Sophomore Spencer Empey’s performance at 215 pounds sent the Raiders well on their way to achieving that goal.
Empey went head-to-head with Malique Micenhiemer of McNair, who had pinned each of his first five opponents, in the championship of the weight class and came away with a 12-7 victory to follow up his recent Tournament of Champions title. Empey is now 28-0 on the year.
“He’s having an amazing year. He works really hard,” Barraza said of Empey. “He’s very hard to wrestle. He’s very good in scrambles. He has nasty legs, and he’s quick. It’s amazing, he’s just having an awesome year.”
Empey wasn’t the only other Raider to perform well in the two-day event held at the Reno Livestock Events Center.
Junior 189 pounder Broc Westlake had a chance to take home third place but gave up two points in the final 30 seconds of the third round to Bellarmine’s Danny Chaid and lost 5-3, settling for fourth place.
Reed senior Reece Dassinger made a run to the semifinals before being pinned in the second period. He then lost his first consolation match 10-3 to Jim Wilson of McNair. Dassinger had only wrestled one match prior to this tournament due to injury and he injury defaulted in his fifth-place match, taking sixth at 160 pounds.
The Blue and Gold had one more grappler reach the second day of competition. Heavyweight Jeremy McCauley lost his first match Tuesday when he had to face a top seed. He then rattled off four straight pins to reach the second day. However, McCauley lost his first match Wednesday and was eliminated.
Reed finished in a tie for 14th as a team.
“Our team is more together this year than I’ve ever seen. They’re good kids. I love coaching them, so it’s fun for me,” Barraza said.
Spanish Springs had two wrestlers survive until Day 2.
Junior 119 pounder Curtis Lampert looked to be the most promising to place for the Cougars. After winning his first match of the classic with a 15-0 tech fall, he pinned his next two opponents, only to lose 4-2 and 7-3 decisions. He missed out on placing by one round.
Garek Tauchen, though, made an incredible run through the consolation bracket to place sixth for the Purple and White.
Tauchen dropped into the consolation bracket after his second match but then won his next four matches via pinfall to stay alive. He earned back-to-back decisions to build a six-match win streak before falling 4-3 in a match that would have sent him into the third-place match.
Tauchen still had a shot to take fifth place against Gianpier Yanez of Servite. Yanez dominated the match en route to a 17-2 tech fall victory, sending Tauchen to sixth place.
“Garek did a nice job. I’m really happy for him,” SSHS wrestling coach Joe Imelli said. “For a guy who ended last season with mono and couldn’t wrestle through regionals and state, he’s wrestled real well. He battled back through the consolation bracket and did a good job. He got a lead on some kids and stayed after them. He came in with the intention to wrestle really well today.”
Still, Imelli was a little disappointed only two of his wrestlers reached the second day.
“It’s a tough tournament. I think they said there are around 100 teams and it’s 64-man brackets. But absolutely I’m a little disappointed,” he said after the first day of action. “Our expectations are to perform well as a team as well as individuals and to get into that second day. We’ve got some young guys who had some tough matches. But this is the Sierra Nevada Classic.
“It will help us get ready for our ultimate goal which is regionals. You’ve got to have some tough matches. I would have liked to see some kids finish. That last round (Tuesday) we had three or four kids who had the lead, but ended up losing.”