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Wrestling: Underclassmen lead Pahrump Valley rout on Senior Night

It was Senior Night, and there were the required names of the seniors on the wall of the gym introduction of seniors with their parents before the Pahrump Valley High School wrestling team took the mat to face Valley on Thursday night in Pahrump.

And seniors did play a role in the match, as Donnie Miller (126) recorded a pin and Wyatt Plant (152) received a forfeit as the Trojans dismantled the Vikings 66-18. But this year’s seniors, as a group, have watched as younger wrestlers filled much of the lineup for the Trojans.

Some of that is because not all of the seniors are four-year wrestlers.

“I couldn’t get guys in my grade to stay, but we got a couple of them back for senior year,” said Miller, who needed 41 seconds to pin Valley’s Ernesto Sungo.

Miller has wrestled all four years, three of them in the starting lineup, although he did miss much of last season with an injury. But it was a bout the year before that sticks in his mind as his best wrestling memory.

“I remember wrestling this kid from Western, and I had to get fifth place in order to make it to state,” Miller recalled, flashing back to a 2018 bout against Abraham Navas at 120 pounds. “It was the third period, 10 seconds, left, and I … got the pin and made it to state.

“Me and that kid had a feud anyway, going back and forth the whole year. It was kind of nice just to beat him right there at the end and knock him out. He was a senior, and I was a sophomore.”

At least his strongest memory is more positive than Plant’s.

“I broke my elbow during regionals as a freshman,” he said. “The guy had me in a headlock and picked me and dropped me down. I posted my arm, and my elbow was dislocated and shattered.”

Plant also wrestled for four years, although, like Miller, he didn’t make it to the end of one season because of an injury. In his case, it was a wrist injury as a junior.

Another senior has been kept off the mat all winter with a more serious injury. Armani McGhee, a college football prospect, had most of his football season and his entire wrestling season derailed by a serious knee injury.

“It was a complete tear of my ACL and two tears of my meniscus in my left knee,” McGhee explained. But the good news is his recovery is going well.

“I’m feeling great, still going through rehab,” he said. “I was hoping to come back this season, but now I’m just looking forward to track and field season.”

McGhee has personal bests of 96 feet, 2 inches in the discus and 36-11 in the shot put.

“I’m recovering faster than most people,” he said. “I’m hoping to get released in a month or two.”

The football-wrestling link is a consistent one, as many football players turn to the mats during the winter. Another senior who did just that is Joaquin Souza, who did not take up the sport until high school.

“A lot of my friends talked to me during football, because usually if you play football you do wrestling, so that’s how I got into it initially,” said Souza, who mostly has wrestled at 170 and 182 during his career.

Souza’s strongest memory is of his former teammates.

“My sophomore year, just because a lot of the seniors back then all used to beat up on the little guy,” he said. “Taught me a lesson.”

Miller had a similar take.

“When I first got here we had a bunch of good seniors, and there was a strong junior class, and it was nice to see everybody and learn from them,” he said. “Now I’m able to teach what they taught me.”

Asked about lessons he will take with him from the sport, Souza had a quick answer.

“If you just push through the pain and get to the end of the day, you feel better about yourself,” he said. “Practices are insane for us, and you have to push through it every single day.”

“Discipline,” was Miller’s answer. “When you commit to something, stay with it. Don’t quit. All you can do is do your best.”

“I think my favorite lesson in wrestling is that you don’t have to talk smack or anything,” Plant said. “If you win or lose, you know who’s better. There’s no reason to talk about anything.”

But there are a lot of reasons to talk about some of the younger wrestlers who were part of the win over Valley. some who wrestled a lot this season and some who didn’t.

“At 160, Eke … Eko … I don’t know how to say his name,” Trojans coach Craig Rieger said with a laugh about sophomore Ikaika Keanaaina. “Roman (Roberts) is sick, and Roman’s a really good wrestler for us. Eke is a first-year sophomore, a 152-pounder at JV, and he stepped up.”

Not only did Keanaaina step in, he earned a varsity letter Thursday night and his second-period pin of Yakie Mufson clinched the match for the Trojans.

“Then at 170, Daniel Dilone, he’s had only one other win,” Rieger said about a wrestler who needed just 55 seconds to pin Martin Cortes. “He’s wrestled some tough kids. And again, Daniel Edghil, a freshman at 145. It’s great to see these guys feel and understand. Another one — Tannor Hanks — a freshman wrestling at heavyweight. I’m just happy.”

Hanks’ pin almost brought the house down, as the freshman wrapped up the night by beating Valley’s Abraham Rodriguez early in the third period. But Rieger also was pleased with one of his older wrestlers, as junior Anthony Pearson overcame a lackluster showing Tuesday at Mojave to turn in a strong effort against John Baloyot at 195.

“Anthony Pearson is a good wrestler and did not wrestle well the other night, and he knows it,” Rieger said. “But that wrestler from Valley, he’s a good wrestler. Just two good wrestlers, great action, I was really impressed with that.”

Pearson started out on fire, cruised for a while and then turned it up again early in the third, getting the fall in 4:37 to give the Trojans a 60-12 lead, a margin that surprised their coach.

“I was a lot more nervous than these boys,” Rieger said. “I’m like, feed off the crowd’s energy, and it will be fun.”

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