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Spanish Springs wins share of North crown
by Dan Eckles
Feb 12, 2011 | 1402 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs 135-pounder Blake Nauman (foreground) finished second in his weight class.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs 135-pounder Blake Nauman (foreground) finished second in his weight class.
The Spanish Springs wrestling team was faced with a big obstacle when the Northern 4A Regional Wrestling Tournament kicked off Friday. When all was said and done after Day 2 action Saturday night, Spanish springs had come through in fine fashion, winning a share of the regional title, its third straight large-school North title.

Spanish Springs wrestling coach Joe Imelli found out three of his 14 wrestlers did not make weight and would not be able to compete in the regional event. That nearly cost his club a championship.

Spanish Springs and McQueen shared the regional championship trophy as both accumulated 144 points in the two-day tournament.

"I'm not going to take anything away from our kids who competed," Imelli said. "They worked their tails off to even give us a chance. We still won a third straight regional championship. That has not happened in a long time.

"To be honest, obviously it was frustrating to lose those three guys, but we had 11 other guys pick up the slack and I'm so proud of them."

Spanish Springs will send seven wrestlers to next weekend's state championship, which it will host.

A trio of Cougars advanced to the championship, but settled for second place as all three fell short of winning a North title. At 119 pounds, Reno's Bo Bettinson took a 9-3 decision over Spanish Springs' Curtis Lampert.

In the 135-pound final, Spanish Springs Blake Nauman lost after a first-round pin by Damonte Ranch's Drew Smith.

Spanish Springs' 189 pounder, Nikk Audenreid also reached the final before losing a 4-3 decision to Reed's Broc Westlake.

In addition to the Cougars' three runner-up wrestlers, who earn state berths, the SSHS squad will send four more to state who earned third-place finishes. The top three wrestlers from each weight class get invitations to the state meet.

Zach Perez (140 pounds), Garek Tauchen (152 pounds), Chayce Morby (160 pounds) and JJ Phenix (215 pounds) comprised the group of Spanish Springs' third-place finishers.

"When you get the news we got yesterday (about three wrestlers missing weight), it would have been an opportunity to shut it down," Imelli said. "We could have said, 'we're behind the 8-ball. I'll just worry about myself.' But our kids didn't do that."

Spanish Springs' cross-town rival, Reed, may not have had the depth in its roster that the Cougars had, but the Raiders experienced nearly as much success on the weekend. Reed finished fourth in the team-score tally (111 points), but the Raiders qualified five wrestlers for state and three of them took home championships in their respective weight classes.

"I'm pleased with our finish," Reed coach Dan Barrazza said. "We got started a little slow Friday, but we picked it up."

Reed's 152-pounder, Reece Dassinger, was the first Rail City athlete on the night to win his weight class. He did so with a second-round pin of Reno's Sam Gill in the title match.

The aforementioned Westlake also won his 189-pound weight class for Reed. Westlake's weekend performance was all the more impressive, considering he was fighting back emotions after his mother was rushed to the hostpital via ambulance.

"It was hard for that to happen right before the finals," Westlake said. "But I'm definitely focused on next week. I've got to push through for one more week."

The other Raiders' winner was 215-pounder Spencer Empey. The talented wrestler captured an 11-5 win over McQueen's Tyson Otuafi in the championship match. Empey has not lost at all this winter season.

"I'm always working to get better," he said. "I had to keep my composure after he got that first takedown and not let up."

In the heavyweight final, Reed's Jeremy Macauley had to settle for a runner-up finish after losing a tight 7-6 decision to McQueen's Moses Katoa.

Reed's fifth state tourney qualifier is 103-pounder Gavin Chickering, who finished third in his weight class.

•At the Northern 3A regional wrestling championships, Sparks finished seventh among the nine competing schools. The Railroaders racked up 45 team points, well back of champion Lowry's 264.

Sparks did not have an athlete finish in the top three places in any weight class. Tymon Dozier (fourth at 119 pounds) and Vance Bow (fifth at heavyweight) were the Railroaders' top two individual finishers.

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