Vikings turn up the heat for regional wrestling tournament
They don’t call it the Hot Room for nothing.
A bespectacled man can walk into the wrestling room at South Tahoe Middle School and instantly have his glasses fog up. Then again, a middle school student who held her nose as she walked through the room to get to the girls’ locker room on Wednesday afternoon might have a different name for the Hot Room.
South Tahoe High wrestling coach Ken Robbins shifted his team’s practices to the middle school for the week leading up to the Northern 4A regional tournament, preparing his squad for the biggest weekend of their season.
They Vikings will see how the Hot Room workouts pay off Friday and Saturday at the regional tournament at Reno High School. First-round action begins at 3:45 p.m. Friday, and the tournament continues on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Practicing in the cramped quarters between the school’s gym and locker room gave the impression that they were working out in a sauna.
“I really like it here,” said STHS heavyweight Roger Ripoli. “It gets hot, and you lose like five pounds every practice.”
Ripoli and 119-pound junior teammate Cameron Cason go into the double-elimination regionals as the Vikings’ highest seeds. Ripoli is the Sierra League’s second seed and the heavyweight division’s fourth overall seed with a 5-1 league record.
“It’s a huge competition,” Ripoli said. “My weight class isn’t nearly as strong as it was last year, but I have some pretty big guys that I’ve lost to that I could have beaten, and I’m going to work really hard.”
Cason, meanwhile, totes a 26-3 overall record and 6-1 league record into today’s first round. Even though Cason’s only league defeat was a close decision to Carson’s Ricardo Ugarte, he is the Sierra’s third seed and fourth overall for 119-pounders.
Spanish Springs’ Todd Pearson is No. 1 at 6-0 and Fallon’s Colin Merkley, who dropped down from 125 to 119 for regionals, was 7-0 in league matches.
“Whatever the price of admission is down at Reno High School, the 119-pound bracket will be 10 times worth that,” Robbins said. “At 119 the No. 6 seed went to state last year. There’s six guys who were at the state tournament last year, and you’re not counting Cameron in that.”
Robbins has two other wrestlers that could contend for one of the three coveted state qualifying spots that are accorded to each division: junior Cody Shindelbower and sophomore Tyler Nesbitt. Shindelbower is seeded fourth overall and is the Sierra’s third-rated 112-pounder with a 5-1 record. He, however, is recovering from an injury and is questionable for the tournament.
“It should be fun to watch,” Shindelbower said. “There’s a lot of good competition, but I think we can do it, though, get a least a couple to state.”
Nesbitt is unseeded at 145 pounds, but won two tournament titles during the season and was 3-4 in league matches.
“I’m looking forward to watching Tyler wrestle,” Robbins said.
“Sophomore year is where you show your flashes of brilliance, and you show your flashes of ignorance in such a rapid succession, it’s hard for people to figure you out.”
South Tahoe’s Jose Silva (215) and Brian Hogan (152) are the Sierra’s fourth seeds entering regionals. Silva is seeded ninth overall with a 3-4 league mark, while Hogan is the 10th overall seed after posting a 3-4 league record.
Connor Cason (160), Ryan McGraw (171) and Gabe Strong (160) are also expected to compete for the Vikings.
Robbins is pleased with the work and dedication his wrestlers have put forth. The final week of the season has been no exception.
“Maybe this weekend is their one time they can beat the bear. If you are gonna go wrestle the bear, you better be ready, and they are ready to go,” he said.
Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for students.
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