FALLON – The Elko wrestling team finished fourth at the Division I-A North regional wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday, posting two champions and qualifying six wrestlers in total for the I-A state tournament in Primm.
The Indians posted 151 points, trailing third-place Fallon (193.5 points) and runner-up Lowry (219.5 points). Spring Creek won the team title with 225.5 points, qualifying an impressive 14 wrestlers to the state tournament.
Elko’s two regional champions were two-time defending state champion Aram Villegas and 2015 third-place finisher Luis Salazar.
Villegas, who is wrestling up at 120 pounds rather than at 113, received a bye in the first round at the regional tournament. He followed with a pin of Spring Creek junior Drake Kennedy. Villegas locked up the regional crown with a 7-1 decision victory over Spring Creek freshman Dyllan Fuchs in the final.
A senior, Villegas will attempt to earn his third state championship in four years, only a runner-up as a freshman keeping him from running the table through three state trips.
Salazar, a junior, placed third in the state at 220 pounds in 2015, competing at the same weight this season.
He breezed to a 3-0 at the regional tournament, pinning Mark Moyle of Fallon in the first round and winning a 10-4 decision in the semifinal over Mikeas Somers of Lowry. Salazar staked claim to the regional title with a fall victory over Spring Creek junior Brennan Reese in the championship.
Sophomore Kevin Villegas, the younger brother of Aram, placed second for the Indians at 113 pounds, falling in the championship to regional champion and Spring Creek sophomore Jace Saxton by a 5-0 decision.
Kevin Villegas had a bye in the first round, advancing to the quarterfinal with a pin of Fernley freshman Tyler Egan. In the semifinal, he won a narrow, 3-2 decision over Fallon sophomore Mason Smith.
Elko junior David Burden finished second in the region, losing a 3-0 decision to Lowry’s Trase Bell in the final. Burden reached the championship after a pin of Thomas Chapin of Fernley in the quarterfinal and a 4-2 decision over Spring Creek freshman Caden Constable in the semi.
Senior Tyler Vera punched his ticket to state in the 152-pound division, placing the necessary fourth to qualify.
After a fall victory over Fallon junior Kendall Rogers in his first match, Vera followed with another pin of Dayton junior Nathaniel Braun, before losing to Lowry sophomore Cade Billingsley by fall in the quarterfinal.
Vera pinned South Tahoe senior Boe Griffis in the consolation semifinal, advancing to the consolation final and a 4-2 decision to Fernley sophomore Cameron Bowman in the third-fourth place match.
The final Indian to qualify for the state tournament was senior Jake Pengelly at 170 pounds. He had been wrestling at 160 pounds virtually the entire season, moving up a division for the regional tournament.
Pengelly received a bye in the first round, following with a fall victory over Fallon senior Bryson Abe in the quarterfinal. In the semifinal, Pengelly lost a heart-breaker, falling 9-8 on points to Lowry senior Shaun Mentaberry.
In the consolation bracket, Pengelly pinned Dayton senior Mitchell Fialkowski, but he was hurt and fell by injury to Spring Creek sophomore K-Ci Slade. Pengelly placed fourth.
Other Indians narrowly missed qualifying for the state tournament, as freshman Brandon Mariluch placed fifth at 106 pounds, sophomore Dylan Ayala placed fifth in the 120-pound division, junior Trevor Basaraba took fifth in the 138-pound class (qualified for state in 2015) and sophomore Roman Tomten took fifth at 195 pounds.
Senior Eugene Golez placed sixth in the 160-pound division.
“We thought we would qualify a few more kids. We had a legitimate chance to get 10 or 12 kids to the state tournament,” said Elko assistant coach Luke Sellers. “We were just a move here or a takedown there away from having four or five more kids make it – but I hope the wrestlers who made state will do well in the tournament.”
Head coach Kelly Wintermote, Sellers, and the Indians who qualified for the state tournament have quite the road trip ahead, having to travel more than 500 miles to Primm, which is located nearly an hour southwest of Las Vegas, right on the California border.
The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association State Wrestling Championships will take place Saturday in Primm.