Unfortunately for SSHS wrestling fans, after the weekend’s Northern 4A Championships, hosted at Carson High, the Cougars no longer wear the crown.
Down 203.5-194 to Carson in team points heading into the championship bouts, the Purple and Teal was poised to yet again extend its reign with six wrestlers battling for a championship in their respective weight class.
From the start, it looked as though Spanish Springs would not relinquish its hold and win its fourth team championship in a row.
Ryan Long started the day off strong for the Cougars, as two take downs were good enough for him to earn a regional title in the 106-pound weight class. The win started a run of regional victories for Spanish Springs over the next three weight classes that it had representatives competing in.
At 113, Austin Lee grabbed a second-round fall when he pinned his opponent with 28 seconds remaining on the clock.
In the 120s, Curtis Lampert used a reversal in the second round of his match to grab a 2-0 decision and the Northern 4A title.
“My match today, I was pretty nervous going into it,” Lampert said. “I did what I needed to. When I got the reversal that gave me the confidence to pull out the match and get the victory. As a freshman I won state and so that’s what I’m looking for now. I really don’t want to accept anything less than a state title.”
The highlight of the tournament may have come in the 138-pound match when Blake Nauman narrowly won as he used an escape in the final 20 seconds of his match to take his weight class.
“Pretty much, I was thinking to myself, ‘I have to get out now, because if I don’t, practice will not be fun next week,’” Nauman said. “I just had to get out, otherwise I wouldn’t win. I knew going into it that it was going to be a tough match and that it’d be close. We had a game plan going in. I just stayed tough and pulled it out. I don’t think words describe how stoked I am. My heart’s racing like a million miles an hour and I’m just excited to go to state and compete. I think I have a pretty good chance of placing (at state).”
Still, the four individual regional victories were not enough to retain the team title as Carson just barely edged out the Cougs, winning the Northern 4A championship 215.5-212.
“Carson did a great job with their opportunities,” Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli said. “They had kids that maybe weren’t expected to place but ended up winning. So congratulations to them. There was some good wrestling here. It was a lot of fun. It’s why you wrestle. It’s what we talked about all year long, getting ready for regionals and state.
“I thought our kids wrestled really well. We had six in the finals and that’s the most we’ve ever had. We had four champions. We’re going to take 10 to state and we’re even going to take an extra to state and that’s the first time that has ever happened. So I’m really proud of our kids. They battled and that’s all we talked about, making it our best tournament. Our kids wrestled well. Now we’ll turn our attention to state and try to wrestle our best tournament of the year.”
Aside from the regional winners, Spanish Springs will also be represented by Tyler Poalillo (113), Joei Jones (126), Austin Yohey (132), Zach Perez (145), Jaycob Jones (160), and Brik Chesley (170).
For Imelli, once state is over the attention will turn straight to next season and taking back the Northern 4A crown.
“I know I’ll be hungry. If our kids aren’t hungry then we’re not doing something right. There should be a little fire to them as we get to our summer wrestling and into next season,” Imelli said.
•For the other Rail City team in Carson this weekend, Reed was represented in the finals by a trio of wrestlers — in the last three weight classes and each wound up taking the title.
In the 195s, defending state champion Broc Westlake took a 13-5 major decision to defend his North title.
The Raiders other defending state champion, Spencer Empey, took the 220-pound crown and improved his record this season to an unblemished 42-0 via a 14-1 major decision. For Empey, the perfect record is still a little tough to grasp.
“Yeah, I don’t know what to say about it,” Empey said. “It’s a pretty big number. I just know that I can’t take any matches light since each time it could be a loss. So I just go out there and try my hardest no matter who it is. This is the step before state so you have to take it serious and give it everything you’ve got because this determines where they seed you in state. I’m trying to follow what I did last year. I want to stay undefeated and get a state championship.”
Reed coach Dan Barraza is not surprised by the streak though.
“With his will and his mind, it isn’t a shock,” Barazza said. “He is so determined. He had a close match earlier this year and pulled it off in the last 20 seconds. He’s just a hard worker. You can see it in his eyes when he’s out there. He just really gets after it.”
The Blue and Gold capped off the championship tournament with a heavyweight title for Jeremy Macauley who won with a second-round pin.
“It was a good tournament,” Barraza said. “We won some matches we were supposed to and lost a couple that we should have won. Overall I’m happy with the team. We got third place with a real young team and a lot of freshman in our lineup. This was a good experience for them. We’ll be back next year right at the top again.
“Every year our goal coming in is a regional and state title. Some things didn’t go our way this year but we’ll be right back here for next year. This is a great learning tool for them. Now we’ll go onto state and try to do really well there. We’ve got some good big scorers. We took sixth last year, so I expect to be in the top 10 again.”
For the Raiders, their three big scorers will lead the way to state along with a fourth qualifier in 120 pounder Jake Otuafi, just as they have all season long.
•The Sparks wrestling team will also be represented by four wrestlers at state as four out its six repsentatives placed at the Northern 3A Championships in Spring Creek this weekend.
The Railroaders will send Luis Aguilar (138), Mario Guadron (145), Michael Aravelo (152) and heavyweight David Valentine to Las Vegas for the state finals.
Guadron had best finish for the Maroon and Gold, placing second in his weight class, falling to Gus Duncan of Lowry. The Buckaroos also took the Northern 3A team title with 301.5 points. Sparks finished 7th overall with 55 points.