South Tahoe looking to outsmart opposition |

South Tahoe looking to outsmart opposition

Michael Traum

South Tahoe High wrestling coach Tom Barnes hopes the combination of brains and brawn will lead his Vikings to the promised mat this season.

Barnes, a second-year coach, stresses studies first in his pursuit of producing quality student-athletes.

“The first priority is the classroom, then wrestling,” Barnes said.

While last year’s 13th-place zone finish wasn’t exactly what the Vikings were studying for, a new season brings more than 20 bodies to the pastoral confines of the high school’s Gold Gym – and with them, the hopes of putting up some team wins.

“We’re excited about the season,” said senior returner Jason Nixon, “and it’s nice to be around some guys with some book smarts.”

Guys – and girls. Two young women will grace the Tahoe mats this season in a growing trend of the sport.

“I have fun wrestling. It’s kind of hard, though, because the guys are afraid to wrestle me. They treat me like a girl,” said sophomore Melinda Leippe, who’s out for the team with junior Jenny Doyle. “They’ll start to respect me when they see me get out and do it. They’re starting to because I have stuck with it. I have very high expectations and I’m going to try very hard. And coach is very understanding, patient and supportive.”

Barnes attributes the larger numbers this year to the success of the South Tahoe Wrestling Club, a community organization which promotes the sport throughout the year. He hopes to fill many of the empty weight classes, which traditionally have put South Tahoe behind in points before the first match began.

In addition, parental support has allowed the coach extra time to do what he does best – teach wrestling.

“The club has really been vital to building the program. It’s allowing me to take some of the kids to the next level, to show them combinations and things to look for,” Barnes said.

Added returner Rook Naccarato, “I know a lot of moves to start out this season and that’s really helped me. I feel like I’ve improved and know what to look for. Coach is teaching us a lot.”

The Vikings open the regular season tonight by hosting Lowry and Fallon. Junior varsity matches begin at 4 p.m. with the varsity to follow.

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