Las Vegas Sun

May 24, 2019

Currently: 78° — Complete forecast

Green Valley High’s wrestling machine churning out championships

Green Valley Wrestling

Steve Marcus

Wrestling coach Jon Ferry calls out to wrestlers during practice at Green Valley High School Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.

Green Valley Wrestling

Freshman wrestlers Caleb Breckenridge, left and Davis Ainslie practice at Green Valley High School Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Green Valley wrestling greats

• Sean Cannon: Three-time state champion; multiple All-American

• Edgar Hernandez: 2007 state champion with 62-0 record

• Mike McEvoy: 1995 state champion with 38-0 record; All-American; placed at state tournament three times

Coach wants players in multiple sports

Desmond Bowers had a 99-yard touchdown run for the Green Valley High football team this month against Basic. In wrestling, he took third last season at the state tournament and is one of the key returners for the Gators in their quest for a seventh consecutive championship.

While many teens specialize in one sport, Green Valley wrestling coach Jon Ferry urges his athletes to try others. Many compete in cross country and track to help with stamina. “I wish we had more kids in other sports,” Ferry said. “Kids should train year-round. They don’t have to wrestle year-round.”

Green Valley’s football team is expected to make a long playoff run into November, meaning Bowers wouldn’t make his return to the mat until the end of preseason workouts. That’s just fine for Ferry, who says competing in other sports helps fuel competitiveness needed in wrestling. “He’s a wrestler who also plays football.”

Two Green Valley High wrestlers are trying to impose their will on each other in a heated practice session. The momentum of the action quickly goes off the mat and into another group of wrestlers also sparring.

But the wrestlers don’t stop — they keep trying for the take-down.

“Good battle,” coach Jon Ferry shouts. “I like it. I like it.”

Ferry wastes little time during the hourlong session, frequently checking his stopwatch to move team members from drill to drill in unison with his practice script. Half the time he’s on the mat showing how a certain technique should be used; the other half he’s playing the role of motivator, shouting words of encouragement.

Ferry is charismatic and demands maximum effort, his wrestlers say.

The methods have worked: Green Valley is the six-time defending large-school state champion, and with a core group of young athletes leading the way, the Gators have their eyes on the state record of eight straight set by Eldorado from 1986-93. The season begins in late November.

“He gets the most out of us by yelling at us,” said Steele Dias, a Green Valley junior who is a reigning individual state champion. “We don’t want to see his temper.”

Success at Green Valley was years in the making for Dias. He started in the program’s youth feeder club, spending many evenings in the Gators’ wrestling room before entering high school.

The room has become a shrine for the Gators’ achievements and is decorated from floor to ceiling with names of high-achieving Green Valley great wrestlers who paved the way for the current group’s success.

“You see those names when you practice,” Dias said. “I always imagined my name being up there one day.”

Ferry doesn’t hesitate to talk about what they are chasing — the legendary Eldorado teams coached by Jimmy May. He’s quick to reference the numbers eight and 14, referring to the eight straight titles Eldorado won and May’s 14 all-time championships.

May, Ferry insists, will always be Nevada’s greatest coach. But the all-time greatest program is something that’s obtainable, something that keeps his wrestlers training so diligently. During the season, there are frequently one-hour practices before school and two-hour practices after school.

In the offseason, there are a handful of showcase events wrestlers enter individually.

“We are creating an atmosphere that is tough. You have to practice that way,” Ferry said. “I want kids to practice so hard that they crawl out of here.”

That’s exactly what happens on most days.

At the end of this preseason practice, when wrestlers are gasping for air and covered in sweat, Ferry lines them up for a series of sprints across the mat. That’s followed by “Spider-man pushups,” where wrestlers crawl across the mat doing pushups.

“Credit to our coaches. They are always pushing us,” said sophomore Jeremy Hoffman, the reigning Sunrise Region champion.

Green Valley went 24-0 in dual meets last season, winning by scores such as 78-6, 84-0 and 72-10. They surrendered just 29 points in five Southeast League duals, including shutouts against Coronado and Silverado.

In the Sunrise Regional tournament, Green Valley wrestlers advanced to championship matches in 13 of 14 weight classes, meaning the Gators would earn enough points — regardless of outcome in the final matches — to win the team title. Many of them, such as Dias, Hoffman, Desmond Bowers, David Kalayanaprapruit, Will Zernich and Justus Scott, are returners. And all are underclassmen.

They also excelled against regional competition, finishing ninth out of 90 teams in the Sierra Nevada Classic, fourth out of 70 teams at the Battle for the Belt in Temecula, Calif., and second out of 74 teams at the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.

“We don’t lose many dual meets head-to-head,” Ferry confidently said.

The area has many current high school dynasties. Bishop Gorman High’s football team has won eight state championships in a row and earning several national No. 1 rankings. Centennial High’s girls’ basketball team is nationally ranked and has won multiple state championships.

Green Valley wrestling is clearly part of the list, and Eldorado’s streak keeps the Gators motivated for more.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21