Wrestling preview: Tigers look for three-peat
As the Douglas High School wrestling team funnelled into the school’s small gymnasium for the first official week of practice, coach Lamont McCann gave his squad a little extra incentive.
He put the Sierra League co-championship banner, the team’s second in as many years, up on the wall and set his kids to work.
“It looks nice up there,” McCann said. “It gives the guys something to work toward. We have big goals this year and they have been putting in the work to get there.”
McCann, who has put together a 30-4-1 dual match record in his two-year tenure, stepped up the team’s offseason program another notch over the summer and is hoping that it will pay off as the season progresses.
“We’re trying to commit to that ‘Expect to win’ motto,” he said. “The kids are really buying into the program again. We had about 20 to 25 solid for each of our offseason practices.
“It’s really turning into a year-round thing. We take a couple months after the season and then we go straight through. We had three big tournaments in the offseason and then we had practice during the fall for the kids who didn’t play football. We saw a lot of good things overall.”
Heading into the year, Douglas will be operating somewhere between reloading and rebuilding.
The Tigers have eight returners who wrestled at the varsity level last season, including five starters and defending Northern 4A Regional 171-pound champion Tony Ferris.
Douglas graduated five senior starters, all mid- to upper-weights who qualified for state last season, and lost 112-pound standout Garrett Hekhuis before the school year when he transferred to Damonte Ranch.
“We lost a core of guys, all of the upper-weights except for Tony,” McCann said. “So that hurts, because that was really a good core of guys. But I have a good returning core as well.”
Douglas had 35 athletes show up for practice this season, and McCann was pleased to see a large majority of those were younger.
“There are a couple freshmen that have shown a lot of good stuff,” McCann said.
“Everyone is working really, really hard. I think the word is starting to get out that we have had a lot of success these last couple of years and people want to be a part of it.”
Among the top newcomers will be 103-pound freshman Dillon Spates.
“If he does what I think he can, I think he might be in the top three in the league,” McCann said.
With Hekhuis’ departure, McCann said sophomore Wes Peterson, who wrestled in the 103s last season, will bump up to 112 pounds.
“Wes worked hard all summer and we’re hoping for a lot from him,” McCann said. “He kind of had a tough season last year but he has been working hard and he’s gotten a lot stronger. I think he’ll be solid for us.”
McCann said he is very excited about the way the lower weights are shaping up.
Senior Ryan Olsen enters his fourth year with the program at either 130 or 135 pounds after winning the Alhambra and Carson Valley Invitationals and qualifying for state at 119 pounds last year.
He’ll battle for the 130-pound spot with junior CJ Wynar, who split between 112 and 119 pounds last year.
Junior Nico Barker is expected to have a big year at 130 pounds after qualifying for state at 125 pounds last year and winning the West Coast Nationals over the summer.
Cody Spates will fit somewhere in the 130s or 140s after a freshman year in which he went 5-1 in league with five pins.
The remaining top returner for Douglas will be Ferris, who’ll wrestle at 189 pounds this year.
Ferris went 23-5 overall last year and 6-1 in league with five pins.
“I’m expecting big things from Tony,” McCann said. “He had a great football season and he’s really motivated to have a good senior year. He wants to wrestle in college, so this will be a big year for him.”
About the only other known quantity for the Tigers at this point is Stevie Smith, who will shift into the 215 slot.
“He’s a junior and he has some years of experience,” McCann said. “He’s a hard worker too, so we’ll see what happens.”
Outside of that, Douglas will be looking at a host of new faces at every other spot on the mat.
“We have a lot of spots that will be taken up by younger kids,” McCann said. “They’ll have to pick up the pace and fill in as best as they can.
“We’re very solid from 103 to about 152, and after that we’ll be plugging people in to see how they fit best.”
Overall, McCann said he expects to be able to fill every weight except for the 275-pound class. Douglas will be vacant there for the second consecutive year.
Coaching-wise, McCann will be joined by assistants Bill Nickerson and Dean Barker, along with former Tiger standouts Joe Immers and Matt Castro.
– Joey Crandall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.