Those three wins would give him a career mark of 165-14. More impressively, it will mean he would have ended his career on a 136-match winning streak.
Empey has made this year look easy, accumulating a 38-0 record, winning all but four matches by pin.
However, he won’t take any opponent lightly when he opens up the state tournament Friday at the Reno Livestock Events Center against Canyon Springs’ Fabian Leos. That’s been a key to his success.
“I hope he finishes this and gets his third one because it would sting for him. He wants it,” Reed wrestling coach Dan Barraza said. “He’s got to be smart and wrestle his match like he always does. That’s what makes him so good. He never overlooks anybody. The kid is on top of it. I think he will be able to get the job done.”
Barraza said he had not seen any of the wrestlers on Empey’s side of the bracket, but the top half has two quality opponents. Wooster senior Omar Torres lost to Empey last year in the state championship match via a third-round pin fall and Coronado senior Mackenzie Murphy placed fourth a year ago.
For the second straight year, Spanish Springs will send 10 wrestlers to state. Only nine count as potential scorers. Unfortunately for the Purple and White, that hasn’t translated to much success at the state tournament.
Last year, the Cougars finished in seventh place as a team after racking up 49 points. Of those 10 wrestlers, only two placed. Blake Nauman claimed second at 138 pounds and Austin Lee finished fourth at 113 pounds.
That’s been the trend at state for Spanish Springs though.
“I always feel good at the end of the year. We still have to wrestle it no matter how good I feel,” SSHS wrestling coach Joe Imelli said. “Looking at the brackets, we have some good draws. We’re hoping some kids will make the finals and some kids just place … I do like where we’re at, but you still have to show up and you still have to wrestle.
“We’re a pretty good team. I’m hopeful for good things. I’m hoping we will take that next step. We haven’t done it yet. I think if we’re somewhere battling for a Top 5 spot, that will be a good weekend for us.”
The Cougars will have two wrestlers competing at 113 pounds, North champion Ryan Long and runner-up Blake Boswell.
Spanish Springs has three other regional champions: 132-pounder Rito Hernandez, 182-pounder Tyler Beaulac and heavyweight Chase Hauder.
Imelli likes the draw for Long, Hernandez and Beaulac, saying those three are on the opposite side of the favorite from the South. The trio could win two matches and be in the championship.
Imelli also said he would like to see Hauder place. Hauder has gradually improved throughout the year, but the heavyweights from the South are tough.
Also for the Cougars, Brik Chesley is a second seed at 195 pounds, while Tyler Poalillo (120), Zach Perez (145), Justin Shaffer (160) and Anthony Walsh (220) all earned third place and the final qualifying spot at their weights.
Imelli said Green Valley is loaded and should be tough to beat with 11 potential scoring wrestlers. Liberty and Cimarron-Memorial are also strong contenders.
One other Raider will also represent the Blue and Gold at state. At 152 pounds, Erik Stockwell is the No. 3 seed from the North and will wrestle in a pig-tail bracket for a chance to wrestle Las Vegas’ Alexander Aniciete in the quarterfinals. Poalillo, Shaffer and Walsh will be in pig-tail matches for Spanish Springs.
In the D-1A state championships, Sparks will also have two representatives. Senior 145-pounder Mario Guadron will look to avenge a 9-5 loss to Lowry’s Brandon Okuma in last weekend’s regional championship match.
“We lost with takedowns,“ Sparks wrestling coach Ric Fehr said. “They’re wanting to wrestle us on our feet because they recognize that’s our weakest point. He’s got to overcome that. That’s what it will boil down to.”
Fehr thinks Guadron will be ready for a possible rematch. Luckily, the other wrestler Guadron has lost to this year (Fallon’s Trae Workman) is on the same side of the bracket as Okuma, so Guadron will only have to wrestle one of them. Fehr said they will prepare for both opponents, but a change in game plan might be needed in order to combat the opponents’ strategies.
“I think we can make some headway on that because Mario was a little more cautious this time and very defensive. He held off getting taken down more than he could have. The defense has gotten a lot better,“ Fehr said. “That may be our best chance, being a little more defensive and let stuff happen for us.”
Guadron will face Western’s Daniel Zelaya in his first match at state.
Also competing at state for the Railroaders is heavyweight David Valentine, who will take on Desert Pines’ Michael Cisneros in his opening match.