Reno High senior wrestler Joey Lavallee was slowed by an ankle injury, but he still found the podium at the Reno Tournament of Champions on Saturday at the Reno Events Center.
Lavallee eked out a third-place finish in the 145-pound weight class, defeating Victor Lopez of Poway, 7-4 on the heels of three takedowns.
The injury held Lavallee back just enough during the semifinals, as he lost to Niko Villarreal of Gilroy 3-2. He is now 17-3 on the season.
“I just didn’t come out prepared, and when steps weren’t working, I wasn’t moving, and I was more flatfooted out there,” Lavallee said.
“I wrestled to his style instead of my own.”
It was a step down from his first-place finish at the RTOC last year, and without the injury, many thought he could have repeated.
“He rolled up his ankle, and it was just kind of a freak accident, but it’s affected him pretty good being able to get off and have good reshot capability,” Reno wrestling head coach Jeff Tomac said. “It definitely slowed him down, but he looked a little better during day two, and I think it was because of a good tape job we had on him that gave him the confidence to perform today.”
Lavallee spoke confidently about his triumphs and faults throughout the tournament. He is the three-time defending state champion with only three losses this season by a total of six points.
Two of those losses came at the Ironman Tournament in Ohio against the nation’s No. 4- and No. 5-ranked high school wrestlers.
Lavallee was one of four Northern Nevada wrestlers to make the late rounds at the RTOC this year. Reed’s Spencer Empey won at 220 pounds, beating Lowry’s Cody Andersen in the final, and Tyler Tate of Spring Creek finished third in the 120-pound class.
“The level of competition Joey wrestles at always prepares him for this type of competition, and he had one little hiccup in the semifinals (at the RTOC), made one little mistake that he kind of recognized, but he came back strong, doesn’t quit and gets third,” Tomac said.
Lavallee and the Huskies next will compete in the Sierra Nevada Classic on Dec. 27.