The Trojans finished league undefeated and league champs, and now the hard work begins. The Trojans travel to Boulder City High School for the Division I-A Southern Nevada Championships today. Action starts at 4 p.m. This meet determines which wrestlers will be sent to state.
Last year the Trojans sent 11 wrestlers and finished third at state. This year Trojans Coach Craig Rieger wants to do more. The last time the Trojans won the state title as a team was in 2008.
To get to that point he says his whole team has to do well.
“Our light and middleweights have to have a great weekend. It is going to be a strong team effort,” he said.
Peter Davis, wrestling reporter for the PVT, has been to all the wrestling meets this year and loves this Trojans team. He believes the team has some great potential to bring home not only the regional title but a few individual state champions.
Davis says some of the wrestlers will be facing opponents that they have faced before. For example, Levi Gundacker at 138 pounds more than likely will wrestle Faith Lutheran’s Owen Lawrie, who is a state champion wrestler. At the time, the two faced off here in Pahrump, Gundacker was struggling. He was 10-5 at the time and now is finishing up the year at 16-7. According to Davis, the coach has lit a fire under this kid and he is wrestling more aggressively against all his opponents. Look for Gundacker to have a good weekend.
Davis said that the Trojans will be looking at their opponents and analyzing the strengths and the weaknesses of their opponents.
“They will have to capitalize on their opponents’ weaknesses. Study them well and hopefully develop new technique to counter their opponents’ strengths,” he said.
Rieger says they spent a good amount of time studying weaknesses.
“We practice counters to other teams’ strengths,” he said. “We may discuss individual weaknesses of certain wrestlers. The majority of practice is our style of wrestling. Hard-nose basics and strong conditioning.”
The coach knows his team can beat any team on the Sunrise side. He was asked which team he felt was the strongest team on the Sunrise side.
“Boulder City is a good team but Virgin Valley has strong individuals. They have some hammers,” Rieger said.
One wrestler who does a good job for the Trojans at countering opponents’ strengths is Jeremy Coates at 220 pounds. Coates had faced his Cheyenne opponent before so he knew he had to develop something new for him this year. He had the Christmas holiday to prepare and developed the “Japanese Wizard” to take his opponent down.
The opponent that Coates has a lot of respect for and the only opponent that has beaten him in league is Jacob Chaparian of Clark. Coates studied his moves and had a surprise for him last Friday, but didn’t get use to it. Coates beat him without it in the second round.
“This guy Chaparian is one of the better wrestlers in our weight class,” Coates said. “He is definitely a good match when it’s him and I. He has beaten me 7-3 and that was earlier in the season. I will see him at regionals if he makes it to the finals.”
Coates based his preparation for this weekend on being able to beat a Chaparian type wrestler.
“Guys who I went six minutes with and it came down to points will kind of know what I can do. I know it will be tougher next time. They will know what I am going to do. So I think about this and mostly about keeping my aggression high. I want to be able to go through them when I shoot,” he said.
Now he has the week to perfect his surprise move for this weekend.
“Since Mojave (Jan. 21) I have been perfecting a new setup for my shot, which has been pretty successful,” Coates said. “I have it down and I will use it at the regional. I definitely will be preparing for this.”
Coates has developed some new things but he has also been working on his own weaknesses.
“I have improved upon my weaknesses,” he said. “The coaches will always bring you aside and tell you what you are doing right and wrong and what you need to work on. I still feel like I need to work on my conditioning still because I have not had a lot of six-minute matches.”
Coates said he will be working on getting his conditioning up for the six-minute matches he believes he will be facing at state.
“Otherwise I also worry about my strength because some of these kids come out really heavy on the head in neutral,” Coates said. “That’s something I have to work on.”
In practice he explained the Trojans work hard on the conditioning as a team.
“We now wrestle 35 to 45 minutes live each practice to condition for state,” Coates said.
He was asked where his state of mind was for the upcoming weekend.
“I am thinking about one match at a time,” he said. “Once I see the bracket I am thinking about what kid I am going to wrestle. When I get there I will be thinking about winning that match and then the next match all the way through the finals.”
Coates stressed his teammates will be also working on quickness, which is something heavyweights are not known for.
“Quickness is big even for the heavyweights,” Coates explained. “Quickness will help you out a ton. I rely on my quickness when it comes to my matches. With speed, you will find yourself going through guys who are slower.”
In the end, Coates would like everyone in Pahrump to know that this year’s team is one of the toughest.
“We are defending regional champions and people should expect a lot this year. We have some hard workers and we will make some noise this year,” he said.