RENO - If you looked at Carson High's wrestling lineup and tried to predict who would advance to state, Dominic Kinder's name wouldn't have come up.
He was inexperienced and unseeded, yet there he was pulling upset after upset on Saturday en route to three straight wins and a third-place finish in the 126-pound weight class at the NIAA Division I regional tournament at Reno High.
Kinder will be joined by regional champs Kyle Sharp and Jordan Luhrs, regional runner-up Nicholas Lani and third-place finishers Sammy Mercado, Brady Rivera and Cole McCarthy at next weekend's state meet at the Reno Livestock Events Center.
And if that wasn't enough, the Senators rallied to finish second in the team standings behind Spanish Springs. The Cougars finished at 222 with Carson next at 155. McQueen was third at 132.5 and Damonte Ranch was fourth at 132.
But the big news was Kinder, who decided to concentrate solely on wrestling this year and stopped running cross country.
Kinder started the day with a 6-4 overtime win over McQueen's Garrett Kinsler. Kinder held a 4-2 lead, but Kinsler got a third-period takedown to send the match to an extra period. Kinder quickly scored a takedown to advance.
Kinder followed that up with a surprisingly easy 6-1 win over Mason Cunningham of Spanish Springs, avenging an 11-3 loss. In the state-qualifying match against Manogue's Max McReynolds, Kinder rolled up five unanswered points on the way to an easy 7-1 win.
"A little bit it did," said Kinder when asked if he was surprised that he had made the state tourney. "I wasn't a strong wrestler at the beginning of the season. I put a lot of work in, and got a lot of help from my teammates and coaches. That's what gave me the strength.
"I kept telling myself I would be happy with fourth place. I just didn't want to come in and let them take third from me. I don't think the last match was my best, but it was definitely up there."
His best match? That would be the win over Cunningham.
"I was definitely looking forward to it," Kinder said. "I saw that he had dropped into the consolation bracket and that I would get him."
Carson coaches Tim McCarthy and Paul Carter were ecstatic about Kinder's performance.
"I said before that he was a darkhorse," coach Tim McCarthy said. "The Spanish Springs kid (Cunningham), he pounded him. I'm not saying I was surprised at what he did, but the fashion he did it in."
"He beat two quality wrestlers and did it convincingly," Carter added.
Sharp, after a first-round bye, posted three straight wins, including two on Saturday.
He pinned Tyler Poalillo early in the second round of the semifinals, and then recorded an 11-2 win over McQueen's Mike Paulk in the championship match.
"I always go into any tournament with the attitude of working as hard as I can and be happy with the way I wrestled," Sharp said.
Sharp said his experience and quickness were keys in his final victory. Sharp, who was second at regional and fourth at state last year, hopes to improve on his state finish this season.
Luhrs beat Damonte's Connor Raglen in the final, 6-4. It was Luhrs' second win of the season over Raglen. Earlier he beat the Damonte standout 9-4 in a dual meet.
Luhrs pinned North Valleys' Gaspar Pinon in the semis to get to the championship match, which was physical to say the least. Luhrs went ahead 3-2 in the second period on an escape, and then added three unanswered points for a 6-2 lead before Raglen recorded a third-period reversal. The win made up for the second-place regional finish of a year ago.
"It was one of the toughest matches of the season," Luhrs said. "It (the title and going to state) hasn't sunk in yet."
Lani, who just barely missed a state berth last year, pinned Reed's Jake Otuafi in the semis. Lani was pinned in the finals by old Bulldog teammate Willy McDonald of Manogue. The Carson junior said the win avenged his last-second loss of a year ago.
Lani fell behind 2-0 against Otuafi, but got an escape, a penalty point and a takedown for a 4-2 lead before pinning his opponent with 1:39 left,
"I knew I had to win that match (Otuafi)," Lani said. "I didn't want to come back through the consolation bracket. I was a little nervous after that first takedown. It feels great to win.
"Three of the toughest guys were on the other side of the bracket. There was only guy on my side."
Rivera was pinned by Spanish Springs' Tyler Beaulac in the second round, and then he pounded Chayce Morby of Spanish Springs, 7-0, and Mason Meyer of North Valleys, 7-1, to move on.
Rivera dominated both matches as the score indicated. He was never in serious trouble.
"I'm happy," said the Carson sophomore, who reached state a year ago. "There were a lot more tougher kids in my bracket this year. There were five or six who had enough talent to move on.
"I thought I would (win). I've seen him wrestle before. I knew he was strong, but I knew that I was quicker."
Mercado started Saturday with a disappointing loss (pin) to Blake Boswell of Spanish Springs, but bounced back to pin Brock Simpson of Damonte Ranch and beat Reno's Payton Tsukamoto, 12-5. It will be Mercado's second state appearance.
The match was tied at 4 early in the third period, but a takedown helped Mercado get a 7-4 lead. Tsukamoto closed to 7-5, but Mercado got another takedown for a 9-5 lead, and that's as close as the match would get.
"I've wrestled him (Tsukamoto) three times and it's never been this close," Mercado said. "Definitely I did it the hard way. After that pin, I knew I had a lot of work to do."
McCarthy also had a tough semi, getting upset by Rito Hernandez of Spanish Springs, 6-4. McCarthy led just once the entire match.
The Carson senior came back with a vengeance, winning his last two matches via pins, including a 41-second mauling of McQueen's Austin Sweet in the third-place match.
"That (first one) was a tough match," McCarthy said. "I think losing motivated me to get fired up for my next two matches."
Brady O'Keefe (145) won two straight matches to get back to the third-fourth-place match but suffered a 13-1 loss to Zach Perez of Spanish Springs.
Alex Cunningham won his first consolation match via pin, and came seconds away from upsetting Perez. He lost 10-8. Caden Lehman (106) and Anthony Estrada (126) lost their first matches of the day and were eliminated.