Road to state begins at Nevada District

Friday, February 6, 2004

High school wrestling embodies the best of both worlds -- individual and team.

On Saturday, each high school wrestler embarks on a road he hopes will end with an eventual state championship. At the same time, each individual wants to contribute to his team's effort to capture a district title.

The Nevada Tigers have an added incentive. They'll have the home crowd behind them.

"It's going to be nice having it (district) on our home court," said senior Zach Walrod. "Our student section is pretty cool. It gets loud in here and pretty exciting."

Nevada narrowly missed a district championship in 2003. The Tigers' score of 172 fell just five shy of reigning champion Neosho's 177.

Twelve of 13 Nevada contestants qualified for the sectional round, the next leg of the championship run.

That feat will be difficult to duplicate for a less-experienced Nevada team.

But Nevada coach Larron Hurst saw his team peaking at the final regular-season tournament.

"The districts are going to be interesting," he said. "Today, there was a spark in them. Things started to click."

Returning district qualifiers are sophomore Jason Engle, sophomore Joe Roberts, junior David Hawks, junior John Christie, Walrod, junior Tyler Shouse and senior Leonard Keller.

Non-qualifier Tommy Werner's stock has risen with an impressive senior campaign and senior Kaleb Leonard and sophomore Keith Overton have come on strong in recent matches.

Hawks, Walrod, Shouse and Keller advanced through the sectional round to the state tournament.

Heavyweight Keller was the only Nevada state medalist with a fourth-place finish. He is back on track with a 29-1 record in the regular season.

The 145-pound Walrod has dominated opponents and must be considered a favorite. He enters the district meet with a spotless 27-0 record.

"I'm definitely looking forward to state," he said. "I've had the same goal since I was little, to be a state champ.

"My first three years, I've been to state and had opportunities. I think it was kind of an underclassman, immature attitude that made me come up short. But there's something about my senior year that's made me turn it up and it's paying off."

The big payoff draws near -- just two weeks down the road.

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