With eight qualifiers for the 4A State Wrestling Championships, Carson High is seeing all the benefits of taking a talented, close-knit team into the final week of the season.
Last year, David Remer and Alex Wells were the only two Senators to punch their ticket to the state tournament, but this season the Senators’ practice room is getting a taste of taking nearly their entire lineup through the final week of the season.
Carson head coach Nick Redwine feels the intensity and attitudes around the practice room are sky high given the Senators know each wrestler has a 1-in-9 shot at being Carson’s next state title winner.
“We’d be hard pressed to pick a better eight kids to go,” said Redwine. “It’s crazy because everyone has a partner that’s near their weight. ... We can actually structure it like a real practice so it’s awesome.”
Alongside Remer (195) and Wells (160) will be state tournament newcomers Ariel Vega (113), Luis Mayoral (120), Max Harris (138), Izayah Pando (152), Thomas Legott (170) and Zacharie Gafford (182).
The early week practices have been designed around fixing mistakes from the regional tournament and Monday’s practice was the most intense of the week.
As the final tournament of the season nears, Redwine says practices will lower in intensity while hoping to keep the kids loose heading into one final weekend on the mat.
The 2020 4A State Wrestling Championships will be held at Cimarron-Memorial High School in Las Vegas, which is a smaller venue than year’s past for the state tournament.
For first-time state tournament wrestlers like Vega, the smaller venue allows him to be reminded that it’s just another tournament even if he would have wished to be wrestling for a title in a bigger, more dramatic venue.
“It would have been a lot cooler and a lot funner than being at a regular old high school, but it is what it is,” Vega said.
For Carson High senior David Remer – a two-time state qualifier and a runner-up at 182 pounds last year – a bigger venue would have added to the experience, but certainly won’t detract from his only goal.
“I came into this season with the one goal of winning,” said Remer. “It’s a same old wrestling mat, you just got to use it.”
Staying the course
With the first round of the state tournament taking place at 3 p.m. Friday afternoon, the Senators plan to make the trek down do Las Vegas on Thursday.
Redwine said with a group of eight and a laid back coaching staff, the entertainment on the bus ride down south will take care of itself.
Since each state tournament bracket has already been released by the NIAA, Redwine and company have done some scouting of what the Senators should expect to see.
“We definitely look to see where our kids are at and see if any of our kids are going to be wrestling another No. 1 seed in the semis,” said Redwine of the brackets.
With a week of anticipation it’s hard to keep eyes off the brackets – even for junior first-time qualifier in Vega, who said his mom showed him his bracket soon after release.
“She was telling me about the guy I was wrestling and telling me how hard he was,” said Vega. “I let that go and now I’m just focusing on my soreness and my health.”
Remer and the coaching staff have done their best to try to minimize any anxieties leading up to the tournament.
“When I got there I had that wide-eyed, oh crap this is big stuff and I didn’t wrestle my best,” said Remer of his sophomore campaign. “After that point I was like I just got to go after it. ... Just treat it like it’s another practice and you’ll do fine.”
Redwine echoed his senior’s advice with a similar sentiment.
“I tell them just ‘Let it go.’ You’re done wrestling whether you win or lose.” Redwine said. “The would of, could of’s will be there, but try to limit them in the tournament.”
As the lightest wrestler of the bunch, Vega will open his state against Sam Gallardo of Shadow Ridge. Gallardo took third as a 106-pounder last season at the state tournament.
Vega’s 113-pound bracket also features a returning state champ from the 106-pound division last year and two other previous state qualifiers.
Harris (138), Pando (152) and Wells (160) all sit in brackets with at least four state qualifiers each from a season ago.
Harris and Pando both could potentially face a state champion from last year while Wells’ draw features two grapplers who took third last year in lower weight classes.
Remer (195), Gafford (182), Legott (182) and Mayoral (120) all sit in tournament draws with less returning state wrestling experience.
Remer is the only wrestler in his bracket who qualified for the state tournament last season.
Mayoral will start his state tournament wrestling in the “play-in” round, so to speak. Should Mayoral take his first match, he will drop into the eight-man bracket against top-seeded Anthony Favela of Durango, who went 2-2 in last year’s state tournament at 113 pounds.
Legott and Gafford both open their respective weight groups against first-time state tournament qualifiers, but could face top competition should they advance through their opening tests.
Gafford could see a showdown with Noah Gallardo of Shadow Ridge, who took second last year at 195 pounds while Legott could go toe-to-toe with Justus Scott of Green Valley who won a state title in 2019 at 160 pounds.
The opening round the 4A State Wrestling Championships kicks off at 3 p.m. Friday afternoon and will continue through the championship finals, which are set for 1 p.m. Saturday.
Redwine said he’s not in the prediction business, but even if his athletes are nervous the experienced head coach thinks the Senators could be in for a joyous bus ride back home when all is said and done.
“I think we’re going to make some noise down there. This team is pretty good.”