SUNSET WRESTLING: Spring Valley’s Penha halfway to goal

Spring Valley’s Eduardo Penha won the 126-pound Sunset Region title last year, and went on to place third in the state as a junior.

Not bad for a kid who didn’t start wrestling until his sophomore year.

Nevertheless, the 138-pounder said last year’s state semifinal loss to Galena’s Nick Oliver still haunts him, and his main goal is to get back to state specifically to redeem himself.

Penha is halfway there after the first day of the Sunset Region tournament, as he moved into Saturday’s semifinals after scoring two wins at Centennial on Friday. He opened the tournament with a pin of Cimarron-Memorial’s Marcos Torres at the 3:48 mark, and followed that with a tactical 9-1, major decision over Durango’s Anthony Catalfamo in the quarterfinals.

Spring Valley coach Fred Meyer said anyone that gets in Penha’s way better be prepared to last the entire six minutes, if they can.

“He’s fearless,” Meyer said. “His greatest asset is his balance, which is second to none. His kinesthetic awareness is outstanding. He’s like a cat, you can throw him up in the air, and spin him around and he’ll land on his feet. But he will wrestle the entire match — all six minutes.

“He will just go and go and go … he’ll keep coming at you.”

Makes sense for a kid who’s been thinking about returning to the state tournament since losing in last year’s event.

“Nobody really remembers third place, everybody only cares who wins,” said Penha, who improved to 41-1 on the season. “Nobody even really remembers second — first place is all that counts. And that’s the only thing that bothers me a lot is that I didn’t get that state title last year.”

Penha and fellow senior Silvano Villanueva, who also qualified for state last year, will lead six Spring Valley wrestlers into Saturday’s semifinals. Competition resumes at 10 a.m.

Most of the brackets played out as expected, with 27 of the 28 top seeds still alive in the championship semifinals. The only exception was Shadow Ridge’s Uziel D’Mattus, who was shocked in the opening round when Sierra Vista’s Noah Slabaugh scored a pin at the 3:01 mark. Slabaugh lost his next match to Cimarron’s Paul Bagnoli by pinfall. Both Slabaugh and D’Mattus are alive in the consolation bracket.

The top three placers at regionals qualify for next weekend’s state tournament at Primm.

After the first day of competition, Cimarron-Memorial placed 12 wrestlers in the semifinals and led with a commanding 81 points. Centennial is holding off Shadow Ridge, with a slim 59-58.5 edge for second. However, the Mustangs have 10 wrestlers still alive in the championship bracket semis, while Centennial has just seven.