Perhaps, history awaits the Cougs.
Under the direction of Joe Imelli, Spanish Springs wrestling has grown into legitimate state title contender. Coming off the program’s best finish ever at state last winter (second), the Cougs won their fifth consecutive regional title last weekend (it was also their eighth in the last nine years).
They’ve proven to be the best in Northern Nevada, but can they win at state for the first time ever? We’ll find out this weekend. And they’re getting an assist.
Not only is this arguably the most talented Spanish Springs team ever, it is also at home. The Cougs host the two-day event starting Friday afternoon.
“I think it definitely adds for our boys to have something at home like this, of this magnitude, to be able to sleep in (their) own bed and not have to worry about that travel time,” Imelli said after wrapping up the regional title on Saturday at Reno. “You can have some kind of normality to your daily practice and workout.”
While it remains a mystery if the Cougs will do something they’ve never done before (win at state), it is well-known who remains their biggest threat.
Green Valley won its fifth straight state title last February (edging Spanish Springs by 23 points) and is once again loaded. The Gators won the Sunrise Regional title with 324.5 points – 92 points clear of runner-up Las Vegas.
Thirteen different Green Valley wrestlers qualified for state. Spanish Springs is sending 11. Sunset regional champ, Arbor View, will put 10 different wrestlers on the mat.
Imelli was aware of how many wrestlers Green Valley qualified as soon as the Sunrise Regional tournament concluded. While he was coaching his squad in the 4A North regional on Saturday at Reno High, he was simultaneously scoreboard watching.
“You kind of pay attention to how many kids, and where, not that I have any control over it,” Imelli said.
Spanish Springs’ coach admitted that head-to-head matchups with Green Valley will carry additional weight this weekend.
Only one opening-round match pins the Cougs and Gators together. At 120 pounds, Jacob Ruiz, the 4A North champ, will open against Green Valley’s David Kayalanaprapui, the Sunrise runner up, on Friday afternoon.
A couple potential semifinal matchups exist as well. If able to win in the first round, Spanish Springs’ Anthony Sissom (106) will wrestle Green Valley’s Steele Drais for a spot in the championship match.
Sissom was one of three Cougs to win a regional title last weekend.
At 126 pounds, Spanish Springs’ Nick Poalillo and Green Valley’s Jeremy Hoffman could also meet barring first-round victories.
Poalillo took third at the regional tournament, while Hoffman won the Sunrise title.
Other state qualifiers for Spanish Springs are Owen Jones (3rd in regional tournament at 113), Isaac Ruiz (3rd, 145), Joey McKay (2nd, 152), Cole Drescher (1st, 160), Colby Preston (3rd, 170), Casey Preston (3rd, 195), Killian Hurley (3rd, 220) and Tyler Barats (2nd, 285).
For Reed, Izzy Casarez will wrestle for his second straight state title. He won the 152-pound 4A North title last weekend, his fourth consecutive regional championship.
His brother, Alex, qualified for state by virtue of a second-place regional finish at 120 pounds. Tim Eubanks will also wrestle this weekend after taking third in regionals at 182 pounds.
Sparks is sending two wrestlers to the 3A state meet which will coincide with 1A, 2A and 4A tournaments at Spanish Springs.
Avery Aranas (138) will compete after taking second in the 3A North regional tournament at Truckee, as will Colby Bowman (132) who finished third at regionals.
First-round 4A and 3A matches will start at 1 p.m. on Friday afternoon.
It’s here. And for Spanish Springs, “it” is a bona fide shot at history.