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Seven Douglas wrestlers advance to state tournament

by Chuck Smock

Douglas junior Nathan Bennett won the 171-pound championship at the 4A Northern Region wrestling tournament on Saturday at Galena High School.

Bennett defeated Hug High’s David Skroch, 8-7, in the finals for the Tigers’ lone individual title. The title match marked the fourth time Bennett and Skroch had met this season. Bennett is now 3-1 against Skroch.

Bennett pinned Reno’s Rob Coleman in less than one minutes his first match. He beat Ty Bader of Sparks, 9-4, in the semifinals.

“It’s unbelievable,” Bennett said moments after his last match. “I’m speechless. I’m excited.

“It’s what I worked so hard for all year. Last week, I pushed myself to the limit. All the hard work paid off.”

Bennett’s victory helped the Tigers finish fourth in the team standings with 136 points. Sparks won the team championship with 184 points, Elko was second with 166 points and Carson finished third with 145 points.

Including Bennett, seven Douglas wrestlers earned trips to this weekend’s NIAA/U.S. Bank 4A State championship tournament at Elko High School. The top five wrestlers at each weight from the Northern Region will join the top five from the Sunset and Sunrise regions at the state meet.

Douglas seniors John Hillenbrand (189 pounds) and Romaine Smokey (125 Pounds) each turned in a silver-medal performance at the Region championships.

Junior David Tingle finished third at 145 pounds. Senior Matt Wilcks was fourth in the heavyweight division.

Senior Chris Bautista finished fifth at 119 pounds and junior D’Art Johnson was fifth at 140 pounds.

The second-place showing was the second in a row for Smokey, who lost in the finals at 119 pounds last year as a junior.

Smokey pinned Fallon’s Jake Cheek in the first round of his first match. He defeated Jason Martinez of Sparks, 5-3, in overtime in the semifinals.

The 125-pound final featured the third meeting between Smokey and Reno’s Tommy Williams, who had split their first two matches against each other. Williams took an early 4-1 lead Saturday night and then held on for a 6-4 victory.

“I’m glad to be going to state,” Smokey said. “I’m pretty happy. I wrestled tough. I’m disappointed I lost, but it’s not over. I still have one more week to prove myself.

“This is the last week of my wrestling career. This is what I’ve been working for since the 6th grade.”

McQueen’s Ryan Bader, the defending zone champion at 171 pounds, pinned Hillenbrand in the finals of the 189-pound division on Saturday.

Hillenbrand pinned Shayne Alvis of South Tahoe in 39 seconds and then pinned Wooster’s Ed Perreira early in the second round of the semifinals to set up the meeting with Bader.

“This was my last chance to take a zone title, so I had nothing to lose,” Hillenbrand said. “I wasn’t all that nervous about it. I just tried my hardest. I’m satisfied with what I did. I’d have liked to have gone all three (rounds) and not gotten pinned, but he’s a great wrestler.”

Tingle said a lack of energy hurt him in the first day of the tournament on Friday, when dropped a 7-1 decision to Sparks’ Pete Barnato.

The Douglas junior responded with major-decision wins over Will Biddle of McQueen, 14-0, Robert Turek of Galena, 11-3, and Scott Crapo of Elko, 11-3, before avenging the loss to Barnato with a 3-1 overtime victory in the third-place match.

“It would have been better to win, but I’ll settle for third place,” Tingle said. “I’ll just have to go for it (the Region title) next year.”

Douglas coach Bill Nickerson and Wilcks decided to take a calculated risk at the Region tournament. Wilcks, who wrestled at 215 pounds all season, moved up to the heavyweight bracket (275 pounds).

He dropped his fist match, an 8-5 decision to Wooster’s George Bergin, but rallied to win three matches in a row in the consolation bracket to make it to the third-place match. Wilcks pinned Reed’s Bill Walsh in 54 seconds, earned an 11-7 decision over South Tahoe’s David Vasquez and then beat the No. 1 seed in the bracket, Elko’s Matt Newcomer, 3-2, before ending the tournament with another loss to Bergin.

“At the beginning of the year, my goal was to have a successful season,” Wilcks said. “As the season progressed, I kept improving and after about the third week I started realizing I had a chance to place at zone.”

He added that he’s excited for the opportunity to finish his wrestling career at the state tournament.

“Mentally, I’ll be prepared for what’s going on,” Wilcks said. “Physically, I think I can compete.”

Bautista was all smiles after beating Wooster’s Josh McIntosh, 14-4, in the fifth-place match at 119 pounds and earning a trip to state. And why not? The senior is a first-year wrestler.

“It feels great,” Bautista said. “I was a little worried about making it to state after I lost my second match.”

Bautista had a tough draw. After a first-round bye, he met up with defending zone champ Cavin Ross of South Tahoe. Ross pinned Bautista in the second round on his way to a second consecutive title.

Bautista lost a 6-0 decision to Scott Barnato of Sparks in the consolation semifinals.

In the fifth-place match, Bautista said he noticed that McIntosh seemed to tire in the middle of the second round. The Douglas senior then used superior conditioning to pile up a 14-4 victory and earn a trip to the state tournament.

“This is my first year to wrestle and I’m going to state,” Bautista said. “It feels great.”

Johnson, the No. 6 seed at 140 pounds, dropped his first match to eventual third-place finisher Matt Zander of Elko, 3-2.

He had a 6-0 win over Reno’s Jeff Cloninger in the consolation semifinals before losing 2-1 to Reed’s Quinten Quiggle in the semifinals. Johnson took fifth place when McQueen’s Shayne Wallace was forced to default with a shoulder injury.

“I didn’t wrestle as good as I wanted to,” Johnson said. “In the second and third rounds I started thinking, ‘You’ve been working three to four months for this, you might as well wrestle hard.’ I gave it my best shot.

“Right now, I’m still amazed I’m going to state.”

Grant Hall, who competed most of the year at 152-pounds, moved up to 160 pounds for the Region meet. He turned in a 2-3 record after losing to Galena’s James McMorran, 5-3, in the fifth-place match.

Matt Yaquinto just missed a berth in the state tournament at 103 pounds. He dropped a 6-2 decision to Wooster’s Derek Olsen in the fifth-place match.

Allen Anderson was 1-2 at 112 pounds. He lost to eventual champ Forest Bogue of Elko in the quarterfinals.

Joe Rose was 0-2 at 130 pounds. Steve Magee was 1-2 at 135 pounds.

Douglas’ first-round matches:

119 pounds, Chris Bautista vs. Jared Medina, Rancho High

125 pounds, Romaine Smokey vs. Russell Autin, Silverado High

140 pounds, D’Art Johnson vs. Russell Duke, Las Vegas High

145 pounds, David Tingle vs. Mike Bowman, Green Valley High

171 pounds, Nathan Bennett, bye (will meet the winner of the match between

Steve Swarzer, Wooster High and Steven Smith, Clark High)

189 pounds, John Hillenbrand vs. Reed Devoge, Western High

275 pounds, Matt Wilcks vs. Vito Pasqualicc, Centennial High