The Northern 4A Wrestling Championships begin on Friday, with Spanish Springs and Reed traveling to Carson City to chase a title while Sparks competes at Spring Creek in the Northern 3A event.
Leading the charge to the podium will be Spanish Springs, which is seeking its fourth straight Northern 4A crown after winning its fifth consecutive High Desert League title.
“Our expectations are the same every year,” Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli said. “We expect to compete for a regional title. I think anything less than that is not doing our kids or our program justice.”
Imelli said he will not be looking to one wrestler to carry the team, but expects a team effort keep the northern crown with the Cougars.
“I’m not expecting anything big from anyone individually, I’m just expecting us to compete as a team, as a whole. From the 14 scorers to our four extra guys, I’m expecting everyone to do their job, wrestle through the brackets and collect victories for the team.
“As far as individuals, I would say I really expect everybody to be wrestling well. There’s no one person that is going to win this regional title. It’s going to have to be 14 guys scoring in 14 weight classes. That’s why a team like Reno isn’t going to win a regional title. One guy can’t win it. We are expecting all 14 guys to get enough points for the team to have another regional title.”
The Purple and Teal are not the only ones with high expectations for the weekend.
“We’re going to have to wrestle hard,” Reed coach Dan Barraza said. “Spanish Springs is loaded. They’re the team to beat. If they have a bad day and we have a good day, we can be right there. We have some big scorers up high in those top three weight classes and we have some really tough little guys in the bottom three. If we can get a couple of these middleweights to come through for us, we’re right there with them and Carson.”
In order to end the reign of Spanish Springs, the Raiders will need big performances from some of their key wrestlers, including junior Spencer Empey (220) and senior Broc Westlake (195), both returning state champions.
“Obviously I expect big things from Spencer,” Barraza said. “He’s undefeated this year and ranked 12th in the country. I expect him to pretty much pin his way through this one on to state. The same with Broc. I feel like he should do the same. Honestly our heavyweight Jeremy McCauley too. I feel those guys should handle their business at zone and look onto state. I have great confidence in those guys.”
For Reed to stay in the fight for the title, Barraza said the team cannot have a slow start.
“We have to get to them. We have to have a good first round. We usually can finish strong, but we need to have a good first day. We didn’t have a good first day last season. We had an awesome second day, but had we had a good first day, we would have been right there with Spanish Springs and McQueen.
“It all depends on where you get drawn in and where you’re seeded. I feel like we’re doing our best wrestling right now so I feel like we’re peaking at the right time. If we get top three, I’d be satisfied. If we were lower than that, I’d be a little bummed out.”
As for the Cougars, while they are shooting for a fourth straight Northern 4A title, Imelli said he would be a satisfied as long as his team left it out all on the mat.
“You can’t determine success just by getting a title,” Imelli said. “We determine success by how our kids wrestle. We’ve preached all year long that we need to get ourselves ready for regionals and state. So if we wrestle the best we’ve wrestled all year and somebody else beats us, it’s still a success because that’s what our focus has been on, is wrestling our best right now and having our best tournament right now.
“We’ve had good practices and our focus has really changed since the start of January and it’s showed. They’ve really wrestled well this past month and gotten their minds in the right spot. We’ll take 14 guys into regionals and feed off of each other and hopefully come away with a regional title, but more importantly come away wrestling our best.We have no control over exactly how another team does except for in our individual matchups. If we wrestle our best and we’re not regional champions, I can live with that.”
In the 3A, Sparks will be represented by six wrestlers. Coach Ric Fehr has high goals for the squad that he is taking to Spring Creek
“My expectation and my goal is to get all six to qualify for the state tournament,” Fehr said. “If everybody just comes in and they wrestle their match and they set the momentum for each contest, we’ll be fine. We can’t get lured into somebody else’s pace or technique. If they wrestle their match, I believe that each of them can come out on top.
The Railroaders will look to a handful of wrestlers to lead the team at regionals.
“I expect a lot from Mario Guadron,” Fehr said. “He’s the one who did the best in the league duals, winning seven and losing one. Behind him is actually our heavyweight, David Valentine, who has picked up some momentum at the end of the year. Definitely the returners as well as Luis Aguilar and Tymon Dozier. There’s a lot of expectation there.”
For the Maroon and Gold to match Fehr’s expectations, they will have to rely on what they have learned this season.
“It’s tight for these guys. A lot of them are on the border of competition and qualifying. I believe that if they grab a hold of everything that they’ve invested that they can achieve their goals. It’s wrestling. We haven’t seen the brackets yet or who they’re going to face in what order. I won’t be disappointed as long as the kids wrestle up to their full potential, which they have been. They’re really peaking at the right time. I look forward to it. It’s going to be a good competition.”