This weekend's NIAA Northern 4A Wrestling Championships should be a two-day meatgrinder in which truly the strongest will be standing at the end.
Carson High, Fallon, Douglas, Damonte Ranch and Galena all have a shot to make a run at the title when the zone event begins at 4 p.m. Friday at Hug. The championship round is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at Hug.
"It's going to be a dogfight to pull it out," said Carson coach Tyson Thivierge about winning the title. "This will be a great test."
But Thivierge likes the look of his team, which is coming off another title this past weekend at the Marin Catholic High tournament in Marin County, Calif. "They're definitely peaking at the right time," said Thivierge about his team.
Carson will be at a disadvantage as it will have 13 wrestlers, one less than the full lineup of 14. The Senators will be without a wrestler at 215 pounds as Trent Simpson's broken thumb hasn't healed in time for zone.
But the Senators may have an advantage in another area as they will have a total of 17 wrestlers in the event, meaning they will have four extra wrestlers participating. Those four wrestlers can qualify as individuals for next week's NIAA 4A State Championships, but their performance won't count toward this weekend's team results. The top three wrestlers qualify for state.
But those extra wrestlers can also take points away from the other top teams. "They can knock off other scorers," Thivierge said.
Carson will be led by its "Four Horsemen," seniors Owen Craugh (112), Robbie Bozin (125), Kyle Banko (130) and Travis Lamborn (160). "The four horsemen, they look solid," Thivierge said. "They're coming on."
Here's a look at the Senators in each weight class:
103 - Nick Schlager. The freshman has come on at the end of the year and Thivierge said he's learning how to better prepare for his matches. "He could be a darkhorse," said Thivierge about Schlager finishing in the top three and qualifying for state.
Even if Schlager doesn't qualify for state, he could be among the wrestlers for Carson that gains valuable points with as many wins as possible in the consolation rounds.
112 - Craugh. The title at 112 could come down to Craugh and Damonte's Jordan O'Neal. Craugh lost to O'Neal in a dual early in the season.
"Owen has beaten himself up enough over that loss," said Thivierge about Craugh, who won the title at Marin. "He's got a great shot at it."
"If that happens that will be one of the best matches of the tournament I believe," added Thivierge about the possibility of Craugh and O'Neal meeting in the finals.
119 - Todd Banko. He's among several Carson wrestlers who are favored to contend for a title. "He's ready to attack," Thivierge said. "He's very hungry."
125 - Bozin. Another title favorite. "He's a horse," Thivierge said. "He's been wrestling like a mad man. He'll be fine."
130 - Kyle Banko. Another title favorite. "I'm pretty sure we'll see an explosive Kyle this weekend," Thivierge said.
135 - Adam Carmazzi. A past state qualifier, Carmazzi has a chance to qualify for state again based on his performance at Marin where he reached the finals.
"If the Adam Carmazzi shows up that showed up last weekend he's a top three placer," Thivierge said. "He's very capable of getting himself in the top three."
140 - Aaron Jolcover. Another wrestler who will be counted on to pick up valuable points at least through the consolation round.
"He's been an asset to the team," Thivierge said. "I think he'll be ready to wrestle."
145 - Martin Azzam. Another potential top three placer and state qualifier. "He's a pretty tough kid," Thivierge said.
152 - Brett Allen. He could be the unsung hero as he's stepped in to fill a previous vacancy to potentially pick up some valuable points.
"He's willing to fill a spot that's a hole in our lineup," Thivierge said. "he's very capable of doing damage."
160 - Lamborn. Another title contender. "Lamborn knows what's up," Thivierge said. "He knows what it's all about. He loves to compete."
171 - Matt Heath. He's coming in with confidence as he won his first tournament title this past weekend and he'll be counted on for his share of points.
189 - Garrett Truesdell. "He'll be ready," Thivierge said. "He's very capable of placing in the top three if not making the finals."
Heavyweight - Max Schadeck. "He's starting to come along at the end of the season," Thivierge said. "He's a little further than I expected him to be. He could be another darkhorse."
In addition, Carson will have Ricky Urdarti (112), Adam Welch (125), Derek Guirlani (130) and Junior Valadez (145). Thivierge said all are capable of knocking off a scorer from one of the other top teams.
Among those who really could do damage is Guirlani, Thivierge said. "He just loves to wrestle," Thivierge said. "He can pull an upset.
"The kids are there for each other and support each other. The team has really come together as a whole."