South Tahoe wrestlers Valney, Herrera finish unbeaten at Div. I-A Northern League dual meet
SPRING CREEK, Nev. — The South Tahoe wrestling team began the final chapter of its 2015-16 season with a trip across the state of Nevada last weekend. The Vikings wrestled in the Div. I-A Northern League dual meet held Feb. 5-6 at Spring Creek, the first of three postseason events.
“It was a great weekend,” Vikings head coach Sean Griffis said. “We all worked hard and got better.”
Eight of Div. I-A Northern League’s nine teams were in attendance at the two-day meet, with Truckee electing not to make the trip. Each wrestler had the potential to face up to seven opponents at the meet, with results determining seeding for the league championships.
“To be tough enough to make it to this point in the season is significant, and on top of that you have to be brave enough to be the center of attention in a hostile environment,” Vikings JV coach Ryan Wallace said. “If that wasn’t enough, you have to be able to forget the results of your previous match and get ready for another one almost immediately.”
Entering league duals, senior Michael Valney boasted a 39-4 record and won five gold medals. But what Valney did in the 132-pound weight class last Saturday may be his greatest accomplishment of the season.
Valney knocked off defending state champion Anthony Chavez on his home mat, pulling out a 4-3 victory in double overtime over the Spartans standout. By avenging a pair of losses to Chavez from last season, Valney went undefeated in his weight class and earned the No. 1 seed.
“I’m going to be state champion,” Valney said.
“His match (with Chavez) was awesome, but what is better is that it still felt like he left some points out there in a few situations,” Griffis said.
Junior Andrew Herrera came into duals with a 32-2 mark on the season, and left little doubt as to who the favorite is heading into league championships. Herrera combined elite technique with overwhelming power to finish 7-0.
“Having the baddest dude in the gym creates a trickledown of confidence that everyone on the team benefits from,” Wallace said. “He doesn’t just win, he breaks their will.”
Senior Blair Binns has benefited from that boost in confidence all season en route to a 26-10 record. In the 220-pound weight class, Binns went 5-2 over the weekend.
Binns’ two losses came in his opening matches against opponents from Elko and Lowry. He rebounded Friday with a late third-period pin of Sparks’ Davis Honeystewa and 13-second pin over Fallon’s Mark Moyle.
On the second day of action, Binns rallied to pin Spring Creek’s Brennan Reese after losing to Reese in less than a minute earlier in the season. His final outing came against Fernley’s Lonnie Slapinski, and in that finale Binns controlled the entire match before closing out the familiar opponent with his signature hammerlock.
“That is a fun version of Blair to watch,” Wallace said. “I have bruises everywhere from practicing with him, so I actually find myself empathizing with his opponents before I congratulate him.”
Freshman Jose Leon continued to demonstrate his uncommon combination of physical and mental toughness in the 160-pound weight class. In a field filled with upperclassmen, Leon finished 4-3.
Leon’s defeats came via decision against three senior opponents. His other foes fell victim to the phenom’s relentless approach.
“I usually wrestle better the second time I see a guy, and because of Andrew no one feels strong to me anymore,” Leon said.
Freshman Bodin Schwartz (120 pounds) finished 3-3 at league duals while freshman Kody Griffis (106) left with a 2-5 mark. Senior Boe Griffis (152), sophomore George Rohrbacher (170) and freshman Skylar Bledsoe (113) each picked up a win, while freshman Chris Chacon (160) wrestled in five exhibition matches.
“All week we had a mantra: young guys grow up, old guys pass it down,” Wallace said. “We smiled and laughed the whole way home because we accomplished those two goals.”
South Tahoe returns to action next Friday, Feb. 12, at the Div. I-A Northern League championships. The two-day tournament will be held at Fallon and concludes Saturday, Feb. 13.