Tigers learn experience at state
None of the four Douglas wrestlers who qualified for the state meet last weekend in Elko brought home a medal, but each earned something just as important for the future of the Tigers program: experience.
Senior Kenny Moore (171 pounds), junior Ben Johnson (189) and sophomore Drew Hall (160) each was 1-2 in his division and was eliminated from the tournament in the second round of the consolation bracket. Sophomore John Hillenbrand (152) had a tough draw and lost both of his matches.
Douglas head coach Mark Lilly said he hopes the experience Johnson, Hall and Hillenbrand gained at the state tournament will help them lead even more Tigers back to the finals next year.
“It’s a whole different type of tournament,” Lilly said. “The level of competition is higher and every single match is tough. This is what it takes. You have to get guys to the state tournament so they know what it takes.
“Hopefully, they’ll come in next year thinking they’re training for the state tournament from the very first day of practice.”
Johnson, who finished second at 189 pounds at the Northern 4A zone tournament two weeks ago, probably was the Tigers’ best hope for a top-six finish at state. But an early mistake started his tournament in the wrong direction.
Johnson was beating Lovelock’s Mark Moura, 6-3, in the second period, before Moura capitalized on an error and pinned Johnson.
The Douglas junior came back to defeat Adam Hopkins of Battle Mountain, 5-2, in the first round of the consolation bracket. Johnson then dropped a 10-3 decision to Galena’s Jesse Jones, whom he had defeated in overtime at the zone tournament.
“It’s disappointing,” said Johnson, who finished the season with a 32-10 record and 18 pins. “You train all year long. You bleed, sweat and cry – and then you go to state and wrestle the way I did? I spent three hours (Saturday night) staring at the ceiling in my room, thinking about how this year’s gone. I was in disbelief that it’s all over.”
Johnson quickly added that he hopes to use this year’s disappointment to his advantage next year.
“Oh, definitely, it’s a motivator,” he said. “Walking into state is an overwhelming feeling. I was thinking, ‘I’m hanging out with the best of the best wrestlers in the state.’ Next year, I can’t go in feeling like that. I have to think I can compete with everyone at the tournament and win the tournament.”
Moore lost a 21-7 decision to Elko’s Craig Cunningham in the first round. He rallied for a 9-0 win over Clark High’s Steve Smith before being pinned by Josiah Jensen of Virgin Valley.
“I was glad to finally get there,” said the senior, who had finished fifth in at 171 pounds at the zone tournament. “It was exciting. I was pretty happy with my first two matches, but in the last match I got caught up in a move and got stuck.”
Moore finished the season 20-12 with nine pins.
Hall came on strong at the end of the season to earn the state berth. He was sixth at 160 pounds at the zone tournament.
After losing to Chad Conley of Spring Creek in the first round, Hall earned an 8-1 decision over Fallon’s Kelly Davis. Davis had defeated Hall, 13-5, in the match for fifth place at the zone tournament.
“It was nice to get that win,” Hall said. “He had beaten me at zone, so the revenge was pretty satisfying.
“I gained a lot of confidence for next year. I’m shooting for a top-four finish next year.”
Hall was pinned in overtime by Joe Tussing of Cimarron-Memorial in the second round of the consolation bracket. He ended the year 20-13 with 11 pins.
Hillenbrand drew the No. 2 seed at 152 pounds in the first round. The Douglas sophomore battled with Cheyenne’s Josh Conte throughout the match, but lost 7-3. Conte finished second in the weight class.
Las Vegas’ Anthony Sharron beat Hillenbrand, 18-7, in the first round of the consolation bracket.
“I could have done better than I did, but that’s the way it goes,” Hillenbrand said. “Being able to be there, and being one of the younger wrestlers in the weight class, was a pretty good feeling.”