The walls of Centennial’s gym are adorned with a nearly uncountable number of banners: state championships, region titles, players of the year.
But there’s one sport missing. And the wrestling team intends to change that.
The Bulldogs are second in team points after the first day of the Sunset Region meet, and will send six wrestlers to the semifinals Saturday seeking the first region championship in program history.
“I think it’s more of a memory thing that you come back to, like I won it in my own school,” 138-pound semifinal qualifier Nico Antuna said. “A lot of other teams have been looking down on us because of our dual scores, but we’re pretty good when it comes to the individual part.”
Antuna is perhaps the most decorated wrestler in Nevada without a state title, and with 202 career victories, he needs just four more wins to be the all-time Class 4A record holder.
Antuna also represents one of Centennial’s best chances to walk away with an individual title. He won last year’s region championship, and finished third in the two years before that. He is the only Bulldog remaining who won a region title last year, though Tyler Roper (182 pounds) won the 152-pound title in 2016 when he was at Arbor View.
“You can’t be anything but happy having a big hunk of your guys one win away form going to state,” Centennial coach Steve Wike said. “I feel confident in my boys.”
The Bulldogs enter Saturday with 71½ team points, three behind leader Shadow Ridge. Two-time defending champion Arbor View is third with 66 points, and Cimarron-Memorial has 65. Antuna and Roper will be joined in the semifinals by teammates Mac Tyra (132), Ike Edwards (160), Richard Kilgore (170), Izaiah Ieremia (220).
Kilgore’s quarterfinal match was particularly impressive. He earned a takedown with a double-leg, then rolled his opponent onto his back for an immediate whistle. The match took 31 seconds.
Kilgore is in a bracket with heavy state favorite Joey Mazzara of Bishop Gorman, whom he would not face until the final if they both advance. Roper faces a similar challenge, as he is in the same bracket as Faith Lutheran junior Connor Bourne, who won state last season.
“It always feels good, but you always have to be ready for what’s next because it gets tougher as you go on,” Kilgore said. “You don’t hope for an easy weight class because it means nothing if you win. To be a champion, you have to beat a champion.”
Shadow Ridge will send 10 point-eligible wrestlers to the semifinals, most among all schools. Cimarron and Arbor View each will send seven. With Faith Lutheran at 51 points, the top five schools all from the Northwest League.
“It’s a dog fight up here,” Wike said. “We’re the black-and-blue division up here for a reason. We just beat each other up and have a good time doing it.”