South Tahoe wrestling places 19th at California Coast Classic, three earn podium finishes
APTOS, Calif. — The South Tahoe wrestling team competed in the fourth-longest running tournament in California over the holiday break, and delivered promising results against high-level competition. The Vikings finished 19th out of 70 teams at the 47th-annual California Coast Wrestling Classic Dec. 27-28 at Aptos High, highlighted by podium finishes from senior Michael Valney, junior Andrew Herrera and freshman Jose Leon.
“We were proud of the attitude and effort of every single one of our guys,” Vikings coach Sean Griffis said. “They were not afraid of the challenge.”
Valney entered the tournament as the fifth seed in the 132-pound weight class, and wrestled his way to the podium despite two defeats. He began the tournament by winning four straight matches — three by pin — and advanced to the semifinals by pinning Max Anderson of Clovis (Calif.) in the second period.
In the semifinals, Valney fell 13-3 to Moses Contreras of Madera (Calif.) — Contreras dictated the match after jumping out to an early lead, and defended and countered Valney’s offense throughout. After a narrow win in the consolation semifinals, the senior suffered a late takedown for his third loss of the season that left him in fourth place.
“It was so much fun — all my matches were tough and each win made me super happy,” Valney said. “We would be joking around, then they would call my weight and I had to switch to being ready for a good guy real fast. I liked it.”
Herrera came in as the top seed in the 195-pound weight class, and earned a first-round bye before taking down his first opponent with two takedowns and a pin in 51 seconds. The junior advanced to the semifinals with a 19-2 win over Conner Johnson of Ceres (Calif.) and by pinning Samuel Adame of Cosumnes Oaks (Elk Grove, Calif.) with his hammerlock move at the end of the first period.
In the semifinals, Herrera fell to eventual champion and fourth-seeded Max Bossert of Las Lomas (Walnut Creek, Calif.) — a mistake in the first minute from Herrera led to four early points for Bossert in an eventual 9-5 defeat. The junior won by pin in the consolation semifinals before falling 8-4 to Dominik Christmas of Serra (San Mateo, Calif.) with third place on the line.
“It was hard,” Herrera said. “Everybody stayed with their plan against me and they stopped my best moves.”
“The margin for error was extremely slim,” Vikings JV coach Ryan Wallace added. “Obviously he wanted to win this tournament, but we got the top level competition we have been hunting and uncovered some habits that have to be fixed if he is going to be a state champion.”
Leon wrestled unseeded in a deep 160-pound weight class, but ultimately finished the tournament with a medal around his neck. After a bye, he rallied for wins over Dupree Stewart of Washington (Fremont, Calif.) and Thomas Garcia of College Park (Pleasant Hill, Calif.) — both seniors had leads over Leon before he locked up a cradle and turned them.
The freshman’s win streak stopped against second-seeded Angel Vazquez, who had an answer for his attacks while handing him a 7-1 defeat. Leon took his first two matches in the consolation bracket before losing in overtime to Max Flemming of Miramonte (Orinda, Calif.) — in the fifth-place match he fell 10-4 to Jonny Del Bianco of Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton, Calif.).
“You don’t see many freshman at any weight on that podium very often,” Wallace said. “We are collectively so proud of Jose — not just of his results but the way he is earning them. He is just so tough; he gets bloodied, he gets slammed, but he never stops working.”
In the 220-pound weight class, senior Blair Binns suffered a surprising loss following a first-round bye — then bounced back with a pair of wins to make the second day of the tournament. In his opener on the second day, Binns was pinned in 25 seconds by Anthony Prentiss of Clovis.
Senior Boe Griffis went 1-2 at the classic, hitting the mat for the first time in a month following recovery from shoulder surgery. Freshmen Kody Griffis, Chris Chacon and Kai Poletti along with sophomore George Rohrbacher each went winless in two matches at the tournament.
“We all had a great time being a part of such a successful showing,” Wallace said.
VALNEY WINS GOLD AT SPARKS INVITATIONAL, VIKINGS FINISH 7TH
Three days after returning from the California coast, South Tahoe hit the mats again in Northern Nevada. The Vikings wrestled at the Sparks Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 2, placing seventh out of 23 teams — their medal haul included a gold from Valney.
“This tournament was a test of fortitude,” Wallace said. “All of the teams from our area who are known for their physical, rough style were in attendance, and the matches were scrappy.”
Valney dominated at 132 pounds to win his second gold of the season. The senior recorded five pins — all in less than three minutes — and beat Fernley’s Riley Twitchell for the championship.
“I wanted to work on a couple takedowns in the beginning of matches then test out the turns I’ve been practicing,” Valney said. “Coach gives me a plan on my feet, and as soon as I get through the list I am on my own to go for the pin.”
Herrera finished second at 195 pounds, defaulting in the finals against Joey Miller of McQueen (Reno, Nev.) after aggravating a rib injury from the semis. His path to the championship included wins over opposition from North Valleys (Reno, Nev.) and Fernley.
“Andrew’s technique is more advanced than most of his opponents, so their only path to victory is to make the match chaotic,” Wallace said. “We know that and are prepared for it, but the risk for injury is higher in unconventional matches.”
Binns muscled his way onto the podium, finishing third at 220 pounds. In the quarterfinals, a flurry of action led to four takedowns and a pin in 1:19 against Yerington’s Kevin Smith — the senior fell in the semifinals, but won twice in the consolation bracket to claim third place.
“Blair’s leg attacks are virtually unstoppable,” Wallace said. “He goes so hard that win or lose, the guys he wrestles never want a rematch.”
Boe Griffis went 3-2 at 152 pounds, losing only to the eventual champion and third-place finisher in his weight class. Leon sported an identical mark, making the semifinals with three straight wins before dropping a pair of consolation matches.
Freshman Max Wirth (126 pounds) finished 2-2 at Sparks while fellow frosh Skylar Bledsoe went 1-2. Poletti, Rohrbacher and Chacon each went winless in two matches.
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