Spanish Springs takes second at state for second-straight year; Ruiz, Drescher, Casarez win individual titles
The script was already written. At least it seemed that way.
Spanish Springs, without a state title to its credit, hosted the state tournament this weekend and was inevitably going to upend five-time defending champion, Green Valley. The most talented Cougars team in program history was supposed to celebrate history in its own gym.
Not all stories have storybook endings.
Trailing by just six points after the first day on Friday, Spanish Springs’ hopes took a serious blow Saturday morning with multiple early defeats. The Cougs ultimately finished second for the second-straight year.
Spanish Springs ended the tournament with 125 points – 17.5 more points than last year. Green Valley won its sixth straight state title with 152 points. Las Vegas (84.5) took third and Reno (81.5) finished fourth.
“We needed to wrestle a phenomenal weekend. And I thought we did,” Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli said. “And I thought we needed to catch some breaks. And we didn’t so much. They (Green Valley) did what champions should do.”
Imelli does not hide how badly be longs for a state title. He openly discussed it all season. Still, despite coming up short in the Cougs’ best chance to date to be crowned the best in the state, he spoke highly about his team’s effort.
“I couldn’t be more happy for my kids,” he said. “I mean, they wrestled tough. I thought they did a nice job representing Spanish Springs and the community, and their family, and themselves. I was very pleased.”
Of the 11 Spanish Spring wrestlers who qualified for the meet, seven placed. Four wrestled for state championships.
Jacob Ruiz handled two-time state champion Antonio Saldate of Las Vegas with a 9-3 decision to win the 120-pound 4A state title. Ruiz had wrestled Saldate twice already this year, losing both times.
“What a phenomenal win,” Imelli said. “With how smart he (Ruiz) is with wrestling, he really studies things and changed up how he went about wrestling. He attacked really early and put relentless pressure on the kid.”
Cole Drescher was the second and final Coug to win an individual state title – at 160 pounds. Drescher won his first two matches by fall and decision, 10-3. For the title, he beat Green Valley’s Giullian Nakamastu with a 5-0 decision.
“Cole was really excited for that match so I was so pleased with how he kept his composure throughout the match,” Imelli said. “He put himself in some good positions to score and then (didn’t) put himself in bad positions … Great matt presence.”
At 113 pounds, Owen Jones went on an incredible run to the title match. Squeaking into the tournament with a third-place finish at the regional tournament a week ago, Jones started in the preliminary match early on Friday afternoon then rattled off three straight victories to reach the championship bout, where he ultimately fell to Carson’s Brandon Basa.
Joey McKay (152) also reached the title match, where he was bested.
Freshman Anthony Sissom was the lone Coug to take third – at 106 pounds. Sissom suffered a last-second loss in the semifinals on Friday night before rebounding with two victories on Saturday.
Casey Preston (195) and Tyler Barats (285) finished fourth.
Nick Poalillo (126) and Isaac Ruiz (145) both picked up two team points with preliminary round victories. Colby Preston (170) earned the Cougs three team points thanks a to pin in prelims. Killian Hurley (220) fell in both of his matches.
“We can live with this and keep growing and building. Our program has been on the up and up for what, the last 11 years,” Imelli said. “Obviously we’re still focused on winning a state title.”
Reed’s Casarez ends prep career with second title
Izzy Casarez ended his sterling high school career with a state title at 152 pounds.
It was the second-consecutive state title for the four-time regional champ.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Casarez said before jumping on the podium. “I don’t feel anyway because I just treat it like a normal match. I’ll probably go home and watch the video, then it will hit me. But it hasn’t hit me yet.”
Casarez was one of the most dominant wrestlers of the tournament regardless of classification. He beat Spanish Springs’ Joey McKay in the title match by major decision, 21-9. To get to that point, he won by major decision, 13-4, and technical fall, 21-6.
Tim Eubanks (182) was the only other Raider to place. He took fourth.
Alex Casarez (120), the younger brother of Izzy, and Randy Nemedez (220) lost both their matches.
Arenas takes third for Railroaders
Sparks’ Avery Arenas won a pair of matches on Saturday afternoon at the 3A state meet to finish third in the 138-pound weight class.
Arenas won his first match on Friday at Spanish Springs, fell in the semifinals, then won two-straight matches on Saturday to win the bronze. He won a narrow 2-1 decision over Spring Creek’s Constable in the consolation title match.
His teammate, Colby Bowman, also qualified for the meet. He lost both his matches.