Photo courtesy of Banks School District
BANKS – Banks High School senior wrestler JJ Ellis won the Oregon 4A 220-pound state championship at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum on February 23.
This marks Ellis’ second state title in as many years with the Braves.
“(Winning the state title) was a goal this year for sure,” Banks wrestling coach Dan Herb said. “He’s the returning state champion and we kind of expected he’d win a second time. He was ranked No. 1 all year.”
Ellis, who won the final match by a score of 3-0, said his opponent, third-seeded Spencer Gerst from La Grande High School, was slippery on the mat.
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“He was different, that’s for sure,” Ellis said. “My game plan was to get him down and turn him over because my top game is my best, but I just couldn’t turn him. So, all I could do was ride him out.”
Ellis said his only take-down of Gerst, which came at the beginning of the match, felt “light and effortless.”
“All I can remember, looking back now, is that it was really smooth,” he said. “I can’t really explain it — it just felt … different. After that, it was really a matter of who had more endurance.”
Herb said that although the score was 3-0 at the end of the match, it really wasn’t as close as the score seems to indicate.
“He controlled the match,” Herb said. “(Gerst) never even really threatened to score.”
Ellis said it’s funny to win a state title for the second year in a row because right after the match he felt great but within two minutes of winning he realized he has to do the same thing all over again next year. If he does win his third-straight state 4A wrestling championship it would be the sixth wrestling title in Banks High School history, and the first three-peat for the Braves.
Ellis said he starts every season with a goal in mind and puts in the work and time to achieve that milestone, but this year was different.
“When it comes to wrestling, or any sport you like, you have to be wrestling for something,” Ellis said. “It could be a goal, it could be for someone — it could be anything. The support I got from my friends and family was what I was wrestling for. There have been some personal issues I’ve been dealing with this year, and my friends supported me through the whole thing. That really helped me to continue wrestling, so I was wrestling for them, my mom, and my coaches. I should mention my friend Thomas Cook. He was always there for me when I needed someone to talk to. He’s also my wrestling partner, and he helped me achieve my goal.”
Ellis finished the 2018-19 wrestling season with a 40-1 record.
Banks Athletic Director Ben Buchanan said Ellis’s second state title gives the community something to be proud of.
“This community values excellence and JJ has optimized that the last three years,” Buchanan said. “He also gives our young wrestlers someone to look up to. Being a state champion is tremendously difficult and proves that the grind of a wrestling season is worth it.”