Carson trio reaches semis
RENO — The Reno Tournament of Champions is the proverbial meat grinder of wrestling tournaments.
It chews up and spits out some of the best wrestlers around, and making it to the second day is a big accomplishment.
Carson High qualified three wrestlers — seniors Nolan Shine (152) and Brady Rivera (220) plus junior Brady O’Keefe (145) — into the championship semifinals. All three went unbeaten on the day at the Reno Events Center.
Action gets under way today at 9 a.m. for the final rounds which get under way today at 9 a.m.
“It’s one of the best first days we’ve had,” Carson coach Paul Carter said. “All three guys vying for a championship. It was a good day.
“We’ll see how (today) goes. We’ll be running into some No. 1s. I’m very pleased having this many guys still having a chance at the championship.”
Both Rivera and O’Keefe remained unbeaten on the year. Shine and O’Keefe won three matches on the mat, while Rivera got a walkover and then beat Pleasant Grove’s Brayden Mayo 13-3 and Ceres’ Rudy Gonzales, 19-3.
O’Keefe opened with a 9-4 win over Matt Provost of Wasatch, and then followed that up with a second-round pin of Tanner Shields of Delta.
Against Provost, the match was tied at 2 early in the first round. O’Keefe got a takedown and three-point near fall for a 7-2 lead after the first period. Provost started the second quarter with a reversal to make it 7-4, but O’Keefe came back with a reversal of his own for a 9-4 lead after two periods. O’Keefe went into defensive mode in the third period, and neither wrestler scored. The match was stopped briefly for O’Keefe, who tweaked a groin.
In his second match, O’Keefe trailed 3-2 after the opening period, but took control with a reversal and three-point near fall early in the second quarter to take a 7-3 lead. After allowing an escape, O’Keefe recorded a takedown to make it 9-4 before registering the pin with 33 seconds left. O’Keefe gave up a ton of height to Tanner Shields, who was built along the lines of former Carson star Nick Schlager.
“When a wrestler has really long legs that is usually where their weakness is,” O’Keefe said. “I go after the legs.
“I thought I wrestled well the first match. I thought I could have done better, but a win is a win.”
His quarterfinal match against Cameron Killian of Maple Mountain was a thriller. It went back and forth until O’Keefe pulled out a 10-9 win.
“Brady is wrestling real well,” Carter said.
O’Keefe draws top-seeded Andres Gandara in his first match today.
Shine, who dropped to 152 and will likely stay there, started with a 5-3 win over No. 8 Zach Ritchie of South Anchorage and then pinned Tyler Tahbo of Lehi and Dalton Berry of Norman North-Oklahoma. He draws No. 1 Wyatt Sheets of Stillwell (Oklahoma) in today’s semi.
After a scoreless first period against Ritchie, Shine rolled to a 3-0 lead with an escape and takedown. Ritchie made it 3-1 after two periods with an escape. Ritchie got an escape to start the third period, but Shine came through with a takedown for a 5-2 lead before Ritchie got another escape.
Rivera, who was seeded eighth, has won every match in impressive fashion this season.
“He’s much more aggressive this year,” Carter said of Rivera.
The Carson star is wrestling up two weight classes this season, and doing a nice job with that transition, according to Carter. Rivera faces top-seeded Eric Thrift of Borah in his next match.
Nathan Mersino went 3-2 at 132 and Connor Sievers went 2-2 at 182. Both came one win short of being in action today.
Mersino (132) was stuck in an out bracket, but posted two wins before losing in the third round. He opened with a 9-3 victory over Bingham’s Zack Stidham and then winning by pin against Alex Light of Lewiston despite trailing 7-2 at one time in the match. He lost 9-3 to Cibola’s Frank Perez in the quarters.
Mersino never trailed in his opening match. He led 3-1 after the first period thanks to a takedown and escape, and quickly built that lead to 9-1 thanks to two three-point near falls. In the second match, he trailed 5-0 after two periods. He lost 9-2 in his third match. He never led, and there would be no miracle comeback this time around.
“I thought I was going to lose that (second one),” Mersino said. “I just found an opening to get the reversal and then stuck him. I was giving up shots that I shouldn’t have. I need to do better defensively.”
“I like it,” Carter said after Mersino’s comeback win. “He tends to wrestle to the level of his competition. We need to get him to wrestle at that level all the time.”
Sievers lost 6-1 to No. 4 Will Lang of West. He won by fall his next match against Jakob Boren of Norman North and then edged Conner Lucero of Temecula Valley, 6-5, before losing by pin to Stan Ballif of Wasatch.
Brandon Basa (113), Corey Jasper (195), Sheldon Miller (heavyweight) and Kellen McDermott (138) all were 0-2. Casey Stevens had an injury default win and then lost two straight at 120, Spencer Rogers went 1-2 at 126 and Abel Carter went 1-2 at 160. Michael Freeman was a non-starter at 170 after beating Kevin Rusler in a wrestle off to earn the spot. Carter was disappointed at his absence.