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Wrestling: Cougars begin title quest from familiar spot

12:00 AM, Feb. 01, 2013 EST

Spanish Springs' Ryan Long reaches for Carson's Kyle Sharp Saturday during 106-pound championship at the Northern 4A Regional in Carson City last season. / Liz Margerum/RGJ File

Looking for the most dominant big-school wrestling team in the North in the past five years? Look no further than Spanish Springs -- just don't look at the Cougars' most recent regional performances for proof.

After the Cougars won the Northern 4A region tournament in 2009 and 2010, they were the favorites in 2011 and again last year. But they settled for a tie two years ago that was more disappointing than joyous and last season fell to Carson in the last match of the meet.

"It was heartbreaker to see all the seniors disappointed when we got the news that we lost or tied," junior heavyweight Chase Hauder said. "I don't want to see that again."

Once again, Spanish Springs, with 12 seniors and fresh off a perfect dual season in the High Desert League, as well as last week's big win over Sierra League champion Carson, enters this weekend's Division I North region tournament as the favorite. And the Cougars are determined to leave past shortcomings in the past.

"I would be really disappointed if we don't win," senior Blake Nauman said. "Knowing what we can do, if we don't do it, it will hurt."

The Cougars begin their quest for the program's third region championship at 3 p.m. today at Reno High. The tournament will conclude Saturday. Finals matches begin at 3:30 p.m.

"We're wrestling very well right now. The kids aren't overconfident. They are right where they need to be," Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli said. "We've seen Carson and seen everyone in our league. None of our kids are thinking that who they are wrestling is an unbeatable kid.

"I try not to point back to the past. We're in no position to be cocky about what we do. We still have a lot of work to do to make sure we're not just the best team up here but the best in the state. We're not quite there yet."

With eight wrestlers seeded in the top four of their respective weight classes, the most among the 12 teams competing, Spanish Springs is the best Div. I North team on paper. But that also was true each of the past two years.

Last year, an ankle injury to Tyler Beaulac hurt the Cougars. Two years ago, it was three wrestlers missing weight that helped McQueen make up the gap and tie for the title.

"I was extremely disappointed that day," Imelli said. "That cost us. That cost the team.

"Every single year, even when we won regionals, it's been something. I want to break that habit, one year have 14 kids make weight and see what we can do."

"We just need to keep our mind focused," senior Ryan Long added.

Beaulac is healthy again and along with Hauder will help anchor the Cougars' upper-weight classes, a spot that was not a strength in the past.

"You need everyone across all weight classes," said Beaulac, the top seed at 182 pounds. "If you have just five guys, no matter how good they do, it's not going to win you a team title. ... If we win the matches we should, we'll win by a lot."

Beaulac's claim is backed up by the Cougars' 55-8 victory over Carson last week. The Senators, who were 5-0 in the Sierra before the crossover dual, won just two weight classes.

"It felt good. It felt real good. It showed our dominance," said Nauman, who wrestles at 138 pounds. "Best in one league and best in the other and we beat them 55-8. I don't know how people can argue with that."




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