Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009 | 11:15 p.m.
The Green Valley Youth Wrestling Club was a force to be reckoned with at the Crusader Invitational at Faith Lutheran on Jan. 31. The Gators stormed into the tournament and left with 17 first place finishes, two seconds and three thirds.
While the 22-team tournament did not award team points, the Gators' performance would seem to indicate that the club is in good position to repeat as Southern Nevada Wrestling Association champions.
"We did very well. I'm pleased," Gators coach Jake Rollans said. "We took a few losses, but we had some very good matches overall. Today was just about getting mat time and making sure the kids stay ready to go."
Rollans said the Gators have stayed sharp this season through numerous trips out of town to large tournaments with more advanced wrestlers.
"When you go to tournaments like the ones we've been to, it helps you step it up," he said.
The Gators wore shirts with bull's-eyes on the back to symbolize the fact that they are the team to beat this season. That pressure didn't seem to faze the Gators, however, as wrestlers such as Jared Brathor won three matches with two pins to claim the 90-pound schoolboy division.
Teammate Wally Zernich went 7-0 to win the 65-pound novice division, the division coaches said was stacked with some of the most talented wrestlers at the meet.
Zernich, a Roger Gehring Elementary School fifth-grader, said the matches were difficult but he was able to advance through each round by remembering what he'd worked on in practice.
"The matches were pretty tough, but I just went out and tried to do my best," Zernich said. "I'm happy with how I wrestled."
With four first-place finishers on his team, Henderson Wrestling Club coach Tony Medina said he was proud of how his wrestlers handled themselves.
"This was a good tournament for us, especially for the kids who got down to the bottom of their brackets," Medina said. "They faced some tough competition and held their own. It's not always about winning. Sometimes it's just about making sure you're improving, and today we did."
Brady Branscum (60 pounds, midget), Logan Branscum (75 pounds, novice), Cole Cauley (60 pounds, bantam) and Wyatt English (75 pounds, midget) all took home first place finishes for Henderson.
Jared Harmon can be reached at 990-8922 or email@example.com.