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Zone tourney is next for Tigers

by Chuck Smock

Two months ago, the Douglas High wrestlers started the season with a variety of short-term goals, but they all had their eyes on the ultimate prize: the zone tournament, where a top-four finish is rewarded with a trip to state.

The countless hours of preparation will be put to the test this weekend at the Northern 4A Zone Wrestling Championships at Galena High. Round I will begin Friday at 5 p.m. The competition will continue all day Saturday, with championship finals scheduled to start at 5 p.m.

The top four finishers in each weight division will advance to the state championship tournament next weekend in Las Vegas.

The Tigers got their final tuneup for the zone tournament on Saturday in Elko, where they defeated Reed, 50-23, but lost to Sparks, 40-37, and fell to Elko, 50-27, to finish 6-6 in conference duals.

Romaine Smokey (119 pounds), David Tingle (140 pounds) and Carl Wymer (215 pounds) each was a perfect 3-0 in Elko.

Steve McGee (125), Leonard Arredondo (145), Drew Hall (160) and Nathan Bennett (189) each was 2-1.

Douglas coach Ron Hall says as many as half a dozen Tigers could advance to the state tournament. But he added that all of the hopefuls will have to wrestle extremely well at zone to finish in the top four.

“It’s all or nothing this week,” the coach said Monday afternoon. “We have about four or five kids who are right there between third and fifth.

“Romaine is the only one who is in real good shape (to earn a trip to state). He’s second, or first, at 119. The others are going to have to work hard.”

Smokey, a junior who decided not to wrestle last year, missed almost three weeks of this season with strained back muscles. He has piled up a 23-3 record and has made no attempts to hide the fact that he plans to qualify for state this year.

“My goal is to be third or better at zone,” Smokey said. “That’s expected.

“I’m getting smarter and I’m learning from my mistakes. Hopefully, I can recover from those mistakes when it means something.”

Hall said Duston Maynes (152), Drew Hall (160), John Hillenbrand (171), Nathan Bennett (189) and Carl Wymer (215) all have the potential to earn a trip to Las Vegas.

Juniors Drew Hall and John Hillenbrand are both looking for return trips to the state tournament. Both qualified as sophomores last year, when the state tournament format included the top six wrestlers from the North in each weight.

Hillenbrand, like all of the Tigers, has a pretty good idea of what to expect at zone.

“I’m going to have some real tough matches, I know that,” he said. “There’s five of us (at 171 pounds) that are pretty good. And I’ve lost to all of them, so I’m going to have to beat some people who have beaten me. I’m going to have to wrestle tough.”

Bennett has a 9-3 conference record, which includes wins at 171 and 189 pounds. He moved up in weight midway through the season and has spent much of the last month getting used to battling larger opponents.

“I’m beginning to get relaxed (on the mat),” said Bennett, who added that advancing to state has been his goal all season. “It’s harder this year. I’ll just have to push myself a little bit more.”

Maynes was 1-2 at 152 pounds in Elko. He was 7-5 in conference matches and knows he might have to pull off an upset or two to finish in the top four at zone.

“All I can do is practice hard this week and get ready,” Maynes said. “Once zone comes, it’s all we’ve been practicing for. It’s time to show how hard I worked this season and how bad I want it.”