Pahrump Valley wrestling coach Craig Rieger is an enviable position, the sports equivalent of having your cake and eating it, too.
The Trojans fielded a strong team this season and accomplished a great deal, yet they appear to be loaded for next year as well.
The Trojans went 14-4 in dual meets, including a perfect 5-0 in the Class 3A Sunset League, finished third in the Southern Region championships as junior Dylan Grossell (138) and freshman Braylan Durazo (160) claimed titles and 13 wrestlers qualified for state, then saw senior Morgan White (220) win a state title while Grossell, Durazo and freshman Dylan Wright (145) also placed in their weight classes as the Trojans finished sixth in the Class 3A championships at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
“We had a good, balanced team this year,” Rieger said. “We had three good seniors on the team: at 182, Cole Walker, at 195, Jeremy Albertson and at 220, Morgan White. But our two best wrestlers were probably two freshmen: at 145, Dylan Wright and at 160, Braylan Durazo.”
The freshmen showed their mettle early, making sure opponents and their teammates knew they were ready to help the team succeed.
“The best thing was, when we went to compete, say at the Boulder City Duals, their ferocity, their physicality,” Rieger said. “As freshmen, they would go out and set a pace and show all of the upperclassmen that they really brought it physically. They went out there and were very aggressive, and that’s what successful wrestlers do. They are tough, hard-working guys.”
In a sport that requires tough, hard-working guys, the Trojans have their fair share.
“Every season we start the year with maybe 60 boys, if not better, and we finish the season with 35, which is a great number,” Rieger said. “Compared to other wrestling rooms in the South, that’s a great number.”
The Trojans roared through their league schedule, cruising past Cheyenne (54-27), Western (66-17), Sunrise Mountain (72-12) and Desert Pines (66-17) in the Class 3A Sunset League.
“When we got to the conference duals, we just saw the team kind of focus,” Rieger said, and those wins set up a showdown for the Sunset title with Mojave.
“We were 4-0, Mojave was 4-0, so that last dual, at Mojave, it was their senior night,” Rieger recalled. “They announced that it was for the conference championship. That was intense. That was fun.”
Behind falls from White, Grossell, Wright, Isaak Cruz (132) and Tristan Maughan (152), the Trojans handed the Rattlers a 40-33 defeat to wrap up the league title.
“So that was a bright spot,” Rieger said. “Just to see the whole team … I don’t know if we have superstars in the lineup, but we were just kind of solid throughout. We didn’t have many weak spots.”
Then it was on to the 3A Southern Regional meet at Western High School. While Grossell and Durazo won championships, the secondary headline was almost astounding: Everybody qualified for the state championships, with Wright, Maughan, Walker and White placing second as Pahrump Valley finished third in the team scoring behind only Boulder City and Virgin Valley.
“We were so proud of all 13 boys qualifying, because I didn’t know if we would get seven, eight, nine guys, and we got all of them,” Rieger said. “But when you’re a lower seed in the regional tournament, I knew our first rounds were going to be tough matches.”
And they were. At the state meet, several Trojans had brutal early draws and quickly wound up in the consolation bracket.
“We were wrestling some number-one seeds,” Rieger said. “I was happy with how they battled but also happy that they were there, how excited they were to learn from that experience because we bring back a lot for next year.”
And the veteran coach felt quite a few of his charges already were thinking about that.
“Friday night after Morgan won, how many of those lighter weights who had lost earlier in the day were thinking, “I’m ready for next year?” Rieger wondered.
If history is any indication, they will be.
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