The annual Earl Wilkens Memorial Tournament holds a special place in Fallon wrestling coach Louie Mori’s heart.
Mori got his first taste of coaching in 1989-90 alongside the Fallon legend. Shortly thereafter, though, Wilkens died and Mori took over the program his mentor started from scratch.
Mori and his grapplers, meanwhile, host the 12-team tournament at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the Elmo Dericco Gym in the first tournament of the season.
“This is our only home match of the year, so it’s a big deal that way,” Mori said. “Earl was my coach in high school and when I came back to Fallon he was the head coach. It was really neat to work with him that year and it means a lot to carry on his name.”
Mori, who also coached the Greenwave through the ‘90s, returns for his second stint as the head man. His last appearance as at the memorial tournament as head coach resulted in a Wave victory.
The tournament, though, returns to a one-format after last year’s experiment as a two-day event under former coaches Mitch Overlie and Matt Reibsamen.
Mori opted to go with the one-day structure as a way to ease his grapplers into action and preparing for big tournaments in Reno, Idaho and California in the coming weeks.
Due to a scheduling conflict, the Capital City duals in Carson City landed on the same day as the Earl Wilkens Memorial Tournament and siphoned away a number of Reno schools.
Nevertheless, the Wave will play host to powerhouse Lowry, Fernley, Rite of Passage, Dayton, Elko, Spring Creek and Galena, to name a few.
“We try to get five matches and allows people to have that contact time and an extra day of practice,” Mori said. “Almost every other tournament all year is two days.”
Fallon, meanwhile will be represented by two teams, although the second team does not have a full roster. The first team, though, is the varsity lineup for the time being, with the exception of state champion Trae Workman, who is battling a knee injury and is being held out of the tournament.
‘At this point in the season, the last thing we need is a lingering injury through the season,” Mori said.
The roster, he added, is solid, although many of the lighter weights have only one grappler unlike years past.
One reason is the veteran athletes are growing and moving up weight, such as David Hughes, who won state at 160 pounds last season but will compete at 182 this year.
Fellow state champs Workman and Sam Goings also moved up several classes leaving holes further down the roster.
Despite the lack of numbers in the lower weights, Mori is confident his lighter wrestlers will compete.
“We have a couple who can move down,” he added. “We are pretty excited about the tournament. Everybody seems to smiling … and coming to practice excited. There is nobody who is going to have a better room than us, if we keep it up.”
Mori said he is excited to watch his younger grapplers on the mat such as Dylan McAfee, Jack Swisher and Anthony Ramirez, among others.
“We’ve got a pretty good group of sophomore kids, freshmen kids,” Mori said. “We will see how they transition. It’s going to be interesting.”