Behind a dominating performance in which 10 wrestlers punched a ticket to state, with four earning a regional crown, Spanish Springs took home its fourth Division I North Region crown in five years.
"I’m really proud of the boys," Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli said. "They wrestled as a team and everybody got points and added to the team win. They wrestled their best tournament of the year. We had kids that lost matches that still in their loss, I was proud of them because they wrestled their best match and just lost to a better kid. That was outstanding.”
Spanish Springs took the regional title in decisive fashion, finishing the region tournament with 222 team points. The second-place team, Carson, finished with 155 points, 67 behind SSHS.
Ryan Long started the Cougars' individual title run, taking down teammate Blake Boswell in overtime of their 113-pound match for a 2-0 victory. The win marked Long's second regional championship in back-to-back years.
“It kind of just felt like closure to my senior year,” Long said. “I still have state next week, but this is a good way to go into state. It’s a good feeling. As a team, we stayed focused, we won the matches we had to and we got pins. We did what we had to do. There’s really no better feeling than to end your senior year this way.”
Next on the championship mat for the Purple and Silver was 132-pounder Rito Hernandez. After falling behind 3-0, Hernandez used his opponents’ momentum to turn the tables. As his opponent drove him hard to the edge of the circle, Hernandez reversed that force to score a takedown as he tossed his opponent to the mat and held on for a second-round pin.
“It felt really good to get a championship my senior year,” Hernandez said. “I started off really slow and just didn’t feel like I was doing good, so I had to make up ground. I knew as soon as he was pushing into me that hard that I had him.”
Next up for the Cougars was Tyler Beaulac in the 182-pound match. Through the first two rounds, Beaulac dominated most of the match as he took a 5-2 lead. In the third round, Beaulac finished off the championship performance as he reversed out of a hold and grabbed a pin to seal the victory.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Beaulac said. “The team championship is an even better feeling. It’s not just one person that wins regionals, but a whole team. Everyone did their part and all the practice paid off. We all wrestled hard and I wish other people would have come out on top, too. I’m just glad I came out on top and to get a pin just sets up a whole other story for state.”
Spanish Springs’ heavyweight Chase Hauder then finished off the Cougars' day in fine fashion, grabbing a pinfall 43 seconds into his championship match.
“There’s no feeling like it,” Hauder said. “We’ve been working hard all season and for it all of it to come together and put it in place to win it is a great feeling. It’s awesome. Last year I got fourth and it was the worst feeling ever because I got to practice, but I didn’t get to wrestle at state. I’m just going to wrestle hard this week and be as ready as I can.”
Aside from the four SSHS regional champs, six others at state will also represent the Cougs at state. Boswell and Brik Chesley took second in the 113s and 195s, respectively, while Tyler Poalillo (120), Zach Perez (145), Justin Shaffer (160) and Anthony Walsh (220) all finished third in their respective weights.
“We still have to go at state. That’s the next thing we need to practice for,” Imelli said. “We want to crack that. Hopefully we have enough scorers and the kids wrestle the best tournament of their year next week.”
While the Cougars’ day was as good as it can get, Reed High was not as lucky as just two of its seven wrestlers that advanced to the second day of the tournament advanced to state. The Raiders finished in a tie for fifth place with 98.5 points.
One of the Raider wrestlers that will be representing the Blue and Gold at state will be 152-pounder Erik Stockwell, who grabbed a pin in the closing round of his third-place match.
Stockwell fell behind early in the bout as his opponent took a 6-3 edge by the end of the second round. Facing a three-point deficit, Stockwell battled his way back as he scored an escape and a take down before settling in for a pin to secure the berth to state.
“This is probably the best feeling ever,” Stockwell said. “I just knew I had to get out and make a move or it was over. Just to do it at zone is the best feeling. It is probably just one of the greatest moments of my life.”
Reed’s Spencer Empey will join Stockwell next week as the senior took home his third straight regional championship with a first-round pin. Empey also received the Sportsmanship of the Year award.
“It feels good. This was just the next step that I needed to take and I just had to go out there and perform. So to get a win feels good,” Empey said. “Now I just have to do the same things that I’ve been doing all season. I just have to train hard and stick to my same game plan and just be in good shape and be ready.”
In the Division I-A North, a pair of wrestlers qualified to represent Sparks at state next week.
Leading the way for the Railroaders will be 145-pound senior Mario Guadron, who grabbed a runner-up spot for the second season in a row. Guadron will be joined by SHS heavyweight David Valentine, who took a third-place finish.
The state championships are set for 1 p.m. Friday at the Reno Livestock Events Center.