After months of training, tournaments and league duels it’s finally here — the prep wrestling postseason, where the best of the best meet on the mat in search of grappling glory.
Through all the blood, sweat and tears it takes to make it through a wrestling regular season, four Miners remain to represent Nevada Union at today’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IAA tournament.
Along with senior Will Sumner, wrestling at 170-pounds, the Miners will also feature three sophomores at the divisional tournament. Sophomores Hap Rowe (106 pounds), Keaton Richards (120 pounds) and Kashe McHugh (145 pounds) are all making the trip to Johansen High School in Modesto for the tournament.
Sumner, ranked No. 9 in the state according to www.ccsrank.com, earned his way into the divisional tournament by claiming his second Sierra Foothill League title, beating Del Oro’s Dylan Kainrath in the league championship. McHugh, Rowe and Richards all placed third in the league tourney to advance.
To get past the SFL tourney and into divisionals is impressive, but the Nevada Union wrestlers are looking at today’s tournament as a stepping stone on the way to the Masters tournament at the end of February.
“I expect all four will make it to Masters,” NU head coach Gary Sumner said.
Taking his talents to the state tournament and beyond is where Will Sumner has set his goals.
“My goals go a little beyond just making it to state,” Will Sumner said. “But I’m trying not to focus on any of that. I just want to go out and enjoy wrestling,”
The state tournament has alluded Will Sumner for his first three years at NU. Having been upset at Masters as a freshman, he then missed weight at the divisional tourney as a sophomore and was injured in the league tourney as a junior.
This season Will Sumner said he is in good health and prepared to take it one match at a time heading into the divisional round.
“There will be some tough wrestlers there,” he said. “Some I’ve seen before, some I haven’t. I’m just going to have to go in prepared. As the No. 1 seed, I’m going to have people gunning for me. It’s going to be interesting. I just need to go out there and bash.”
The Miners’ smallest wrestler, Rowe, is looking to have a good showing in his first divisional tournament.
“I want to wrestle better than I have all season,” Rowe said.
Rowe stands just 4-foot, 7-inches, but what he lacks in height he makes up in strength.
“He will never wrestle a kid that’s not taller than him,” Gray Sumner said. “But, he is really strong. All muscle, no fat. He’s a force at that weight.”
As for Richards, who reached the Masters tournament as a freshmen, he enters the divisional tournament having wrestled just a few matches this season due to an injury sustained during the football season.
“I’m hoping to make it to Masters,” Richards said.
“I’ve been hurt most of the year and only had four or five matches. But, I’ve gotten a lot better at neutral, and my set ups and shots. On top I’m more comfortable breaking people down.”
Having wrestled only a portion of the season may be an asset for Richards, said Gary Sumner.
“He’s kind of under the radar right now,” Gary Sumner said. “What makes him so good is he is just very athletic, a smart wrestler who doesn’t make mistakes.”
McHugh also made the Masters tournament as a freshman and hopes to return and fare better this year, citing his commitment to the sport as his advantage over the other wrestlers.
“I push it as hard as I can in practice,” McHugh said. “It sucks, but I push it as hard as I can. I can’t even move after practice, but it’s worth it.”
Gary Sumner praised McHugh’s work ethic.
“Kashe is a coaches dream,” he said.
“I made him a team captain even though he’s only a sophomore. He’s very dedicated. He always wants to come early, stay late; he just wants to absorb more. He sets his goals very high.”
To advance to the Masters tournament the NU grapplers will have to finish in the top-eight in their respective weight classes. The divisional tourney gets started today and runs through Saturday.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.