SPRING CREEK – The two horses who packed the Elko wrestling team all season shouldered the workload once again at the Division 3A North regional tournament.
The Indians gained regional-championship efforts from senior Kevin Villegas and junior Carl Hansen, one coming by the skin of the winners’ teeth and the other coming with ease.
Elko placed third as a team – totaling 139 points – trailing champion Spring Creek (298.5 points) and runner-up Lowry (230.5 points) by a wide margin.
Villegas, the 2015 state champion at 113 pounds as a sophomore, will vie for his second state title at 126 pounds – winning the Division 3A North regional crown.
He finished with a 4-0 record, winning his first two matches by fall and notching victories by decision in his final two matches.
The last match was the hardest row to hoe for Villegas, earning a 1-0 win over Lowry’s Matthew Souza in the championship.
The lone point of the match came on an escape by Villegas, who had to hang on for dear life to Souza on multiple occasions in the final minute – nearly losing the Buckaroo in numerous instances – the final near-reversal coming with no time on the clock.
While Villegas’ victory provided edge-of-the-seats action, junior Carl Hansen blew through the competition of the 170-pound division.
Hansen cruised to a 3-0 record with two wins by pinfall.
He pinned Dayton’s Tyler Berge in the quarterfinal round, his closest contest coming in a 4-0 decision over South Tahoe’s Jose Leon in the semifinal.
In the final, Hansen handled Lowry’s Cade Billingsley with ease – stopping the match with his second pin at the 3:34 mark for the title.
Elko’s third and final qualifier to the state tournament was provided by senior Josh Boulard, who will compete in his first state tourney.
Boulard placed third in the 145-pound class, finishing with a 2-1 record and a victory by pinfall and another by major decision.
After receiving a bye in the first round, Boulard lost his first match to runner-up Andres Gonzales of Lowry.
Boulard bounced back with a fall victory in 1:36 over South Tahoe’s Kody Griffis in the consolation semifinal.
In the consolation championship, Boulard ran through Sparks’ Robert Pascual by a score of 10-2 for a major-decision win – earning a trip to the state tournament with a third-place finish and keeping Pascual on the outside looking in.
Elko wrestled one of its best tournaments of the season, placing 12 wrestlers in the top-six.
However, several Indians lost out on opportunities to compete at state with defeats in the win-or-stay home contests in the consolation championships.
The Indians had four grapplers lose in the third-fourth place contests: freshman Zeth Kinterknecht, junior Ezekiel Stewart, junior Gabriel Cortez and senior Byron Hansen.
Kinterknecht came the closest to qualifying for state, finishing with a 3-2 record with three victories by fall.
He won his first two matches with pins, losing for the first time to champion Taylor Corak by fall in the semifinal round.
Kinterknecht’s third victory by fall came at the 4:29 mark of the consolation semifinal over South Tahoe’s Skyler Bledsoe.
In the consolation championship, Kinterknecht and Spring Creek freshman Bear Browne fought tooth-and-nail.
With the score knotted 4-4, Kinterknecht took a shot at a double-leg takedown but Browne reversed around behind him and earned a two-point takedown of his own in the closing seconds – Browne going to state with a 6-4 victory, Kinterknecht placing fourth and staying home.
Heavyweight Byron Hansen needed just 26 seconds to win his first match by fall but faced 2017 runner-up (225 pounds) Ben Dooley of Fallon in the second round, losing by fall in 2:46 to the eventual 285-pound regional champ.
Hansen battled back with a victory by fall over Fallon’s Sione Otuafi in 2:20 in the consolation semifinal.
He wrestled well in the early stages of the consolation championship and nearly earned a pin of Spring Creek junior Cody Jenkins, but Hansen ran out of gas and was reversed and pinned by Jenkins at the 3:38 mark of the third-fourth match.
Stewart closed with a 2-2 record in the 152-pound division, notching both wins by pinfall.
He opened with a pin but was pinned in his second match, earning a trip to the consolation championship with a fall victory over junior teammate Cristofer Meza in the consolation semi.
In the third-fourth match, Stewart was shut out by Fernley’s Carter Chapin by a final score of 6-0.
In the entry-deficient class at 195 pounds, Cortez finished with an 0-2 record – losing each match by fall.
He advanced twice with byes, but Cortez was pinned by eventual champion Jeff Guthrie of Spring Creek at the 3:04 mark of the semifinal and lost by pinfall to Sparks’ Aleki Pooi in 3:54 in the third-fourth place match.
Two Elko wrestlers placed fifth; junior Shawn Nakamura and freshman Darin Legrand.
Nakamura closed with a 2-2 record with two pins at 113 pounds, losing to Spring Creek freshmen and state qualifiers Kodis Campbell and Bear Browne by pinfall.
In the fifth-sixth match, Nakamura defeated Bledsoe by fall in 3:36.
Legrand went 1-2 in the 182-pound class, dropping each of his first two matches by pinfall.
In the fifth-place match, he pinned Dayton’s Tieler Fraye in 57 seconds.
Three Elko wrestlers placed sixth: freshman Lincoln Ratliff, Meza and senior Victor Carrillo.
Carrillo closed with a 2-3 record with two pins in the 220-pound class, losing a 2-1 decision to South Tahoe’s Kyle Leake in the fifth-place match.
Ratliff went 1-3 with a pin at 138 pounds, losing the thrilling fifth-place match by a score of 13-11 in sudden victory to Fernley’s Jackson Chapin.
Meza also finished with a 1-3 record with a pin in the 152-pound division, falling in a 5-0 shutout to Spring Creek’s Caden Constable in the fifth-place match.
Congratulations to Kevin Villegas and Carl Hansen on their regional championships, Josh Boulard on his first qualification to the state tournament and best wishes in the Division 3A Nevada State Wrestling Championships – which begin at 9:45 a.m. Friday at The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.