South Tahoe wrestlers compete at Flo Reno World Championships; Herrera medals
RENO, Nev. — Wrestlers from 40 states and five countries competed in the 2015 Flo Reno World Championships last weekend — and five represented South Tahoe. Vikings wrestlers Jose Leon, Miguel Leon, James Sorensen, Michael Valney and Andrew Herrera took to the mat in the three-day competition held in the Reno Livestock Events Center last Friday through Sunday, an event that featured more than 3,400 grapplers.
Herrera excelled against the nation’s best in the 200-pound division, earning a seventh-place medal. After a quick pin against his first opponent, Jayden Velasquez of Nevada, Herrera was pitted against eventual champion Hunter Halverson from Del Oro High in Loomis, Calif. — the loss dropped him into the consolation bracket early, presenting him with a formidable challenge to reach the podium.
“The consolation matches in this tournament are very intense because no one wants to waste the amount of time and resources they have put into travel, hotels and entrance fee — and that is without accounting for the effort to prepare your body and mind for this type contest,” coach Ryan Wallace said. “Opponents come after you fiercely, especially if you have a lead.”
Herrera proved up to the challenge, rattling off five straight wins over opponents from California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah and Washington — he eventually lost a decision to Cole Tigert of California, who went on to claim third place. Herrera’s final match was won by third-round pin over William Willsey from Washington.
“He’s special — what sets him apart is when both guys are equal and both are tired, Andrew finds a way to win,” Wallace said. “A lot of the time I feel more like a fan than a coach — the effort he puts forth in and out of competition is motivating.”
Herrera was not the only South Tahoe wrestler who put forth an impressive effort in Reno. James Sorensen and Michael Valney both went 5-2, narrowly missing out on the podium.
Sorensen picked up wins over opponents from Texas, Utah, Montana, Nevada and California. He finished one victory shy of earning a medal when his win streak was stopped by Marcus Martin of Alaska.
Valney also came one win short of the podium. After dropping his first match by a margin of 10 points Friday to Delin Denton of Utah, he stormed back to win five straight matches Saturday — he was the first match of the day Sunday and lost an exciting 11-6 decision to Washington’s Brandon Foster.
“There was a point on Saturday when we won 10 straight matches as a team, and it seemed like every five minutes I was giving one of these two a fist bump for beating a tough kid,” Wallace said. “I told them not to worry about anything other than wrestling hard — but ‘wrestled hard’ does not adequately describe their effort, as even in their losses no opponent could say they outworked either of these guys.”
Siblings Miguel and Jose Leon wrestled as hard as their South Tahoe teammates, but were unable to notch a victory. Both wrestlers went 0-2 at the tournament, and Wallace said both were in position to win at some point in every match.
“Our purpose as wrestlers is not to win matches, it is to grow as people and to test our physical and mental limits,” Wallace said. “I was not in the least bit disappointed in Miguel and Jose — every match of theirs I watch I am inspired by their physical toughness and relentlessness.”
“It is remarkable how self-disciplined the kids wrestling at this level have to be,” Wallace said. “To make weight at the end of Spring Break then spend the weekend in a rodeo arena covered in wrestling mats end to end, only to routinely be pushed past the point of exhaustion while another extremely dedicated person trying to make you quit (is impressive).
“On Friday we came to be around tough people like us — by Sunday we came to be around people we would like to be like.”
Next up on the schedule for South Tahoe is the Sacramento Area Wrestling Association Club Championships this Saturday. The meet will be held at Nevada Union High in Grass Valley, Calif.
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