Expectations within the program also remain unchanged despite losing eight seniors to graduation.
“As far as our team, nothing changes and nothing should change in terms of our mentality,” SSHS wrestling coach Joe Imelli said. “We still have the same goals, winning league, winning regionals and pushing for state. We’ve done the first two, but we haven’t cracked that third one as far as pushing for state. Hopefully we’ll keep pushing until we get to that.”
The only returning regional champ for the Cougars is junior Curtis Lampert, who has won his weight class the past two seasons. Last year he placed third at state at 103 pounds.
This season Lampert will likely wrestle in the 119-pound weight class.
“He obviously leads our team without a doubt with what he brings to the table for us,” Imelli said. “He’s a great competitor. We’re really going to look to him to lead by example for us this year.”
Imelli said seniors Sean Hubbard (152) and Garek Tauchen (160) will also be relied upon heavily to lead the young team and expects them to perform well on the mat.
Nikk Audenreid (189) should be a big force when he returns from his foot injury he suffered during football season. JJ Phoenix (215), Austin Lee (112) and Zach Perez (140 range) will also be looked upon to score some points for the Purple and White.
“Those are some pretty key kids for us who are young, but I think as the year goes on, will see some really good things out of,” Imelli said. “We really don’t have the eight seniors that we had last year. We have two or three seniors who are breaking into the lineup and a lot of younger guys.”
Imelli believes it will be a big challenge going for a three-peat at regionals. Not only did the eight seniors leave lineup spots open, but the Cougars also have to replace their work ethic.
“Losing seniors like that hurts a lot, but in order to establish a tradition, I think you have to graduate seniors out and bring in new kids to allow them the opportunity to succeed,” Imelli said. “I think we have a young group that can fill in those shoes nicely. Whether we’re doing it out of the first couple weeks is not a big deal. We just need to progress and get ready for regionals.”
Spanish Springs opens the season at a duals tournament in Vacaville, Calif. Friday and Saturday this week.
One of the teams looking to knock off Spanish Springs from its throne is Reed.
“We want to accomplish our small goals, win the High Desert League and beat Spanish Springs because they’re the top dog,” Reed coach Dan Barraza said. “One of my big goals is to beat them. Hopefully that will happen. Hopefully we can get some guys healthy and get the younger guys where they need to be so we can be in the running for a regional title.”
Junior Broc Westlake (189) is a returning state qualifier and placed at the Reno Tournament of Champions. However, he did not place at the state tournament last year.
Senior Reece Dassinger did place at state as he took home a third-place finish in the 152-pound weight class. But Dassinger hurt his back and is out for at least the first half of his final season at Reed High.
Sophomore Spencer Empey (215) is also expected to do well after playing varsity football this season, while junior David Hibler is strong and could do well also.
“We look a lot stronger than last year,” Barraza said. “Most of my team was underclassmen and now most of my team is upperclassmen. It’s kind of nice because this is my third year at Reed, so now I’ve had those freshmen for three years. We have a lot more depth in the lower weights as well as the upper weights. I’m looking forward to my second season as head coach.”
Barraza said he pretty much was learning on the fly last year, but feels a lot more prepared and organized in his second season.
The Raiders start off the season with a dual tournament Saturday in Grass Valley, Calif.
In his first season coaching his alma mater, Ric Fehr has had to deal with all the logistical issues in taking over a program, so he’s a little behind where he wants to be right now. Still, he likes what he sees from his wrestlers at this point in the early season.
“We’re coming along pretty well making progress. We’re pretty well stacked in the middle-upper weights,” Fehr said. “We’re getting assessed today so I’m not really sure where everyone will fall weight wise. But there’s 12 of them out there. If we can get them into upper weights, it will be pretty good. There aren’t any light ones out there.”
The Railroaders only have two returners from last year. Senior Brett Ezell and sophomore Luis Aguilar are back. Both are looking to be strong in the middleweights.
“Both of them are hard workers and very talented,” Fehr said. “We have some promising sophomores. There are quite a few freshmen.”
Sparks will have to compete this year without two-time regional champion John Stralla, who transferred following his junior year at Sparks High.
Fehr is looking forward to achieving his team goals and start the process of building the Railroader program into a contender. He said having the kids adjust to his coaching philosophy has been the biggest challenge, but the attitude of the kids and the support from the administration has been great.
“My team goal is hard for me to say. One goal is to fill every weight class. That’s close, but if you don’t shoot for the stars, you’re not going to get very high,” Fehr said. “The other thing is I think we could have eight qualifiers for state and a few medals. I think that’s a reasonable goal. I think we could get three kids placing at state based on what I’ve seen.”
Sparks is at the Yerington tournament Saturday.