“As a coach, it’s you strive for stuff like that, it’d be neat,” Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli said. “But more than anything, it’s nice for the kids at the school, the community, and people that have been out supporting this program.”
Cougar athletes agree that three consecutive conference crowns would only help the school’s reputation within the northern Nevada wrestling community.
“Our school hasn’t been this big until a couple years ago,” SSHS sophomore Curtis Lampert said. “I feel really good. I feel like our team is one of the powerhouses.”
The Cougars (13-5 overall duals, 4-0 HDL) have indeed been a powerhouse over the last two seasons. Imelli is now at the helm for his fourth season with the Cougars.
Two schools stand in the way of Spanish Springs and a potential HDL3-peat, McQueen and Reno High Schools .
“It’d mean pretty much everything (to get back-to-back-to-back championships),” Blake Myers said. “It means a lot that we’re earning a name for Spanish Springs.”
The Cougars are hopeful and working harder than ever this winter to achieve that goal of a league crown and another big showing at the Northern 4A Tournament next month.
“We’re just going one 110 percent all the time,” Spanish Springs senior Jes Sylvester said. “We’re just here to wrestle and try to get it done.”
The Cougars lost their first four duals of the year — all non-league duals — but have been on a 13-1 winning streak since the sluggish start.
“It’s been way more intense,” Myers said of this year. “The coaches try to get a lot more on the mental aspect of the sport which is good.”
No other Spanish Spring team has won three league championships in a row.
“You get into coaching because you still miss competition,” Imelli said. “You are no longer able to play football and wrestle. It’s the closest way you can get to competing. You always want to compete. Within the school, I strive for every program to be great in the school.”
According to student-athletes on the wrestling team, this year has proven to be more intense than in previous seasons.
“Our room seems more in tempo and more hard working because there’s a lot more seniors,” Sylvester said. “Coming off a year like we had last year winning regionals, we’re working twice as hard to get that next step.”
Lampert, only in his second year of varsity competition, agreed.
“It’s a lot more intense,” Lampert said. “It’s a little harder for me since I did so good last year and I want to keep going. I have some really good partners.”
The Cougars travel this weekend to get some work in at the Fernley tournament. One hurdle the Cougars are still trying to clear is getting a fully healthy team.
“We need to get some kids healthy,” Imelli said. “I don’t know what it’s like at other schools but it’s kind of hitting hard here. I’ve got a bit of it. There are some kids coming down with the sickness. It’s kind of hard wanting these kids to get all these matches.”
For the Cougars, this stretch of the season is a bit of a catch-22. The coaching staff wants the athletes to get in as many matches as they can to help their experience, but doesn’t want them wrestling sick or injured to prevent further complications.
The Cougars will battle in an HDL dual against McQueen on Wednesday.
“It’s back and forth, we need to get kids healthy and we need to get kids on the mat,” Imelli said. “If somebody gives me a miracle cure on how to get both of those at the same time I think we’d be in a great boat. Otherwise, time will tell about getting those kids ready.”
Spanish Springs competed against McQueen in a non-league dual earlier in the year and was able to capture a one-sided win.
After McQueen, the Cougars will take on Reno Feb 3. These two squads have not seen much of each other this season.
“They’re tough. I know that they want to get back after last year’s duel,” Imelli said of the Huskies. “We went over and our kids did an outstanding job over at their place to take the league title last year. I know they’d love nothing more than to come over here and try to return the favor.”