Randy Newman / Courtesy Photo
Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 | 2 a.m.
When Green Valley High wrestling coach Jon Ferry received a phone call from the tournament director of the Clash in Minnesota, he didn’t have to think twice when the conversation ended with an invitation for his team to participate the prestigious dual tournament.
It’s an invitation-only event, meaning the tournament director liked something he saw in the defending state champion Gators.
“He knew as much about my team as I did,” Ferry said. “I was really taken aback by his knowledge of our program.”
Green Valley will participate in the 32-team event in Rochester, Minn., on Friday and Saturday, facing off against powerhouse programs from the Midwest in an event widely considered the most competitive in high school wrestling. Seven of the teams in the field are ranked in the top 15, and most are defending state champions and feature nationally-respected wrestlers with few blemishes on their resume.
A message posted on the Green Valley team website says it all: “We are going to The Clash, in Rochester, Minnesota. Yea, Minnesota. Blizzards, ice, snow, and tough wrestling. Toughest in the country. It’s an invite only dual tournament for the best teams in the country. We are invited, we are going.”
Nevada isn’t known for its quality wrestling, but Green Valley is bucking that trend with its performances this season.
Green Valley, which returned virtually every weight class from last year’s championship team, including state champions Sean Cannon and Jared Brathor, has shown in the first month of this season they were deserving of the invite to the Clash.
They finished fifth out of 120 teams — several from wrestling-rich states such as Oklahoma and Pennsylvania — in mid-December at the Tournament of Champions in Reno, with Cannon at 113 pounds and Ryder Newman at 182 winning the individual titles. Zack Perry and Brathor placed in the top eight.
Last weekend, at the Zinkin Classic in Clovis, Calif., which is considered one of the top California tournaments, Green Valley had five wrestlers place in finishing fourth out of 68 teams.
The event included three state champions and seven state finalists from last year, but Cannon and Newman conquered the challenge by winning individual titles. Donovan Peek took third at 160 pounds, Josh Temple (120) was fifth and Spencer Watson (132) seventh.
“The be the best, you have to beat the best,” Newman said.
In between tournaments, they returned to local competition and had no problems sweeping a three-team Northeast Division duel, taking down Silverado 74-6 and Las Vegas High 62-12.
If the schedule seems tough, that’s because Ferry designed it that way. While winning out-of-state is nice, it’s not his primary goal. Rather, preparing his wrestlers for the last tournament of the year — the state tournament — is priority No. 1.
“I will say this every year: The most important tournament we’ll compete in is the state tournament because of the simple fact it says ‘state’ in front of it,” he said. “My job is to keep our guys not too high and not too low (during the season journey).”
His strategy worked last year: Green Valley qualified wrestlers in 12 of 14 weight classes for the state tournament and placed nine in easily winning the school’s first state championship. They finished with a 25-1 record in duels.
But the wrestling didn’t stop there.
They had more than 20 wrestlers at most summer training sessions, and several competed in top-flight tournaments and camps. It’s a regime that gives Green Valley an edge.
And, of course, will take them to Minnesota to prove themselves against the best high school grapplers in the nation.
“We are going to get to see some different styles,” said Cannon, a sophomore who has just two career defeats. “The guys in the Midwest, they are grinders. They just come after you, and they don’t stop.”