Wave wrestling erases decades of missed opportunities
I still remember that painful loss in the 1999 Super State tournament in Elko.
Louie Mori’s Greenwave wrestling team had a strong season and qualified several over the championship round but only two won state championships, including Harvey Dahl. Up next for the finale was Jim Thime facing Johnny Hall, an Owyhee heavyweight who had a sizable advantage over the Greenwave grappler.
Win and Fallon captures the state championship, the first in school history. Lose and finish second to Cimarron-Memorial, the powerhouse from Las Vegas.
After a brief tussle to begin the match, Hall rolled over on Thime to pin him, and Fallon’s dream of winning the crown was squashed.
Several years later in 2006, Fallon would return to the spotlight, falling short of a state championship despite conquering the region year after year, including an impressive 42-dual winning streak. Sure, Fallon would have no problems crowning individual state champs, including the de Braga brothers (Trevor and Trent), the Shaw brothers (Glen and Daniel), Mickey Ritter, Colin Merkley, Riley Orozco, Josh Mauga, Lyle Gardner…you get the picture.
Second-place finishes seemed to be the norm at state. Not just for Fallon but also for any team that didn’t reside in Humboldt County.
But everything changed last weekend. Call it Murphy’s Law for a couple of northern schools. Call it luck finally going Fallon’s way.
Nearly everything that could go wrong for Lowry and regional champ Spring Creek did. The Spartans lost more opening round matches than regional titles gained the week before in Fallon. The Bucks didn’t dominate the medal rounds like they have in years past.
Finally, this was Fallon’s time.
“I know each and every one of us who wrestled for that program are proud of those wrestlers,” said Merkley, a one-time individual champ who wrestled at Embry-Riddle. “We know the trials and tribulations that are a part of that sport, and that trophy as minuscule as it is in comparison with the emotions, I bet, felt really good to hold up.”
First-year coach Trevor de Braga and his assistants — Ryan McCormick, Dan Shaw and Frank de Braga — all wrestled for the program before returning as coaches and giving back to the program and community. They knew better than anyone about Fallon’s wrestling history from the close calls in the tournaments to the hazing scandal that ultimately cost a longtime successful coach his job despite the many, many pleas to keep him with the program.
“It’s funny because when I interviewed for the job, I told them who the coaches would be when I got job,” Trevor de Braga said. “The big thing was being on the same page. Being with those guys — they’re good friends of mine — we all clicked. We have the same style and same language and coach the same way. It was huge. We’re all on the same page.”
The state championship was won for anyone who donned the green and white singlet. It was won for the school and the community. It was won for that 1999 team that fell one match short of capturing the prized title. And everyone had a part in this team’s success, from the youth clubs coached by Wade Workman to the boosters and support staff.
“I am thankful for all the past coaches who have helped the program in some way,” said Orozco, a one-time state champ who had a strong career at Division I Bakersfield and is now coaching the Road Runners. “From the youth coaches to the high school coaches, I am proud and thankful for the parents who have given numerous hours and resources to give the wrestlers on the team the opportunity to pursue their dreams.”
After being in there in person to witness history and spending four years trying to help Fallon accomplish this milestone in the old 4A, Trent de Braga was ecstatic.
“There have been many great athletes, coaches and teams throughout the years who have been so close to capturing the state championship but have ultimately come up short,” said de Braga, a law student living in Las Vegas. “To witness the first wrestling state championship is something I will always remember, especially watching my brothers and many of the athletes I grew up wrestling will hoist up that trophy.”
Every state championship feels special but the first one will be remembered the most. Against the odds, especially after taking third in the regional, and through all the turmoil surrounding the program and former coach Mitch Overlie, Fallon conquered the Division I-A.
“I am proud to be Greenwave alum and I hope the future wrestlers are on fire with passion to continue to grow and keep adding to the wrestling program’s tradition,” Orozco said.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.