It came as no surprise to see Eagle Point High School return home to Oregon with the championship trophy from Carson's third annual Capitol City Duals on Saturday.
What was surprising, Douglas headed back down the road to Minden with possession of the runner-up trophy from the 10-team tournament at Morse Burley Gymnasium. The Tigers, who haven't been a Northern 4A wrestling title contender in nearly a decade, won four straight duals in their bracket to reach the finals of the 10-team tournament and a shot against Eagle Point.
The Eagles, who finished fifth at the Oregon 4A state tournament last season, capped off a perfect day when they defeated Douglas in the final 54-15. First-year Douglas coach Bill Nickerson was willing to overlook the final score, simply because he was pleased to have the opportunity to face an opponent of Eagle Point's caliber.
"I thought the kids wrestled extremely well today," Nickerson said. "Winning our first four matches was a big deal, but Eagle Point is incredible. I think our kids really got a taste of what wrestling at the upper echelon is all about."
Douglas finished 11th at the Northern 4A zone tournament last season and 13th in 1999. But Nickerson well remembers when he wrestled at Douglas in the 1980s and the Tigers were perennial contenders.
"We got a lot of young kids on our team and we're only going to go up. We're only going to get tougher and tougher, this year and in the years to come. Our goal at Douglas High School is to restore the tradition we once had and we're on our way to doing that.
"Second-place for our first tournament. I am happy with that, but again, we have a lot of work to do. It's a long season and we're going to work hard."
The Tigers' Romaine Smokey won his 125-pound match by pin, David Tingle won by default at 152 pounds and Drew Hall won his 160-pound match by a 5-2 decision. Hall is a three-time state tournament qualifier and Smokey was a zone runner-up last season.
"On paper, when we saw what they had coming back from last year, we figured they would be tough and they proved that today," Carson coach Tim McCarthy said.
Eagle Point needed no introduction, even in Nevada. The Eagles won the high-powered Sierra Nevada Classic last year and return three state place finishers from that team: Blake Cam, the undefeated 4A state heavyweight champion last season; James Mannenbach, ranked as Oregon's No. 1 171-pounder coming into this season; and Chet McBee, who has already signed to wrestle at the University of Oregon and is ranked No. 1 among his state's 145-pounders. All three represented Oregon at the 2000 National High School Coaches Association National Duals in Battle Creek, Mich.
"We wanted to see some different people and to see some quality competition," Eagle Point coach Brad McBee said of his team's five-hour drive from the Medford area. "Four of the teams here today finished in the top seven in the state of Nevada last year, so we figured this would be a good tournament for us.
"We have a dual Wednesday against our big rival, (defending state 4A champion) Crater. We'll have about 3,500 people come out to watch and it should be a barn burner. Hopefully, the trip here helped us prepare for that."
Meanwhile, Carson broke in a virtually brand new lineup and finished fourth. The Senators won three of four matches in their bracket, losing only to Eagle Point 54-10, then dropped a 48-27 verdict to Sparks in the third-place match.
Justin Sarnowski, a state runner-up last season, Doug Brooks and Jaxson Luhrs were unbeaten on the day for Carson. Eight members of the starting lineup, including four freshmen, were making their varsity debuts on Saturday.
"We're just starting so many kids who have about two months of wrestling experience," McCarthy said. "So basically eight kids had never stepped on a mat for a varsity contest, so considering that, to get fourth in this tournament is not a bad job."
The main objective was to get some mat time, according to Carson's seventh-year head coach.
"The good thing about these dual tournaments, instead of going to some tournament and getting beat twice then sitting around for the rest of the day, they're getting a lot of matches and a lot more mat time," McCarthy said.
Some of those young wrestlers enjoyed highlights in Carson's 66-15 win over Davis, Calif., including pins from freshman 103-pounder Ricky Adams (1:33), freshman 125-pounder Joe Roman (38 seconds), sophomore 130-pounder Chris White (50 seconds) and 160-pounder Chris Kotter (14 seconds).
The Senators return to action Saturday at the Modoc Invitational in Alturas, Calif.