South Tahoe wrestlers Binns, Valney, Herrera win gold at Carson Valley Lions Club Invitational; Vikings place sixth
MINDEN, Nev. — Three South Tahoe wrestlers finished atop the podium against Northern Nevada opposition on Saturday, Jan. 9. Senior Michael Valney, senior Blair Binns and junior Andrew Herrera each delivered gold medals in the Carson Valley Lions Club Invitational at Douglas High, leading the Vikings to a sixth-place finish out of 19 teams.
It was a tall order for Valney to top his five-pin championship performance last weekend in Sparks, but he was again up to the task at 132 pounds. Valney pinned all four of his opponents on route to his third gold medal of the season.
Valney followed a 31-second pin in the first round with a pin 21 seconds into the second period, and another 1:21 into his semifinal bout with Vincente Leon of Spanish Springs (Sparks, Nev.). In the finals, he met a familiar foe in Riley Twitchell of Fernley — the two squared off a week earlier at the Sparks Invitational.
Twitchell came out with the upset in mind and scored the first takedown, then Valney answered with an immediate reversal and released Twitchell to send both wrestlers back to their feet. After executing his three planned leg attacks, Valney caught Twitchell in a well set-up cradle and pinned him with 19 seconds remaining in the second period.
“I start with the same plan every time,” Valney said. “It is fun because when they try to block my shots I am already doing the next move — I know how they are going to try to stop me.”
Junior Andrew Herrera (195) entered Saturday with a rib injury he suffered last week that prevented him from having a full week of practice. As a result, he had not been tested in live action — but that didn’t matter.
“I wanted to be smiling in the team picture this week,” Herrera said.
He got that test from Caleb Fawley of Galena (Reno, Nev.), who lasted until the middle of the second round before being turned and pinned. In the semifinals, Herrera got the two takedowns he was looking for, then threw Angel Martinez of Spanish Springs to his back for a 48-second pin.
Herrera met the second-seeded Efren Campos of Yerington in the finals — the Lions’ grappler had two quick pins himself on the day. South Tahoe’s 195-pound star put on a show with three high-amplitude, feet-to-back throws that led to a 16-1 technical fall.
“That was one of the finest finals performances I’ve ever seen,” Vikings JV coach Ryan Wallace said. “It was at the same time artistic and ferocious.”
Senior Blair Binns’ first career gold medal was both redemptive and gratifying in the 220-pound weight class. After first-round pins over opponents from Bishop Manogue (Reno, Nev.) and Yerington, Binns met Fernley’s Lonnie Slapinski — an opponent he lost to 10-5 in the semifinals at the Sparks Invite.
It was apparent from the start that this meeting would not be the same. Within 15 seconds, Binns had secured the first of four takedowns — and after amassing a 12-4 lead, Binns used his hammerlock to drive Slapinksi to his back and record the pinfall at 4:48.
“It’s up there with my best memories,” Binns said.
“Blair broke down a door he’s been knocking on for awhile,” added Vikings coach Sean Griffis.
Freshman Jose Leon returned to the podium at Douglas. His 3-2 record awarded him a fourth-place finish after missing out for the first time in his young career the previous week.
“Everybody wants to be on top of the podium on Saturday, but they don’t do the things Sunday through Friday that the guy on top does,” Wallace said. “Jose believes he should be there and meets all of the requirements — his dedication is going to allow him to have a shot to be on top when it really matters.”
Leon’s first win was a 17-2 technical fall against Fallon’s Kendall Rogers. He followed that with a first-round pin of Dayton’s Tieler Frayo.
In the semifinals Leon met senior Eddie Montano of Yerington, who already owned an 8-4 decision victory over him this season. This match went much the same way, with Montano’s strength and defense stifling Leon’s leg attacks.
With a gold medal then off the table, Leon got some extra work in the consolation semis and outscored Wooster’s Andrew Soto 18-2 for a second technical fall. In the consolation finals, he lost a 9-7 decision to Fallon’s Matt Goings.
“In a weight class full of upperclassmen, Jose has to pay his dues a bit,” Wallace said. “They have all been in many tough six-minute matches, and that makes the difference when everything else is equal.”
Freshman Kody Griffis went 1-2 at the Lions Club Invitational, with his win coming in the form of 1:20 pin of Lowry’s Jimmy Rackley. Sophomore George Rohrbacher finished 0-2 along with freshmen Skylar Bledsoe, Kai Poletti and Chris Chacon.
South Tahoe returned to action Wednesday, Jan. 13, with a dual meet at Truckee. The Vikings travel to Northern California this weekend for the 44th annual Armijo Invitational at Armijo High (Fairfield, Calif.) — the all-day tournament is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 16.
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