With seven Division I football offers, Columbia’s Brandon Kipper knew he faced a tough decision picking one school.
Instead, he has to pick one sport.
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The heavyweight grabbed the attention of Division I wrestling programs across the country three weeks ago when he won the Reno Tournament of Champions. Before he could walk off the mat, college coaches swarmed the 6-foot-7, 265-pound senior.
“Obviously, football has always been my passion,” Kipper said Friday during the two-day Rollie Lane Invitational at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa. “Wrestling has always kind of been something to get me better in football, and it did a good job.
“But when a school like Oklahoma State comes knocking on your door — the No. 1 team in the country — and wants to have dinner with you, you don’t just turn your head.”
George Mason has extended a full wrestling scholarship, Kipper said. He also said Oklahoma State, Wyoming and Northern Colorado are recruiting him, trying to decipher his interest in college wrestling.
That adds to the Division I football offers the four-year starter on Columbia’s offensive line owns from Army, Hawaii, UTEP, Portland State, Montana, Montana State and Weber State, further complicating his college decision.
Columbia’s student body president said he’s focused on a football future right now. But since wrestling was never an option until three weeks ago, that could change.
“I like to say blessed with stress,” Kipper joked. “... But you can’t complain too much when you’re living out your childhood dream.”
Kipper entered the season as Idaho’s reigning 5A heavyweight state champ. He edged Boise’s John Ojukwu, a Boise State football commit, by injury default in the 2016 finals.
Columbia coach Todd Cady said Kipper has set out to prove that title was no fluke. After cruising through the first day of Rollie Lane on Friday, he’s 18-0 this season. He pinned his first opponent in 58 seconds, his second in 13 seconds and his third, Idaho football commit Maxim Moore of Eagle, in 3 minutes, 34 seconds.
Wrestling started as an offseason activity to improve his footwork, explosiveness and toughness for football. But the same athleticism that piques football recruiters’ interest also sets Kipper apart on the wrestling mat.
“As a wrestler, he’s 270 pounds that moves like 160 pounds,” Cady said. “That’s what sets him apart. He is agile. He can move. … He’s got the size, but to move and wrestle some technique that lighter guys wrestle is pretty special.”
COLUMBIA LEADS TEAM RACE
The Wildcats have 116.5 points, five more than two-time defending champion Post Falls after the opening day of Rollie Lane. Post Falls remains in strong shape for Saturday with eight alive in the quarterfinals to Columbia’s five.
Columbia is the last Treasure Valley team to win the tournament in 2010.
Bonneville is third with 108 points, Crook County (Ore.) is fourth with 100.5, and Fruitland and Colville (Wash.) are tied for fifth at 93.
The quarterfinals begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center, with the semifinals scheduled for noon and the championship round for 4 p.m.
ROLLIE LANE BATTLING CANCER
The former Nampa, Skyview and Melba coach for whom the tournament is named missed the opening day for the first time as he battles non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Cady said the 75-year-old will attend the semifinals Saturday.
“He’s sent me several texts already today that he’s bummed he’s not here for day one,” Cady said. “... He’s struggling, but he’s going to make sure he’s here.
“He’s a fighter. Anyone who knows him knows he’s a fighter. I know he’s battling it right now, but his spirits are high, and he tells me he feels awesome.”
Rollie Lane team scores
1, Columbia A 116.5. 2, Post Falls 111.5. 3, Bonneville 108. 4, Crook County (Ore.) 100.5. t-5, Colville (Wash.) 93. t-5, Fruitland 93. 7, Arvada West (Colo.) 90. 8, Rocky Mountain 88.5. 9, Lakeland 85.5. 10, Meridian 78.5.
11, Caldwell 76.5. 12, Moscow 71. 13, Centennial 70.5. 13, Churchill County (Nev.) 70.5. 15, Nyssa (Ore.) 68. 16, Skyview 64. 17, Shelley 62. t-18, Baker/Powder Valley (Ore.) 61. t-18, Columbia B 61. t-20, American Falls 60. t-20, Blackfoot 60.
22, Post Falls B 58.5. 23, McLoughlin/Weston-McEwen (Ore.) 56.5. 24, Nampa 56. 25, Lewiston 54. 26, Lakeside (Wash.) 51.5. 27, Eagle 51. 28, Mountain View 48. 29, Timberlake 46. 30, Bishop Kelly 39.5.
31, Walla Walla (Wash.) 38. 32, Skyline 35. 33, New Plymouth 33.5. t-34, Melba 33. t-34, Ridgevue 33. 36, Payette 32.5. t-37, Idaho Falls 32. t-37, Madison 32. 39, Rigby 31. t-40, Burns (Ore.) 27. t-40, Marsing 27. t-40, Vallivue 27.
43, La Grande (Ore.) 25. t-44, Kuna 20. t-44, Parma 20. t-46, Crook County B (Ore.) 17. t-46, Madison B 17. 48, Homedale 14. t-49, McCall-Donnelly 10. t-49, Mountain View B 10.
51, Walla Walla B (Wash.) 6. 52, Vallivue B 4. 53, Blackfoot B 3.