During his heyday as a high school wrestler, K.C. Karns was a scrappy 98-pounder who attempted to get his team off to a good start in every meet.
Now the first-year head coach at Sierra Vista, Karns sees a little of himself in the spark plug for his upstart team that rolled to an 8-0 record in the Southwest League.
Sophomore 103-pounder Jevon Suggs won all eight of his Southwest matches and is one of nine Mountain Lions who Karns said could reach the Class 4A state meet.
They will get their chance when the Sunset Region championships begin today at Bonanza. The Sunrise Region championships open at Las Vegas High.
Both meets begin at 3:30 p.m. The finals will be contested at both sites at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
The top three placers in each weight class will advance to next weekend’s state meet at Winnemucca, and Karns expects Suggs to be among them.
“I was a small guy,” said Karns, who wrestled at Chester (Calif.). “When you wrestle in duals, that sets the tone. (Suggs) goes out there and gets us started. He gets us confidence in our team. You can see everyone get their momentum.”
Suggs, who transferred last year from Chicago, has taken full advantage of Karns’ advice. He has a 39-6 record going into his first postseason.
“He’s got a lot of good stuff to say,” Suggs said of Karns.
Karns also expects junior heavyweight Andrew Ramos, to get to state. He also went 8-0 in Southwest matches. Others Karns expects to be in the hunt include senior Cory Stimach (119), junior Sylver Quemado (125), senior Julian Batz (135) and junior Victor Torres (140).
A good attitude has been critical in Sierra Vista’s ascension, Karns said. “I just try to get everyone working as a cohesive unit and keep the kids positive,” he said.
Cimarron-Memorial (20-2, 7-0 Northwest) appears to be the favorite to win the Sunset.
Led by two-time defending state champion Britain Longmire (119), the Spartans went unbeaten in dual meets against Nevada teams. They thumped defending state champion Mojave 61-9 and beat eight-time defending Sunrise champion Las Vegas, 49-26.
“Hopefully our kids will just perform like they’ve been prepared to,” Cimarron coach Mike Garcia said.
While veterans Longmire, Yosnay Malvarez (125) and Aaron Garcia (189) have been dominant, the Spartans have been bolstered by Mojave transfer Travis DeGroat (130), Rick Ongaro (152) and Kevin Mendoza (160).
Cimarron is on a mission to return to the dominance of its four straight state championship from 2003 to 2006, coach Garcia said.
“I think the kids are focused on it,” he said. “Tradition, they want to get back to that point with us.”
Las Vegas (29-5, 6-0 Northeast) appears poised for another Sunrise title, but Wildcats coach Aric Thomas isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I don’t see us as the favorite,” said Thomas, who pointed to Basic, Foothill, Liberty and Green Valley as contenders. “There are a lot of other good teams in the region.”
Contact reporter Tristan Aird at taird@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203.In-depth high school sports coverage