Four wrestling teams will be crowned state champions Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.
Here are the Idaho Statesman’s picks for the front-runners in each classification:
CLASS 5A THE FAVORITE
POST FALLS: The two-time defending champions are sending 16 wrestlers to state, highlighted by two No. 1 seeds and 14 total wrestlers who are seeded among the top six in their weight class. The Trojans beat second-place Columbia by 82 points at state last year, and won the Rollie Lane Invitational in January.
COLUMBIA: The Wildcats won their second straight District Three championship last week and own four state titles as a 4A program. They’re in the hunt to win their first at the 5A level with a classification-leading 24 qualifiers — 13 of whom are ranked among the top six in their weight class — led by No. 1s Nathan Clements (170 pounds) and Brandon Kipper (285).
THE DARK HORSE
MERIDIAN: The Warriors took third at state last season — eight points ahead of fourth-place Centennial and 8.5 ahead of fifth-place Bonneville. Seniors Trevor Ball (106) and Simeon Howie (120) each received No. 1 seeds, and they join 16 other qualifiers seeking to win Meridian’s first state title since 1987.
CLASS 4A THE FAVORITE
CALDWELL: The Cougars broke through for their first state championship in 2015, and they haven’t let up. They won their 2015 title by 81 points and the 2016 title by 104.5. Caldwell leads all 4A teams with 23 qualifiers — 11 seeded among the top six — giving them the depth to make a run at a third consecutive championship behind top-seeded Dante Carreno (126) and Triden Mitchell (220).
MINICO: The Spartans have the third most qualifiers with 19, including two No. 1 seeds and 13 total seeded among the top six. Although they finished fourth last year, the Spartans are in the championship conversation after going unbeaten at the Buck’s Bags and High Country Conference duals and winning their own Red Halverson Invitational over Caldwell.
THE DARK HORSE
LAKELAND: It has been nearly 30 years since Lakeland won its last title (back-to-back in 1988-89), but the Hawks have steadily climbed the ladder the past two seasons, finishing fourth in 2015 and second in 2016. Lakeland, the District One-Two champ, has two No. 1 seeds and 18 qualifiers.
CLASS 3A THE FAVORITE
SNAKE RIVER: With 14 team championships — including back-to-back titles in 2015-16 — the Panthers have one of the most dominant programs in the state and earn the distinction of favorite in what should be a close team race. Seventeen wrestlers will represent Snake River, headlined by No. 1 seeds Destin Summers (106) and Payson Anderton (195). Nine of their qualifiers are seeded in the top six.
SUGAR-SALEM: The Diggers fell one point shy of tying for second at state last season, and they may have the strongest talent across the board this year. Of Sugar-Salem’s 16 qualifiers, 13 are seeded in the top six in their weight class. The Diggers have 10 state titles, the most recent in 2003.
THE DARK HORSE
FRUITLAND: Despite losing the district championship last week to Weiser, the Grizzlies are more likely to place higher at state than their 3A SRV rival. Fruitland had eight wrestlers win district titles, and two of them earned No. 1 seeding at state — Sammy Eckhart (138) and Jonathon Fagen (182). Fruitland won its only state championship in 2014 and shared the second-place trophy last year with Weiser.
CLASS 2A/1A THE FAVORITE
RIRIE: The Bulldogs have won the past two championships with depth. Ririe had 16 state qualifiers last year but only two individual champions and still won the team title by nearly 100 points. The Bulldogs qualified a classification-best 19 wrestlers this season, including one No. 1 seed (Rustin Rinderknecht, 145) and nine other returning state placers.
CHALLIS: Last year’s runner-up is no stranger to success. Challis has four championships in program history, the most recent in 2008. The Vikings qualified 13 wrestlers for state and have the most No. 1 seeds with three — Kade Bruno (120), Cooper Erickson (152) and Pete Bradshaw (160).
THE DARK HORSE
NEW PLYMOUTH: The Pilgrims are coming off their third straight district title and send 13 wrestlers to state, seven of whom won individual district titles. The Pilgrims took second in 2015 — the best finish in program history — and were fifth last year. Freshman Brendan Rice is the No. 1 seed at 98 pounds, and his older brother, Joe Rice, is seeded No. 2 at 126.
Four Treasure Valley wrestlers are in pursuit of three or more individual state titles this weekend.
- Trying for four: Sammy Eckhart, sr., Fruitland (3A, 138 pounds)
- Three: Jaron Chavez, sr., Centennial (5A, 160); Pierce Mederios, sr., Mountain Home (4A, 113); Joe Rice, jr., New Plymouth (2A, 126)
State wrestling at a glance
▪ What: 5A, 4A, 3A and 2A tournaments
▪ Where: Ford Idaho Center, Nampa
▪ Friday schedule: 3A & 2A begins at 9 a.m.; 5A & 4A begins at 2:30 p.m.
▪ Saturday schedule: Semifinals begin at 9 a.m.; placing matches at 12:30 p.m.; finals at 3:30 p.m.
▪ Tickets: $17 each day or $12 discount (55 and older, students in grades 7-12 with an activity card, and students in grades 1-6 may purchase discount tickets and passes). After 3 p.m. Saturday, admission is $8. Children 5 and younger are free. A tournament pass is $28 or $18 discount.