For the first time ever, both Spanish Springs and Reed have legitimate shots at taking home a Northern 4A Regional championship at Reno High.
The two teams couldn’t be much different though, so it will be interesting to see which type of team has the edge in the tournament style atmosphere.
On one side, Spanish Springs is deep with talent, which helped it claim a fourth-straight High Desert League duals title. On the other hand, Reed, which only won one HDL dual this season, has several wrestlers who rack up big points and should be favorites to win their weight classes.
While coaches at both schools are excited to see which type of team will emerge victorious, it doesn’t matter how good their wrestlers are on paper if they don’t perform on the mat.
“We’ve got a shot, which is good. But we still have to go out and perform; every one of my guys has to,” Reed wrestling coach Dan Barraza said. “One guy can’t do it alone, so we need everyone to show up and wrestle. We’re excited. We’ve got a few potential state champs. We’ve got some big scorers, but it’s all about those wrestle-back points and those guys who are right on the edge. They need to step up that day.”
Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli shared similar sentiments.
“Where we’re tough in weights, those really have to come through. And in the weights we’re not predicted to do so well, those kids just have to win some matches,” Imelli said. “That gets us points that other teams don’t have the chance to get.”
One wrestler every fan should be on the lookout for is Reed sophomore Spencer Empey at 215 pounds, who has accumulated an undefeated 44-0 record this season. He’s ranked fourth in his class in the nation and 29th overall out of every class.
Another nationally-ranked wrestler for the Raiders is junior 189-pounder Broc Westlake. Like Empey, Westlake is the No. 1 seed from the High Desert League in his weight class.
Other No. 1 seeds for Reed are Todd Good at 125 pounds and heavyweight Jeremy Macauley. While senior Reece Dassinger is only the No. 2 from the HDL, he has battled his way back from a back injury, which has limited his mat time. He also spent time at 160 pounds while trying to cut weight.
Barraza believes if his guys wrestle to their potential, he could see as many six Raiders qualifying for state.
Spanish Springs only has two top-seeded wrestlers for regionals — 119-pounder Curtis Lampert and 152-pounder Garek Tauchen. But Barraza said the Cougars have a potential for a lot of wrestle-back points. With seeded wrestlers in all but two weight classes and enough wrestlers at all 14 weights, Spanish Springs can rack up points quick.
“Looking at our team quite honestly, I think we have the most scorers. I’m not taking away anything from other teams, but we have 14 kids and there are other schools that don’t,” Imelli said. “They might have six or seven kids who are outstanding, but they don’t have the rest of the team to score behind them. I feel good about the fact we’ll go in there as a team.”
Imelli said McQueen will go in there as a full team and realistically could send five kids into the finals. Imelli said Reed could have just as many finalists, but won’t have nearly as many wrestlers across the board.
The Cougars coach is looking forward to a few potential matches that involve some of his wrestlers. The big one a lot of people are anticipating is Lampert versus defending state champion Bo Bettinson of Reno High. The two rivals have split a pair of close matches this year.
Imelli is also curious to see what Tauchen can do after Dassinger and Damonte Ranch’s Zack Ewert dropped down to 152 pounds, making the weight class that much tougher.
At 140 pounds, Zach Perez is on the same side of the bracket as Sierra League top seed Kenny Nez of Damonte. Imelli believes Perez doesn’t get the respect he deserves because Reno’s Joey Lavallee receives a lot of attention, but Imelli wants to see if Perez can take down Nez in order to reach the finals.
Even Nikk Audenreid could be fun to watch at 189 pounds. Although he has lost to Westlake every time the two have faced off, Audenreid keeps telling his coach he wants another shot at Westlake.
•In the 3A, first-year Sparks coach Ric Fehr said he expects three of his wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament and a fourth has a good chance. That’s impressive considering the Railroaders only have six wrestlers on the squad.
Still, Fehr has enjoyed his first year at his alma mater.
“I’m really excited. I really enjoyed Sparks High this year. We had some ups and downs getting used to the new system, but I really have enjoyed the kids,” Fehr said. “Team contention, that’s a non-factor. We have to look at bigger things. I’m excited for them to have a chance to take the next step.”
Heavyweight Vance Bow has the best chance to do some damage at regionals and state. While he has lost to other Northern 3A wrestlers in his weight class, he came back and beat all of them to earn the top seed with an 8-0 record in league duals.
“In the past two weeks, he’s come back and beat them all. He’s growing in dominance,” Fehr said.
The other two wrestlers who have strong opportunities to place this weekend at Elko High are 119-pound freshman Tymon Dozier, who is seeded third and 130-pound sophomore Luis Aguilar. He’s seeded fifth in the tight weight class, but did qualify for state a year ago.