“You’re going to be facing some of the top kids in the country,” Reed coach Dan Barraza said. “I think six of the top 50 schools in the country will be there and almost every weight has a couple of nationally ranked kids in it. They’re going to have to do all the little things. You can’t give the other guy an inch because if you do he’s going to take it and then it’s done. At this level, you have to fight for every little position. It’s a game of inches. You give that other guy one opening and these guys take it. You can’t make mistakes here.”
While each mistake will be magnified on the stage at the TOC, it is a challenge that both the Raiders and the Cougars are looking forward to.
“I want to see them compete,” Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli said. “We have a lot of seniors and upperclassmen in this group and I want to see them compete with the higher level kids. This is a top level tournament and they’ve really focused on getting some good teams back this year so it’s going to be really tough competition.
“I want to see how we do against those guys and see if we’re progressing. We’re three weeks into the season. The thing we’ve preached is always getting ourselves ready for regionals and state so this is another good opportunity to wrestle against some good kids and get ourselves going in the right direction.”
Barraza said he hopes the tournament can have the same type of impact on his team as well.
“For our team the most important thing is just to see the intensity and how hard these top guys work,” he said. “Some of these teams are phenomenal and they bring the intensity that it takes to be one of the top teams in the country.
“We’ve been doing a lot of different drilling this week to try to prepare them. We tried to change things up a little bit and get more physical and just moving more. We definitely have to step our game up for this tournament. We’ve been working them really good and getting them ready for this.”
One wrestler in particular for the Raiders who is especially looking forward to the tournament is senior Spencer Empey, who will be taking the mat having won the past two TOCs. While Empey will be one of the elite wrestlers at the tournament, the rest of the student-athletes representing the local prep teams will be using the matches as a measuring tool for the rest of the season.
“The kids are excited because it’s a tough tournament. We don’t have like a Spencer Empey or a top-ranked level kid, but we have a few kids who should fare well,” Imelli said. “We do have a very good team across the board, so I’m not sure how we fare as far as individual placing, but I’d like to see our team as a whole make it through to the next day and competing well overall.
“I’d be happy if we got everybody through to the second day. I want to see them get into those types of matches and see how they battle to advance each round. It won’t be easy. Even if we end up on the wrong side of it, if they’re pushing to win those matches then we’re heading in the right direction.”
While the two Division-I schools in the Sparks area will be competing in the Tournament of Champions, Sparks High will be at the Lovelock Tournament. It is an event that Railroaders’ coach Ric Fehr said he plans to use as a tune up for his wrestlers. With many of the top teams from northern Nevada taking part in the TOC, he also believes his squad should achieve plenty of success this weekend.
“The level that we’re going to be wrestling at, I think we ought to be able to perform pretty well,” Fehr said.” I expect us to do well. Mario Guadron is undefeated so far. He’s 12-0 at 152 pounds against some pretty solid athletes, so I’m looking for him to do well. David Valentine and Tymon Dozier should do pretty well too.”
Fehr will be counting on his upperclassmen to set a good example during the tournament for the rest of the team, starting with the correct techniques on the mat.
“I want to see us apply technique and use our conditioning to our advantage,” Fehr said. “We have 16 people on the team and eight are underclassmen and first-year wrestlers, so we’ve been doing a lot of work as far as technique. I’m hoping we’ll be able to see the conditioning come through. Some of these kids haven’t won a match yet, so I’m hoping that they’ll get some success and I think we should see it.”