Clark’s Mervyn Penniston-John knows he won’t be able to wrestle Shadow Ridge’s Tyler Carter in the state tournament come February because the two will be competing in separate divisions.
That’s why he relished his moment Saturday against one of the favorites for Division I state heavyweight title.
Penniston-John rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the second period to win a 7-2 decision over Carter in the championship match of the heavyweight division in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
He was one of just two Southern Nevada wrestlers to place first in the prestigious tournament. Cimarron-Memorial’s Jon Ruggeroli won his bracket at 170 pounds.
“It makes me feel like I’m at the top because I can beat the top man at the top division,” Penniston-John said. “Makes me feel like I can hang with the big guys now. … Nevada is not really known for wrestling, and to win a national tournament, that just shows my hard work is paying off.”
Penniston-John, who finished second in the Division I-A state tournament a season ago, went 5-0 in the two-day tournament with three pins.
He pinned two out-of-state opponents in 52 seconds each and earned another fall against Las Vegas’ Robert Kaempfer — last season’s Division I state runner-up — in the bracket semifinals to reach the finals.
He admitted that losing the state tournament last season has given him a newfound motivation.
“Every time before a match, I think about the podium at state,” said Penniston-John, who improved his record to 17-0. “I cried because I trained so hard and wasn’t able to finish the season.”
Carter, who was 26-0 entering the final match, looked to be in control early as he grabbed a 2-0 lead with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the second period. But he couldn’t overcome the 40-pound weight difference to Penniston-John, who tied it up at 2 heading into the third period.
Penniston-John won five consecutive points — four from two near falls — and never was threatened after Carter’s early takedown.
“I wasn’t worried,” Penniston-John said about trailing. “In my mind, I was going to win. I didn’t care what happened during the match. I was going to win. … (In the third period), he didn’t want to win. He wanted to stay down. He didn’t come here prepared. He didn’t prepare hard enough, train hard enough. He thought it was going to be easy. He came in underestimating me.”
Cimarron’s Ruggeroli concluded his impressive tournament with a pin over Alex Stuart of Curtis (Wash.) in the second period of the championship match. Ruggeroli parlayed an escape with an aggressive takedown to earn the win.
“I feel like I did really good this weekend,” said Ruggeroli, who was 6-0 in the tournament with five pins and a major decision. “I wanted to make sure I went out there and dominated each match. And I felt like I was able to do that very well. Last year, I took third here (at 160 pounds) and second at state. I’m just making sure I get all the preparation I need to take state this year.”
Las Vegas’ Antonio Saldate (113 pounds), Palo Verde’s Joshua Pine (160 pounds), Shadow Ridge’s Kevin Henry (182 pounds) and Cimarron’s Nathan Garcia (195 pounds) placed third in their respective weight classes.
Centennial’s Ryan Pierce (113 pounds) and Nico Antuna (132 pounds), Spring Valley’s Marlon Decoud (138 pounds), Las Vegas’ Andrew Stokes (152 pounds) and Bonanza’s Elias Aguilar (220 pounds) were fourth-place finishers.
Liberty (Ariz.) won the team title with a score of 230½. Curtis (Wash.) was second with 210 points, followed by Red Mountain (Ariz.) with 191 points, Victor Valley (Calif.) with 189 points and Cimarron-Memorial with 185 points.
The Spartans were the top team from Southern Nevada. Shadow Ridge finished in 11th place with 127 points, and Las Vegas was 15th with 103 points.
“I’m really happy with (our performance),” Cimarron coach Mike Garcia said. “We’re getting better just like everyone else. We actually had a couple kids that didn’t make weight today, so that kind of hurt us, but that’s on me.”
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at email@example.com or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson
Las Vegas Holiday Classic
At Las Vegas Convention Center
Top 20 team scores: Liberty (Ariz.) 230½, Curtis (Wash.) 120, Red Mountain (Ariz.) 191, Victor Valley (Calif.) 189, Cimarron-Memorial 185, Holy Cross (La.) 184, Brawley Union (Calif.) 156½, Basha (Ariz.) 150, Beaver (Utah) 143, Yorba Linda (Calif.) 133½, Shadow Ridge 127, Montclair (Calif.) 124, Queen Creek (Ariz.) 122½, Cedar (Utah) 119, Las Vegas 103, Centennial 101, Palo Verde 99, Alta Loma (Calif.) 92, Fountain Valley (Calif.) 87, Florence (Ariz.) 86½
106—Lopez, Yonk, d. Joseph, Braw, 5-3, OT. 113—Ramirez, RdMt, d. Escobar, LibAz, 11-8. 120—Nunez, ALoma, d. Thacker, Gonz, 9-6. 126—Diaz, Mclr, d. Villatora, SR, 6-5. 132—Evans, Bvr, d. Ramirez, Rowl, 8-5. 138—Gonzalez, Braw, p. English, Foot, 3:36. 145—Rando, HCrs, d. Tran, Curt, 9-7. 152—Foret, HCrs, d. Saba, QCrk, 7-3. 160—Vasquez, FtnVl, p. Warner, RdMt, 1:39. 170—Rugeroli, Cim, p. Stuart, Curt, 3:44. 182—Nuessle, LibAz, d. Brown, Vict, 3-2. 195—Smith, LibAz d. Murray, Cedr, 9-7. 220—Dassan, Yonk, d. Hill, Vict, 10-7. 285—Penniston-John, Clk, d. Carter, Shad, 9-2.
106—Galvan, Rowl, d. Padilla, Vict, 11-2. 113—Saldate, LV, p. Pierce, Cen, 4:45. 120—Ortega, Vict, p. Wheeler, Curt, 2:04. 126—Fernandez, QCrk, d. Holm, Milf, 5-4. 132—Cortina, ALoma, d. Antuna, Cen, 4-3. 138—Medina, Cama, d. Decoud, SpVal, 13-7. 145—Braswell, Basha, d. Dale, LibAz, 9-1. 152—Deitz, LibAz, d. Stokes, LV, forfeit. 160—Pine, Palo, p. Rodriguez, Basha, 0:29. 170—Tierney, Irv d. O’Donnell, FtnVl, 10-9. 182—Henry, Shad, d. Bridgman, Curt, 4-3. 195—Garcia, Cim, d. William, YLind, 6-0. 220—Villalobos, Flor, p. Aguilar, Bon, 0:49. 285—Valles, RdMt, p. Kaempfer, Las, 4:14.