Moapa Valley was the site of the Nevada 3A Southern Regional wrestling tournament on Saturday where the Pahrump Valley Trojans defended their title from last season and won the regional championship for the second year in a row.
“Good,” head coach Craig Rieger said of winning back-to-back regional championships. “With those top four teams – us, Moapa, Boulder City, Moapa Valley – we could have been first, second, third or fourth.”
One hundred twenty-one wrestlers participated in the tournament, representing 10 different schools in Southern Nevada.
The Moapa Valley Pirates and the Boulder City Eagles had the most representatives in the tournament, each with 18 wrestlers.
The Trojans had 17 wrestlers in the 14-division tournament. They had two representatives in the 106-pound, the 132-pound and the 138-pound weight classes.
Freshman Ethan Rouse got a small taste of the varsity level. He was brought up from his junior varsity team for the tournament.
Unfortunately, Rouse didn’t get to advance in the tournament after suffering a shoulder injury during the second period of his first-round match.
The surprise of the day for the Trojans came in the 138-pound weight class with sophomore Corey O’Neal.
O’Neal had attended matches throughout the season with the varsity team as an extra, he just never got any experience until Saturday.
And boy, did he show out on a big stage.
O’Neal went 3-1 on the day. His only loss came against former Trojan Gunner Cortez of Virgin Valley in the weight class’ championship match.
“Corey, what a great tournament,” Rieger said. “He had a great JV year and we wanted him to come too as an extra. And the way the brackets happened, he shot through to the final. That was great.”
He won his first-round match via forfeit, however, he would go on to dominate his quarterfinal and semifinal matches.
In his quarterfinal match, O’Neal would defeat his opponent, Freddy Dixon of Desert Oasis, by a 22-10 majority decision.
Following that performance, he would defeat Boulder City’s Aaron Calver by an 11-5 decision.
In addition to O’Neal, the Trojans had four other wrestlers compete in championship matches and had a total of 10 of their wrestlers compete in medal matches.
Seniors Tyler Heaney, Jacob Gray and Tannor Hanks, along with junior Brennan Benedict, all competed in their respective division’s championship match.
Heaney cruised to his 113-pound championship. He won his first two matches, both with first-round pins in 56 seconds and 1:02 respectively.
In the championship match, he won with an 8-0 decision over Desert Oasis’ Gavin Cabrera, who had been undefeated in league play this season.
Benedict and Hanks each won their divisions with two very different paths.
Going into the 150-pound championship match, Pahrump Valley had just a six-point lead over Moapa Valley for the top spot.
With seven championship matches to go, the Trojans had two wrestlers still standing, while the Pirates had four wrestlers.
“I don’t watch scores as the day goes on,” Rieger said. “The three other coaches, they watch the scores. I don’t want to know it. Just one match at a time. Wrestle, wrestle, wrestle.”
With that being said, there was a lot riding on the 150-pound match as Benedict was facing off against Chance Houston of Moapa Valley.
Benedict controlled the match in its entirety, winning with a pin in the third round. He had been up 8-0 on the scoreboard when he finished the match.
With Houston in an offensive position, Benedict scored a reversal to put him in the offensive position to get the win.
Moapa Valley went on to lose two of their remaining championship matches, giving Pahrump Valley enough room to secure the regional championship before Hanks had to wrestle in the 215-pound championship match.
After two tough periods, Hanks entered the third period of his match against Frankie Maldonado of Chaparral down 6-3 on the scoreboard.
He knew he would need a huge third period and that’s exactly what he got.
Hanks was able to score two takedowns and an escape on his way to winning the third period 5-1. Hanks scored his final 2-point takedown with just 21 seconds to go in the match to take an 8-7 lead and get the win via decision.
The Trojans had five wrestlers in the third-place matches of their respective divisions.
In the 132-pound weight class, Pahrump Valley had two teammates go head-to-head in the consolation side of the bracket.
Junior Cole Miller and sophomore Jayms Vilona competed for a spot in the third-place match. The winner moved on, the loser went to the fifth-place match.
Miller was able to get the 6-4 decision victory to move on to the third-place match. Unfortunately, he would end up losing via pinfall in the first round after his opponent was able to successfully reverse Miller’s pin attempt.
The Trojans would finish the tournament in first place overall, ending the day with 220 team points.
Moapa Valley (210 points), Boulder City (189.5 points), Virgin Valley (174 points) and Chaparral (108 points) would round out the top five spots in the regional tournament.
All 10 of Pahrump’s wrestlers who finished in the top four spots in their weight classes will be moving on to the Nevada 3A state championship tournament taking place in Winnemucca, Nevada this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10-11, at the Winnemucca Events Center.
The tournament will feature three of the four classes in Nevada, along with the all-girls state tournament.
Class 5A will kick off the events at 12:30 p.m. on Friday with their first round of championship bracket matches. Following that round, the other classes will hold all of their first round of championship bracket matches.
All classes will hold the remainder of their tournaments on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. You can follow along with the tournament at trackwrestling.com.
Contact sports writer/editor Danny Smyth at email@example.com. Follow @the_dannysmyth on Twitter.