RENO - No doubt, the Reno Tournament of Champions lives up to its billing as the "Toughest Tournament in the USA." Just ask Douglas High coach Justin Shine, whose Tigers were finished after one day of competition in the 86-team event on Friday.
"They don't call it the toughest tournament for nothing," Shine said. "This is great competition. We wrestled halfway decent. We had a lot of close matches, we just need to step up our intensity and start finding ways to win those close matches."
The day started out well for 125-pounder Dillon Spates, 130-pounder Michael Sepulveda and 145-pounder Cody Spates, who all won their first two matches at the Reno Downtown Convention Center. However, all three ran into blue chip competition in the third round.
Sepulveda was especially impressive as he posted a 6-0 opening round triumph followed by a 15-0 technical fall against No. 7 seed Tanner Sweat of Wasatch, a sixth-place finisher at the Utah 3A state tournament last season. Sepulveda fell in his next match by a 13-6 decision against Gilroy's Willie Fox, a California state qualifier and National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) All-American last season. The junior's final match resulted in a 6-3 loss against Sunnyvale's Javie Cruz, a ranked Arizona 5A wrestler.
"He wrestled very well," assistant coach Travis Lamborn said of Sepulveda. "He will (be tough to beat) when it comes to league competition."
Dillon Spates pinned his first two opponents before dropping a pair of narrow decisions against seeded opponents. Spates lost 9-7 against No. 4 seed Scott Filbert of Ironwood Ridge, an Arizona 5A state champion 125-pounder last season. Then he was eliminated from the tournament with a 9-6 loss against No. 10 seed Alexander Richardson of St. Peter's Prep, who was a New Jersey state tournament qualifier last season. The last match was close throughout, as Spates scored on an escape and takedown to take a 6-5 lead in the opening minute of the third period before giving up four unanswered points.
Cody Spates pinned his first two opponents in the 145-pound bracket before losing against No. 6 seed Kyle Ash of Tulsa Union and then to Poway's Rio Gallegos, a California state tournament qualifier last season. Poway is the defending California state team champion.
Wes Peterson went 1-2 in the 119-pound weight class, losing in the first-round to No. 7 seed Kyle Garcia of Choctaw (Okla.), who won a state title as a freshman last season. Peterson came back to win his first consolation bracket match 3-1 over De La Salle's Joey Moita, who won a USA Wrestling Greco-Roman national championship last summer.
Ryan Paiz won his 189-pound weight class opener with a first-round pin, then lost his next two matches. His first loss came against No. 4 seed Kalob Moritz, a Utah state runner-up last season.
The Tigers face another strong test on Dec. 29-30 when they compete at the 100-team Sierra Nevada Classic in Reno. These tournaments are all preparation for the regional and state tournaments in February.
"We have a lot of work to do," Shine said. "We're about halfway through (the season), so there's still plenty of wrestling to do."