“For us, it’s just go back to work,” Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli said. “There’s no other way to go about it. Each year as a group we expect to win league. We expect to compete for the regional title and we expect to do well at state. We’ve been able to do two of the three pretty successfully, but we’ve yet it to take it up to the state level. We’re expecting to do the same things. Take care of league. Take care of regionals. But we need to up the ante and get ourselves ready for state, which has alluded us. So I think there’s a drive from the kids to work harder. We’re not too worried about having an ‘X’ on our back, we’re trying to keep going forward.”
Leading the Spanish Springs effort to try to achieve these goals will be a group of returners who helped the Cougars win their third Northern 4A championship in a row.
“The nice thing is we’ve got a good team of leaders coming back,” Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli said. “Curtis Lampert, Blake Naumann, Zach Perez, and Austin Lee are four guys I think will be able to do well as leaders on the team this year. As leaders of the group, they need to make sure that the needs are fulfilled, which is a good workout room. Your best team leaders, your best guys that go forward are ones that get the room to be at a high level. They don’t always have to be vocal. They can be leaders by example, by work ethic. By doing that, our room should be one of the tougher rooms around.”
The Cougars will begin the defense of their title with their first league dual meet, Dec. 14.
- Reed Raiders -
•Despite the current Spanish Springs reign, one team that is aiming at derailing the Cougars and taking the throne for itself will be Reed. The Raiders have watched their rival dominate the mats in recent years and that’s a driving force for the new season.
“That’s definitely some motivation,” Reed coach Dan Barraza said. “They’re our rival. They’re three-time champions. They’re a tough school. We haven’t been able to beat them in a dual since I think my senior year, and that was almost the first year they opened. So we really want to compete with them.”
A difficult task to achieve in itself, the goal of knocking off the Cougars has already hit a speed bump for the Raiders early on. That’s because the RHS numbers have been down without football athletes, who just finished their season last weekend in the state final.
“We just got in the room this week, Barraza said. “It’s been really tough. Pretty much 90 percent of my returners were on that team. A lot of the guys are banged up, mentally and physically. It’s just a battle early on to get them ready.”
Two key members of the group that Barraza will look to lead the Raiders are junior Spencer Empey (215) and senior Broc Westlake (189), both returning state champs. Empey was perfect on the mat last season, going 50-0 on his way to a state title and being named the Northern 4A’s Upper Weight Wrestler of the Year.
“Definitely my two returning state champions,” Barraza said. “They went and won the tournament last year. I’m hoping that the other guys will follow their lead and build off of last year. They’re really tough, really hard workers and hopefully the guys will look at that.”
With Empey and Westlake leading the way, the goals are high for the Raiders.
“I think we’ll be in the running for a regional title this year,” Barraza said. “I really want to improve in duals. We were terrible in duals last year, but we did good in individual tournaments. We just need to be a little more balanced this year and I think we can make a run at each one of those titles.”
Reed’s first league dual meet is set for Dec. 14.
- Sparks Railroaders -
•Last season Ric Fehr took over the Sparks wrestling program. Now in his second year as coach, Fehr is excited about building on the progress that the Railroaders made last season.
“Last year was awesome,” Fehr said. “We got every Sparks athlete to the state tournament. Although we only finished with six last season, all six qualified. We only have nine wrestlers fielded right now in nine weight classes. I would like to see each one of those competitors have the best season that they can have. That means, in my opinion, state medals.”
Three key returning wrestlers that Fehr will look to set an example will be Luis Aguilar, Mario Guadron and Tymon Dozier.
“They are some of the key athletes that we have,” Fehr said. “They have some leadership. They come in and set the pace.”
Michael Arevalo and David Valentine, a heavyweight transfer, could also have an impact.