Last week at the Sierra Nevada Classic, the largest high school wrestling tournament in the country, those three Raiders showed Reed might be a force to be reckoned with come regional tourney time.
The Blue and Gold finished in a tie for 14th place out of 95 schools from four states. Reed was the highest placing 4A Nevada school at the tournament. Only Lowry and Spring Creek of the 3A finished ahead of Reed for Silver State bragging rights.
Leading the way for the Raiders in that trio was sophomore 215-pounder Spencer Empey. Ironically, Empey is the only one of the three who didn’t qualify for state last season, but he is enjoying the best season this year.
Empey is undefeated at 24-0 after rolling to six straight victories last week and has won the Tournament of Champions and SNC.
“I just go out and work hard every match. You can’t underestimate any opponent,” Empey said.
Senior Reece Dassinger was the only wrestler to place at state last year for the RHS grapplers. This winter, he’s been battling through a back injury he suffered shortly before the season started. He basically hyper extended his back and two bones broke off.
Reed coach Dan Barraza said they will use him sparingly the rest of the year in order to keep him healthy and as pain-free as possible for regionals. At the regional tournament a year ago, Dassinger placed second at 152 pounds to qualify for state in back-to-back years.
It’s been a tough senior campaign so far for Dassinger. He had wrestled one match prior to the SNC. He then reached the fifth-place match at 160 pounds but took an injury default as a precaution, so he placed sixth.
Dassinger looked strong to that point, recording two pins as well as a 15-0 tech fall over Carson’s Nicolas Garcia in the quarterfinals to reach the semis.
“I just have to stay focused and get as much out of each practice as I can,” Dassinger said. “I need to get my endurance to where it needs to be this late in the season.”
Rounding out the trio is junior Broc Westlake, the only other returning state qualifier for Reed. Westlake was close to reaching the championship of the 189-pound weight class at the SNC.
However, in the final four, he lost an 11-10 decision to Roman Ermalov of Terra Linda, the eventual champion. Westlake fell into the consolation bracket and advanced to the third-place match with Bellarmine’s Danny Chaid. Chaid tried to score points and then stall as much as possible. Although he lost a point using that tactic, the strategy worked as he secured a 5-3 decision over Westlake.
At the Tournament of Champions, Westlake (22-4) also reached the semifinals of the championship bracket before losing and then settling for fifth place.
“It’s been a lot of fun just being able to wrestle with two of my best friends,” Westlake said. “Especially since Reece will be leaving next year, we just have to make the most out of it.”
At the mid-December event, Reed placed 29th at the ToC, one point ahead of Fallon to finish as the top Nevada school.
The success at these prestigious events has Barraza thinking Reed could be a team that could knock Spanish Springs off its wrestling throne next month when Reno High hosts the regional tournament.
“I think these guys are realizing what I’ve been saying,” Barraza said. “We had some of the puzzle pieces, but we just had to put them together. We just have to get our lighter weight guys to step up to the plate. Our heavyweight is getting to where he needs to be and developing skills. I think we’re going to be one of those teams right in the mix.”