Sophomore heavyweight Sheldon Miller admits he’ll be a little nervous when he walks onto the mat to face Bishop Gorman’s Jackson Perry today at the Winnemucca Events Center.
That’s to be expected. After all, this will be the Carson wrestlers first appearance at the NIAA State Wrestling Championships. If an athlete didn’t have a certain amount of butterflies, he or she wouldn’t be human.
“I’ve been to big tournaments like the TOC, so it won’t be too scary,” Miller said before Wednesday’s practice.
Action gets under way today at 12:30. Semifinals are scheduled for 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Miller, third at last week’s Division 1 regional meet, will be joined today by teammates Brady O’Keefe (145), Nolan Shine (160), Brady Rivera (220) and Brandon Basa (113). O’Keefe, Shine and Rivera all won regionals titles, while Basa was a runner-up.
Miller has an issue none of his teammates have. In most weight classes, the wrestlers are fairly close in weight. Not the heavyweight class.
Miller, who tips the scale at 217 pounds, is always giving up a minimum of 30 pounds against every opponent.
That makes an already tough job even more difficult. Because of the weight differential, he has had to change his style of wrestling.
“I can’t shoot like I could if I was wrestling 220s,” Miller said. “I can’t shoot because I can’t get underneath. I have to stay out from under my opponent. I have to rely on quickness. It (size difference) makes it hard for upper body throws, too.”
“He can’t afford to get underneath,” CHS coach Paul Carter said.
“We’ve worked a lot on not trying to throw the bigger guys; moving them around instead. We’re trying to get him to be more defensive minded.”
Carter has been impressed with Miller’s efforts this year, especially given the fact he’s been wrestling bigger guys.
“He is wrestling the best that he has all season,” Carter said.
And, Miller easily could have finished first or second last week at regionals. Going against Conner Hendriks from Spanish Springs in the semifinals, he was penalized a point for pushing his opponent off the mat and out of bounds. He had been warned about that before. Miller was ahead 2-1 at the time.
The overtime loss, 4-3, put him in the consolation bracket, and he worked his way back into a state-qualifying match which he won on an injury default over Reno’s Charles Tuavao.
“I thought I’d end up going overtime,” Miller said. “He kept getting hurt; going to injury time. I was happy when they called it because it meant I was going to state.”
Of all the Carson wrestlers, it appears O’Keefe got the best draw. The way the bracket is set up, the champs from the Vegas area are both on the other side of the bracket. In a sense that would make him the overall No. 1.
O’Keefe will meet a third-place wrestler from Las Vegas in his opening match. Basa, 6-1 in the postseason, faces Liberty’s Kyle Penalosa in his first match. Shine will meet Las Vegas’ Alii Stewart, 6-1 in postseason. Rivera faces Alex Espinosa of Arbor View in his first match.
However, Carter has high hopes for this group. He thinks all three of his regional champs can compete for a title.
“We’ve never had three state champions in the same year,” Carter said. “That would be exciting if we were able to accomplish that.
“I don’t know if anybody is wrestling any better than Rivera,” Carter said. “You can’t count out Nolan. He did very well last year (second place).”
For Rivera and Shine, winning state as a senior would be the ultimate. Both have pointed to this meet all year. Both would love to have their name adorn the wall of the CHS wrestling room.
O’Keefe barely worked up a sweat last weekend, and appears extremely confident about his chances to see his name on the wall in the wrestling room.
He said he doesn’t know anything about his Vegas foes, and that’s not a big deal.
“I’m actually more comfortable with that situation,” he said. “If they know how you wrestle, they know how to beat you.”
Four times Carson has had multiple winners at state — 1982, 1986, 1987 and 2001.
In 1982, it was Scott Kuhlman (105) and Fred Little (155). In 1986, Dane Farnworth (132) and Charlie Schmanski (185) won titles. In 87, Toby Eck (165) and heavyweight Chuck Guptill, and in 2001 it was Justin Sarnowski (135) and Doug Brooks (140).