A young Spanish Springs squad is hoping to make the most of its mat time this winter and continue its reign as the most dominant team in the North. Reed is looking to find its identity under first-year coach Mike Klapp. And Sparks is working with a short-handed roster.
Like nearly all prep wrestling programs, the Raiders have used the extended holiday break and time before league matches to compete outside northern Nevada. Reed competed in Chico, Calif. last weekend.
The Raiders boasted fifth- and seventh-place team finishes in 16- and 20-team fields respectively.
“We’ve been competitive but I think we are certainly a different team than we were last year with the absence of Spencer (Empey),” Klapp said. “But we have some kids that are doing pretty well.”
Empey has been the face, and vocal leader for the Reed wrestling program and now competes at Cal Poly.
Klapp listed freshman Israel Casarez (120-pound class), Jake Otuafi (145) and Erik Stockwell (170) as his group’s most consistent wrestlers this season.
“It is a bit of an interesting thing being a first-year head coach and trying do that right,” Klapp said. “But they (the team) have been really receptive and I’ve had some supportfrom some good assistant coaches as well. I feel positive moving forward. I think we are improving each week.”
The rookie coach said continuing to teach his group to “wrestle correctly” and develop “good foundations” to make smart decisions on the mat will be points of emphasis moving into league meets.
The Raiders host McQueen next Wednesday in their second High Desert League dual of the season. They topped Hug a month ago.
For a program that has been a model of consistency, winning four of the last five North titles, Spanish Springs is treading in uncertain waters early this season, featuring a young roster.
“We have a lot of freshmen in our lineup right now and it’s about getting them some high school mat time,” Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli said. “We have been to a couple pretty tough tournaments. They’re coming along. We have some kids that are doing really well.”
Outside of an early-season HDL win over McQueen, who many believe could be the team to challenge the Cougs this winter, the Purple has competed in a number of large tournaments in preparation for what appears to be another playoff push.
“You see some different kids and you don’t know their names and don’t know how they did from youth so they can just kind of wrestle,” Imelli said. “You have to get away from seeing the same people every time.”
Among this year’s returners Imelli said he has been pleased with are: Tyler Poalillo (106-pound class), Brik Chesley (182) and Blake Boswell (132). But he said there is still plenty to improve upon heading into the middle of the season.
“With the younger guys who are used to youth wrestling, and having a lot of success, they have to understand they’re wrestling some seniors,” Imelli said. “We have to throw them into that fire and let them know what varsity wrestling is about and they’ve responded really well.”
The Cougars compete in a tournament Friday and Saturday hosted by Douglas High.
Sparks started the season with 11 wrestlers and is now down to single digits – nine.
With Washoe County’s new school calendar this year, the semester ended before the Holiday Break and a pair of wrestlers did not make grades. Sparks coach Ric Fehr added that his “middle weights are backed up so we don’t have a lot of team scores.”
Despite early season difficulties, senior Tymon Dozier (145-pound class) has won a pair of tournaments, claiming the Lowry Tournament title as well as the Lovelock Invitational crown.
“We are still working at building the program, trying to get the numbers, but we are having fun,” Sparks coach Rick Fehr said. “The kids are getting some success and we’re mostly young kids.”
Fehr said he enjoys his team’s ability to mix work with pleasure, saying his athletes enjoy their time on the mat but also work to improve daily.
With a freshman- and-sophomore-heavy group, Fehr said the biggest area he is stressing is simply putting his kids on the mat.
“The biggest thing we have is mat time. One of the biggest challenges we have is we don’t have any kids that have come through club wrestling per say,” Fehr said. “I try to take every opportunity to put them on the mat. If they are not in the right weight class, we have to bump them up, getting that mat time and that experience. That’s our main goal.”