Bennett wins silver at State |

Bennett wins silver at State

by Chuck Smock

Nathan Bennett wrapped up a stellar wrestling season with a second-place finish at the NIAA/U.S. Bank State championships on Saturday in Elko.

The Douglas junior finished the year with a 40-5 record at 171 pounds.

“I’m excited,” said Bennett, who won the Region championship a week ago. “My goal was to place (in the top six) at State. Just placing is an honor.

“Finishing second leaves just one more mountain to climb next year and that’s becoming a state champion. I’m going to practice at every practice next year thinking about winning a state championship. I had a taste of it. I want it now.”

Douglas senior Romaine Smokey capped his career with a third-place finish at 125 pounds at State.

Tiger senior John Hillenbrand took fourth place at 189 pounds.

David Tingle was 3-2 at 145 pounds and finished seventh in the bracket.

D’Art Johnson was 1-2 at 140 pounds.

Senior Chris Bautista had a tough draw at 119 pounds. The first-year wrestler lost to eventual champion Jered Medina of Rancho High in the first round and finished the tournament at 0-2.

Senior Matt Wilcks was 0-2 in the heavyweight bracket.

After a first-round bye, Bennett defeated Steven Smith of Clark High School, 6-1, in the quarterfinals.

He then pulled out a thrilling 4-2 win over Cimarron-Memorial’s Andre Rhodes, the Southern Zone champion at 160 pounds last year, in the semifinals. Bennett trailed 2-0 in the match, but maintained his focus and battled back to tie the match at 2-2. He scored one point on an escape with 1:20 remaining in the third period and got another point late when Rhodes was called for stalling.

Greg Gifford of Las Vegas High completed a 42-0 season by pinning Bennett late in the third round of the championship match.

“Before the final match, the whole crowd went wild when we walked onto the mat to shake hands,” Bennett said. “It was crazy. It was the ultimate feeling.

“I was fortunate to have the experience. I just give all the glory to the Lord.”

Smokey, the 125-pound runner-up at last week’s Region tournament, avenged his loss to Reno’s Tommy Williams in the Region finals with an 8-4 victory over the Huskies’ senior in the State quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, Smokey dropped a 4-0 decision to Rancho High’s Billy Rosado, who went on to win the state title. Rosado, the defending 125-pound state champion, ended the year with a 42-1 record.

Smokey defeated Palo Verde’s Josh Walters, 7-2, in the third-place match.

Hillenbrand followed up an excellent Region tournament with a strong showing at State. The senior lost an 11-9 decision in overtime to David Hales of Las Vegas High in the third-place match.

Hillenbrand was coming off a silver-medal performance at the Region meet, where he lost to McQueen’s Ryan Bader in the finals. The two wrestlers met again in the semifinals at State. Bader pinned Hillenbrand and went on to win the championship.