On paper, the Douglas High School wrestling team has some quality individuals returning for the 2002-03 season. What first-year coach Mike Gamberg is looking for, however, is for those individuals to come together and form a quality team.
Just like they did last year.
"As much as wrestling is an individual sport, it is a team sport," Gamberg said. "That is what we preach. I think that's where you get camaraderie as a team, because you can't win a tournament with three super stars. You need all 14 guys to be successful."
The Tigers start off the new season today when they travel to South Tahoe for a 4:30 p.m. Northern 4A dual meet. Douglas also competes Saturday at the Capital City Duals in Carson City.
Gamberg moved up from assistant coach to take over the program from Bill Nickerson, who decided to step down from the post over the summer. Nate Bennett, David Tingle, D'Art Johnson and Joe Immers are also gone. Bennett, a Northern 4A 171-pound champion and two-time state medal winner, is now wrestling for William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
However, Gamberg inherits a group that has seven state tournament qualifiers returning from a team that won the Northern 4A Regional Tournament last season.
"It's going to be interesting," said Gamberg, who welcomed a turnout of 35 wrestlers for the team. "I think we are going to be tough. I just wish Billy was still here with us."
Among the veterans are junior Ryan Martinez, who placed fifth at regionals and qualified for the state tournament as a 103-pounder last season; senior Austin Beemer, fifth at regionals as a 112-pounder; sophomore Bradley Johnson, second at regionals as a 125-pounder; junior Louie Gabriel, second at regionals as a 130-pounder; junior C.J. Keith, fourth at regionals and sixth at state as a 135-pounder; senior Grant Hall, fourth at regionals as a 189-pounder; and senior Dan Molina, fourth at regionals as a 215-pounder. Martinez, Johnson, Hall and Molina are team captains.
Gabriel and Keith have tentatively moved up to wrestle in the 140- and 145-pound weight classes, while Hall has dropped to 171 pounds and Molina to 189 pounds, according to Gamberg.
Junior Matt Yaquinto (119 pounds), senior Raymond Gabriel (152), junior A.G. Reed (160) and senior heavyweight Dan McDonald bring additional experience to the Douglas lineup.
Douglas seemingly came from nowhere to win the Northern 4A Regional championship last February. The Tigers were especially strong on the final day of the tournament when they emerged with state qualifiers in 11 of the 14 weight classes and rallied to beat heavily favored Carson and Fallon for the championship.
"I'll be the first to tell you, everything came together at that tournament and everybody wrestled to the best of their abilities," Gamberg said of last season's regional.
"We had guys who weren't expected to do much. Austin Beemer was one of those. He had a tough time all year and then he goes to state and wins two matches there."
The only thing really lacking are home dates on the schedule. The Tigers will appear twice at home all season -- at the 28th annual Carson Valley Lions Club Invitational on Jan. 4 and then a dual meet against Wooster on Jan. 8.
Gamberg, 35, graduated in 1985 from Quincy (Calif.) High School, where he wrestled at 160 pounds, won a Northern Section championship and qualified for the California state tournament. He went to Butte College and placed eighth at California community college state tournament.
He currently works for the Nevada Highway Patrol, is working on his bachelor of science degree and balancing family life with his coaching at Douglas (he also coaches wrestling at Carson Valley Middle School).
"It's going to be fun," Gamberg said. "I'm glad I got the opportunity to coach. It's something I've always wanted to do. I was very satisfied to be Bill's assistant. He did a heckuva job as head coach here. I'd take him back in a heart beat."
Dec. 4 @ South Tahoe
Dec. 7 @ Capital City Duals (Carson)
Dec. 11 @ Hug and No. Valleys
Dec. 13-14 @ Lowry Tournament (Winnemucca)
Dec. 18 @ Reno
Dec. 27-28 @ Sierra Nevada Classic (Reno)
Jan. 4 Carson Valley Lions Tournament (Douglas)
Jan. 8 Wooster
Jan. 10-11 Sparks Invitational (Sparks)
Jan. 18 Alhambra Lawrence Miller Memorial (Martinez, Calif.)
Jan. 25 Vaquero Classic (Fernley)
Jan. 29 @ Carson
Feb. 7-8 @ Northern 4A Regional Tournament
Feb. 14-15 @ NIAA/U.S. Bank 4A State Tournament