RENO, NEV. - Compiling a 6-2 record at the Sierra Nevada Classic last Thursday and Friday, good for fourth-place honors in the 138-lb. weight class, Grandview's Joesiah Saunders led a stronger than expected effort by the Greyhounds wrestling team.
The 'Hounds, who made the trip to Reno minus five of their varsity wrestlers - missing due to various reasons, earned a middle-of-the-pack 47th place finish from a field that totaled 81 schools from Nevada, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Grandview Coach Jeff Sevigny indicated his 'Hounds might have climbed the ladder a bit further in the final team placings at the Reno invite, had they taken the entire varsity unit to Nevada. It also didn't bode well for Grandview that the trip to Reno wasn't exactly smooth sailing.
"Part of the problem was the 15-1/2 hour bus trip to Reno. Due to weather and road conditions the normally 12-hour drive was extended by three-and-a-half hours," said Sevigny. "We looked a bit sluggish overall.
"Even so, everyone wrestled hard and we had several good performances," he added.
The strongest came from the 138-pounder Saunders. He opened the tourney with three consecutive pins, all coming in the second period. He claimed the falls in matches against Jason Newell of Medford, Ore., Lesat Velasquez of Escalon, Calif. and Evan Shelley of Folsom, Calif.
Those three pins advanced Saunders into a bout against a Klamath Falls, Ore. grappler, Tee Nguyen. Saunders scrapped hard, but eventually dropped an 8-7 decision. The one-point defeat sent the 'Hound into the consolation bracket, with each ensuing match being a loser's out affair.
Saunders, not deterred, roared back with three straight victories to advance into the medal round for third/fourth place honors.
The comeback started with Saunders shredding Dane Taylor of Reno, 9-1. The Greyhound then edged Willy McDonald, another Reno grappler, by a score of 3-1. That win set up a match against Dillon Ulrey of Crater, Ore., with the victor getting to move on to the third/fourth place trophy bout. Saunders showed his mettle, pinning Ulrey to keep his chances alive for a 'Top 3' finish.
The Greyhound's opponent turned out to be Nguyen, who dealt him the one-point loss earlier in the tourney. Saunders and the Klamath Falls wrestler battled gamely, but in the end the decision again went to Nguyen, this time by a 3-0 score.
Still, Saunders walked off with fourth-place honors from a 138-lb. field that initially featured 64 wrestlers.
"We were happy with Joesiah's performance in the tournament," said Sevigny. "He had an outstanding tournament, losing twice to the same wrestler in two very close and hard-fought matches."
Grandview also received a stellar effort from 106-pounder Marizza Birrueta, whom Sevigny said continued to shine.
Birrueta received a bye in the opening round, then sustained a 6-3 hard fought loss. Birrueta rebounded in a big way, however, scoring a pin and following that up with a 5-3 victory. Birrueta's next opponent, though, squeezed out a one-point win to end the Greyhound's tourney run.
Sevigny seemed pleased, too, with his 120-lb. entry, Diego Castaneda. He opened with back-to-back pins before dropping a pivotal 7-3 decision. Castaneda, in his opening consolation round match, fell again and was eliminated.
Grandview got an opening round pin from 126-pounder David Castaneda, too, but he dropped his next two bouts.
First-year prep wrestlers Adrian Magana (195 lbs.) and Kory Kollmar (220 lbs.) also secured valuable team points for Grandview by each posting 2-2 records.
Grandview's other competitors in the tourney included Ulyses Osuna at 113 lbs., who had a 1-2 record; Alberto Luna at 170 lbs., who likewise went 1-2 in his three matches; and Alex Soberanes (132 lbs.) and Bin Daar (145 lbs.), each of whom was 0-2 in tourney action.
Grandview, which is 4-0 in CWAC dual matches this season, is scheduled to host an invite of its own this coming Saturday. The 'Hounds will then return to league action next Tuesday, Jan. 8, at Othello.