South Tahoe wrestlers place 10th at Cody Louk Invitational; Valney, Herrera capture gold medals
WINNEMUCCA, Nev. — The South Tahoe wrestling team made the most of a long trip through wintry conditions last weekend, Dec. 11-12. The Vikings placed 10th at the Cody Louk Invitational hosted by Lowry High, highlighted by senior Michael Valney and junior Andrew Herrera finishing undefeated in five matches over a two-day span. "This tournament draws top schools from all levels in Nevada, Idaho and Oregon," Vikings JV head coach Ryan Wallace said. "It is not pretty, it is a test of fortitude." Valney (132 pounds) and Herrera (195) each won gold medals at the invitational held at the Winnemucca Events Center. Freshman Jose Leon (160) wrestled to a fourth-place finish while senior Blair Binns (220) made the podium with a sixth-place result. In the 132-pound weight class, Valney wrestled as the second seed. He used explosive offense and capitalized on his mistakes to pin four of his five opponents, and reached the finals with wins over wrestlers from Yerington, Elko, Reno (Nev.) and Pershing County. In the championship, Valney wrestled against Lowry's Trace Bell. In the past two seasons, Bell had beaten Valney twice — but the South Tahoe standout reversed the result. After a 4-3 first period, Valney took control of the match by scoring eight points and only allowing one-point escape in the second period. In the third, Valney turned Bell twice to seal a 17-4 victory that delivered the first gold medal of his high school career. "He was better in every position and thoroughly outworked an extremely tough kid who had not lost a match this year," Wallace said. "The most important thing is that he showed the uncommon mental toughness required to stay focused in an environment like that." Herrera used his trademark physicality and defense to finish atop the 195-pound weight class at the invitational. The junior used three quick pins to reach the semifinals, where he prevailed after Pershing County's Ty Arnett suffered an apparent collarbone injury. In the finals, Herrera took to the mat against top-seeded Conner Sievers from Carson (Carson City, Nev.). Sievers dominated each of his opponents on the way to the finals, but had no answer for Herrera's intensity. Herrera had a 2-0 lead after the first period, withstanding multiple takedown attempts and capitalizing on an ill-advised throw attempt with 15 seconds left. The Vikings standout had a 4-0 advantage in the second period when he beat the whistle with a pin that delivered the victory. "Andrew works harder year round than any kid I've seen — he does that to eliminate any doubt that he has earned his results," Wallace said. "It is amazing what can be accomplished when the mind takes control of doubt." Leon finished fourth in a loaded 160-pound weight class that featured Div. I and I-A contenders. The freshman used focus and aggression to reach the semifinals, where he lost 13-5 to Cole Drescher of Spanish Springs (Sparks, Nev.). After losing in the semis, Leon gutted out a 6-5 victory over Osvaldo Ponce of North Valleys (Reno, Nev.). In the consolation finals, he fell 6-5 in a gritty match against Blake Murray of Douglas (Minden, Nev.) — the third straight matchup against a Div. I opponent. "He has a remarkable single-mindedness," Wallace said of Leon. "He makes mistakes but doesn't let them negatively influence his next decision." Binns finished sixth in the 220-pound class, and made a lasting impression on his opponents at the tournament. In the semifinals, the senior came out strong against eventual champion Mikeas Summers of Lowry, but aggravated a knee injury that led to three straight defeats. "Blair put his strength behind good technique, and his dominance in the early rounds earned him the medal," Wallace said. "Even at 220s where everybody is strong, when Blair is at his best his power is overwhelming." South Tahoe took six additional wrestlers to the event, five freshmen and one sophomore that were all unseeded. Kai Poletti (120) went 1-2 while Kody Griffis (106), Skyler Bledsoe (113), Troy Gerrard (113), Chris Chacon (160) and George Rohrbacher (182) each finished winless. "Each of our guys had the opportunity to wrestle a top-tier guy," Wallace said. "You just hope they can absorb the lessons a challenge like that can teach." The Vikings return to action at home on Wednesday, Dec. 16, when they host a dual meet against Dayton and Truckee in the Gold Gym. The meet is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.