WINTER ATHLETES: Spring Valley’s Waters leads by example

As a senior, Spring Valley wrestler Ray Waters won a Class 4A state title, dominated national tournaments and received offers to continue his career at the Division I level.

But none of those stack up to Waters’ proudest moment on the mat.

“It was just chilling with the team, getting to know each other better. We created a bond,” Waters said. “It was cool to win, but it was even more cool to see the team win and see teammates win, too.

“The friendships I made this year were great.”

Waters has been named the Review-Journal Wrestler of the Year after completing a 54-0 campaign with 44 pins and the state title at 160 pounds.

Waters earned a national reputation after winning the Battle for the Belt tournament in Temecula, Calif., against a field that included three of California’s best teams.

“We mixed it up with them,” Spring Valley coach Fred Meyer said. “That was great for us, to be able to compete with that level of competition. Ray would wrestle those kind of kids, and he raised his level.

He was beating them decisively. After that tournament, that’s when we started getting the calls from the college recruiters, and quite a bit of them.”

Waters, the National Wrestling Coaches Association’s Nevada Wrestler of the Year, has scholarship offers from Arizona State, Cal Poly, Nebraska, Utah Valley and NAIA Baker University (Kan.).

“It’s good to be able to go to college for wrestling, but I have other goals wrestling-wise,” Waters said. “I’m going to maximize my potential. I want to put Las Vegas on the map, win big tournaments and become an NCAA All-American.”

Waters earned ASICS/Vaughan All-America honors after a seventh-place finish at the cadet freestyle national championships in Fargo, N.D., in 2010.

The 5-foot-11-inch athlete with a 350-pound bench press also has been a gifted gymnast since third grade and led Spring Valley’s football team with 79 tackles as a junior.

“He’s been blessed with freakish athletic ability,” Meyer said. “His balance especially is amazing.

“He was an amazing example for the rest of the team. He really took no prisoners; he just went there and got after it.”

After finishing second at state in back-to-back seasons, Waters dedicated his senior year full time to wrestling and capped it with a win over 2011 state champ Ryder Newman of Green Valley.

“I had to keep my focus on the sport of wrestling,” Waters said.

The dedication paid off, and Waters brought an unfailing attitude into the wrestling room for his teammates, Meyer said.

“He’s fearless,” Meyer said. “The mind is huge in the sport, and he really believes he’s going to win his matches. It doesn’t matter who he goes against; he goes out believing that he can win against every opponent.

“He’s probably the best kid I’ve had the privilege of coaching, as far as his athletic ability and his wrestling ability. That’s the truth.”