practicing or competing in high-risk indoor sports or indoor cheerleading if they participate in the Department of Health’s Test to Stay program that requires three tests a week.

Ellensburg tested Jan. 3, Jan. 5 and Jan. 7 as part of its ongoing regimen, and the rest of the season approaches.

“I’m still hopeful we can have a postseason,” Eylar said. “It kind of looks like we may have to wrestle with restricted spectators or without them, but I think these kids deserve to have a postseason.”

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