Murray wins Sierra Nevada Classic gold
Blake Murray is the sixth Douglas wrestler to win a gold medal at the Sierra Nevada Classic. Shane Miller was the last to do it when he won the 189-pound weight class in 2006. Before that, four Tigers were champions in 1980-81 at what was then a smaller region tournament known as the Reno South Rotary Invitational: Lamont McCann in 1980 and ’81, Greg Moore (’81), Dan Villalobos (’81) and Creg Shaffer (’81).
Blake Murray came into the 41st annual Sierra Nevada Classic on Friday with a new focus — calm and steady, as opposed to big and spectacular.
The reward turned out to be a gold medal on Saturday, when the Douglas High senior wrestler capped off his 182-pound weight class championship at the Reno Livestock Events Center.
Murray won five straight matches, capped by a 6-4 triumph against Virgin Valley’s Cresent Crandall at the end of a two-day tournament that showcased wrestlers from around the West Coast. Murray became the first Douglas wrestler to win gold at the Classic since Shane Miller in 2006.
“There’s something about that tournament,” he said. “I love that atmosphere; I love that big stage.”
Murray improved his season record to 22-3 and won his third tournament title of the season. One of those losses came when he moved up to 220 pounds at Fallon’s Earl Wilkens dual team tournament and the other two came at the hands of opponents from Colorado and California at the Reno Tournament of Champions.
“Blake found a new level; his confidence and mat presence were overwhelming in this tournament,” Douglas coach Jacob Fair said. “And it was great to see all the support he had from his teammates and seeing their work together as a team.”
Some valuable lessons were learned from those Reno TOC losses, Murray explained.
“What I’ve been doing in the past is go, go, go and try to score as many points as I could,” he said. “I was forcing stuff that wasn’t there by trying big moves to score big points. But that only works to a certain point. What I learned was that against quality opponents, you just have to figure out a way to win.”
Murray added that he has won big and lost big in the past. This weekend, he executed the new game plan to near perfection.
“In this go-round, I focused on wrestling to my strengths and not to my opponent’s strengths,” he said.
Well, there was one glitch in the opening 15 seconds of the gold medal match when Crandall, last year’s Nevada 3A state 170-pound champion, scored a takedown to go up 2-0.
“Crandall is a stud; he’s wrestled at a national level, so he’s definitely a next-level type of guy,” Murray said. “That is the first time this season I’ve been taken down by an opponent’s offensive leg attack. That kind of surprised me, but it kind of woke me up … and then I started grooving.”
Murray scored on an escape and takedown to lead 3-2 after one period. Crandall tied the score 3-all on a second-period escape, however, Murray answered with another takedown to take the lead for good.
Murray defeated three opponents who made it to the medal podium, including a pin in 3:25 against Logan Klonicke (fourth-place) of Spanish Springs in the semifinals. Before that, he out-pointed Tyler Roper (seventh-place) of Las Vegas Centennial 3-0 in the quarterfinals.
Murray moved on top early with a takedown against Roper, a Sunset Region champion in 2016, then protected that lead the rest of the way. He added some insurance with an escape inside the final minute.
Douglas compiled 66 points to finish 34th in the 85-team standings (seventh among Nevada schools).
The Tigers’ highlights included 113-pounder Jaden Blanchard and 132-pounder Andrew Williams, who were coming off gold medal performances the previous weekend at the Carson Valley Lions Invitational.
Blanchard went 3-2 for the weekend, with three of his wins coming by fall, two in the first round.
Williams won his first two matches, both by fall against opponents from California and Oregon. The senior lost his third round match by fall against Granite Bay’s Teague Dilbeck, the eventual fourth-place medalist.
Also for Douglas, Shane Trivitt went 2-2 at 132 pounds, with both of his wins coming by fall (1:52 and 4:51). Max Smith won his first-round 120-pound match by fall in 4:59. Gabe Wetzel picked up a win by fall in 2:48 and freshman 106-pounder Wyatt Grisell had an 18-6 win. Heavyweight Austin Aiken, making his season debut, picked up one win by fall in 1:51.
“I was proud of the way the kids battled back,” Fair said. “They’re working and growing together as a team, and realizing they can do more.”