SPARKS — A perfect storm began to favor the Greenwave.
Spring Creek, the 3A northern regional tournament champion, qualified 11 wrestlers for last weekend’s state tournament at Spanish Springs and sent 10 to the medal round. All five in the consolation finals lost and three of the first four in the championship went down, setting the stage for the Greenwave.
Fallon, which qualified nine wrestlers to the state tournament and advanced six to the championship, was in position to overtake its new rival — and it did after senior Jack Swisher’s win at 152 pounds.
But, it wasn’t meant to be for the defending state champs.
Spring Creek won the pivotal bout when Sheldon Wilkinson defeated a limping Ben Dooley in the 220 division and senior heavyweight Kobe Abe couldn’t shake off his Elko nemesis, giving the Spartans their first state title in 10 years. Spring Creek won by three points over Fallon (135-132) despite losing eight of its 10 matches in the medal round. Fallon went 3-4 in the medal round.
“It’s not bad. All year, we were the underdog,” second-year coach Trevor de Braga said. “They had us behind Lowry and Spring Creek, which was fine. It was a challenge for kids all year. We were right there. Everything was exactly set up as we wanted to be. We just didn’t finish some of those matches. If they would have wrestled their best and what they’re capable of, we would have come out on top of those matches.”
Fallon defeated south regional champ Boulder City by 8.5 points after it qualified the most wrestlers for the tournament with 16. Virgin Valley followed in fourth with 107 points, Lowry came in fifth at 91 and Elko, which crowned two champs, finished sixth with 83.
Fallon also won the academic state team title, which was awarded to the team with the highest grade-point average in the previous semester.
“That’s phenomenal. Not only are they tough, but they’re smart too,” de Braga said. “It’s great for the school and it’s great for the kids’ family. It’s a great title to have. It shows we’re building great men, not just great wrestlers.”
Along with Swisher’s first state title coming in his last year with the team, sophomore Sean McCormick won his second, this time at 145 pounds. Freshman Tommy McCormick (113), junior Matt Goings (160), sophomore Dooley (220) and senior Abe (285) finished second. Junior Mason Smith was Fallon’s lone consolation winner, getting a crucial pin to take third at 126.
The Greenwave entered the championship round down by one point to Spring Creek, which had five wrestling for a title compared to Fallon’s six.
After Tommy McCormick dropped a 7-2 decision to Western’s Diego Ortega, Fallon received help from Elko, which knocked off third-place Boulder City to prevent it from scoring for the rest of the round. A Spring Creek pin at 138 created separation with the Spartans ahead 131-124 before Sean McCormick’s rematch with the Spartans’ Anthony Chavez.
McCormick’s 3-0 win brought Fallon closer, and Swisher’s 8-7 decision over Lowry’s Quint Bell put the Greenwave in the lead by one point with three wrestlers still alive. Goings, who won a title last year, lost to Moapa Valley’s Trevor Van Vliet, 6-3, setting the stage between Dooley and Wilkinson, whom the Fallon grappler pinned for the regional title.
“Matt’s beaten some kids that kid’s lost to and we were confident going into it,” de Braga said about Van Vliet. “He gave up a takedown there and that was the turning point of the match. You have to go all six minutes and can’t stop.”
Dooley and Wilkinson battled to a scoreless tie in the first period but an early escape in the second period gave the Spartan the lead (1-0). Shortly after, Dooley injured his right ankle and wasn’t the same. Wilkinson took advantage with a takedown in the period but Dooley battled and scored a reversal in the third to trail 3-2 with 24 seconds remaining. A nearfall sealed the win for Wilkinson.
“That took a lot out of him. He was right there. He had a good movement,” de Braga said of Dooley. “Mentally, it tore him down a bit, too. That’s going to happen. I’m happy for him. He’s a first-year kid in Fallon. He’s going to be a tough kid. I don’t know his pain. Just to see the grimace on a kid’s face like that, obviously it hurts and not much hurts that kid.”
The pressure came down to Abe, who lost to Elko’s Luis Salazar in the regional final. Salazar never trailed, scoring a takedown in the first and reversal and takedown in the second to go up 6-1. The Elko wrestler held on for a 10-3 win.
“The biggest thing with Kobe is he didn’t give up,” de Braga said. “He wanted it. He did not stop. He has a big heart. He deserves second place. For him to medial as a senior after coming from nothing last year, that’s phenomenal.”
Prior to the first-place bouts, the biggest win of the day came during Smith’s bout with Spring Creek’s Josh Tripp, who defeated Smith in the regional semifinals. Smith caught Tripp off guard in the first period, snapped the Spartan onto his back and pinned him in two seconds.
“I did a lot of work on my shots and made sure my hips were in,” Smith said. “As soon as got I him on his back, I knew I could stick him.”
The win was pivotal because it prevented Spring Creek from gaining momentum and it would be one of five losses in the consolation finals for a school that is able to fill each weight class two wrestlers deep.
“A true wrestler’s revealed how they bounce back after a loss,” de Braga said. “Wrestling’s so mental that you don’t know how he’s going to respond. He wrestled awesome. That’s good for next year coming in. He’s taken second and third and he’s only got one more to go up.”
After Fallon was nearly flawless in Friday’s opening round — the Greenwave wrestlers pinned eight of its nine opponents — three dropped into the consolations, including Smith, seniors Terry White (120) and Chase Hyde (182). White dropped a 7-5 decision to Lowry’s Matthew Souza, whom he’s defeated previously, and Hyde caught a bad break against Fernley’s Arsenio Reyes when his takedown didn’t count because Reyes was injured in the process. The Vaquero won 7-4.