Spanish Springs edges Carson for regional wrestling title
RENO – A year ago, Carson High sent just one wrestler – Nick Schlager to the 4A state championships.
This year, Carson will send seven wrestlers, including regional champion Schlager, to next weekend’s state meet at UNLV.
Patrick Craugh (second, 103), Nico Garcia (second, 145), Luke Carter (second, 189), Justin Barlow (third, heavyweight), Ricky Ugarte (third, 119) and Junior Valladares (second, 177) also qualified for next weekend’s big meet after solid performances this weekend at Reno High.
Douglas advanced Dillon Spates (second, 125), Michael Sepulveda (second, 130) and Patrick Miller (second, 215).
The only downside to a successful weekend is that the Senators failed to win the team title. Spanish Springs finished with 187, while the Senators were second with 178. Carson controlled its own destiny down the stretch, but lost four of the five championship matches.
“We went from one to seven state qualifiers,” Carson coach Tim McCarthy said. “That’s awesome. We have six solid seniors, and five of them are going to state. To win a regional title would have been nice, and it wasn’t because a lack of effort. Our guys wrestled really well this weekend.
“We lost a number of tight matches. Luke (Carter) and Nico (Garcia) both lost by a point in the finals, and Junior’s match was close. We had some calls that didn’t go our way.”
The Senators may be without Valladares next weekend. Already wrestling with a torn cartilage in his right knee, Valladares suffered an injury to his left knee early in the first round against Gary Albright. After a short injury timeout, Valladares elected to continue.
McCarthy said he tried to talk Valladares into defaulting the match and not risk further injury, but the 171-pounder didn’t want any of that. Valladares said that Albright twisted his knee.
“It hurts,” Valladares admitted after receiving his medal. “I wanted to beat him; I wanted to win the championship. Not only did I want to win, but we were in the running for the team championship, too.”
Valladares, who had earlier chalked up a 19-7 majority decision in his first match of the day, tied Albright at 2 and then fell behind 5-2 before closing the gap to 5-4. Albright scored three points to close out the match.
The two wrestled three times this year with Albright winning two by a combined total of five points.
Schlager, meanwhile, is halfway home to his goal of a state championship after finished second at 125 last year. Schlager had a good weekend, winning four straight, three via pin.
“I have another week to work hard and get to my goal,” Schlager said. “After four years of high school wrestling it would be nice to get a state championship. I wrestled a lot more aggressively this weekend. I never felt out of position.”
Garcia reached the finals with a thrilling 5-3 win over Fallon’s Charlie Heck. Garcia scored a takedown with 31 seconds left to snap a 3-all tie.
He fell behind 6-2 after two round to top-seeded Steve Elicequi of Wooster. Garcia got a three-point near fall to cut the deficit to 6-5, but Elicequi came right back with a reversal and an 8-5 lead. Garcia closed to 8-7 thanks to a penalty point and escape, but ran out of time. A few more seconds, and the outcome could have been very different.
Garcia was distraught after the loss, but shouldn’t have been, according to McCarthy.
“That was an amazing match,” McCarthy said. “A year ago, that would have been a tech fall or pin in the first round. He has come a long way.”
That was small consolation to Garcia.
“I am happy (to qualify for state), but I wish I could have won. Maybe if I’d won my match it could have made the difference (in winning the team title).”
Craugh, who was fourth a year ago, pinned James DeLeon of McQueen in the semis. His reward? A match against Curtis Lampert, the defending state champion.
Craugh put up a good fight, but Lampert controlled things from the outset and won 6-1.
“I wrestled pretty hard,” Craugh said. “I just wanted to make it to Vegas for state. I just anted to keep it close in the finals so I could help out in the team points.”
Carter tuned up for the finals with a 7-2 win over McQueen’s Tyson Otuafi in the semis. That earned him a spot in the finals opposite Damonte’s Troy Kilgore.
Kilgore edged Carter in the waning seconds of their battle during the league season, and this one came down to the wire, too.
Carter trailed after two periods. What looked like a good takedown was waved off by the referee which didn’t help his cause. Kilgore built his lead to 7-4, but Carter came back with a takedown right before the match-ending buzzer.
“It was a tough match,” Carter said. “I was giving up seven pounds to him.
“Winning regionals is a big deal, but most people talk about how you performed at state.”
Barlow, who was an upset victim in the second round on Friday, won four straight on Saturday, chalking up some big team points in the process. His biggest win of the four was a revenge win over Moses Kotoa of McQueen.
Barlow built a 5-0 lead thanks to a takedown and three penalty points called on Kotoa. After the third one, Kotoa reacted a little too strongly and was disqualified.
“It’s awesome, a free trip to Vegas,” said a tired Barlow, who wrestled six matches in two days. “On my takedown I had to wait for the right moment; wait for him to stand up a little. He had to be pretty high. I wouldn’t have done it if he stayed low.”
Ugarte finished fourth a year ago, and didn’t want that to happen two years in a row. He beat South Tahoe’s Cameron Cason 5-4 and then knocked off Alan Vazquez for third place.
“I’m very excited to qualify,” Ugarte said. “I didn’t want to finish fourth again. I would rather lose the match before than finish fourth.”
Ugarte lost a tough 9-7 decision to Spanish Springs’ Todd Pearson, forcing him to win two matches to qualify for state.
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