At one point Friday afternoon, Columbia trailed two-time defending champion Post Falls by 30 points.
But as quickly as that gap widened, the Wildcats fought back, cutting the Trojans’ advantage to two points after the first day of state wrestling at the Ford Idaho Center.
Columbia qualified six for the 5A semifinals and has 15 alive overall — two more than Post Falls.
“We were down by 30 points. It wasn’t a good vibe amongst our team, and they’ve battled all the way back,” Columbia coach Todd Cady said. “Going into day two with more wrestlers than them is encouraging, but now it’s all about who is going to show up (Saturday) morning.”
The Wildcats will need to come through in the consolation bracket, where they have nine of their remaining wrestlers. Post Falls has nine semifinalists and four in consolation.
“They have more firepower than we do,” Post Falls coach Pete Reardon said. “It’s going to come down to how many placers each gets. It’s going to be interesting.”
Columbia has four state titles as a 4A program but is looking for its first in 5A. The Wildcats finished second to Post Falls by 82 points last season.
No. 1 seeds Nathan Clements (170 pounds) and Brandon Kipper (285) had little resistance in their first two matches for the Wildcats. Clements pinned both of his opponents in the first period, while Kipper earned a 7-0 decision and a quarterfinal fall in 42 seconds.
Columbia’s four other semifinalists — Angel Rios (120), Kekana Fouret (132), Kade Grigsby (138) and Skylar Hughes (195) — won five of their eight matches by pin.
Hughes needed 10 seconds to finish off his quarterfinal opponent, four seconds shy of matching the classification’s fastest pin of six seconds.
They’ll need that same kind of effort Saturday.
“We have a beef with Post Falls. They don’t like us. We don’t like them, and we want to win more than we’ve wanted to win anything else,” Grigsby said. “I can feel it, and I hope that everyone else on the team is feeling the same way.”
CALDWELL CHASING MINICO
Caldwell’s 2015 and 2016 titles came with little drama as the Cougars posted insurmountable leads after the first day.
Winning a third straight title won’t be as easy.
Minico has a 6.5-point lead over the two-time defending champions and qualified 15 wrestlers for the final day, including 10 semifinalists to Caldwell’s eight.
“We just have to come back and compete tomorrow and win those close matches,” Caldwell coach Jeff Kloetzer said. “That’s what we talked about all week was winning those closes matches, and we haven’t won a lot of those close matches, so we’ve got to change that.”
Caldwell and Minico wrestlers face off in four semifinals Saturday morning, with 16 Cougars still in the hunt — one more than the Spartans.
FRUITLAND IN STRIKING DISTANCE OF SUGAR
Fruitland qualified six wrestlers for the semifinals, and two more are alive in the consolation bracket heading into the final day. The Grizzlies (95) trail leader Sugar-Salem (104) by nine points and are a half-point ahead of Shelley (94.5).
The Diggers and Russets each have 11 wrestlers remaining, but Sugar has a strong hold on first with eight in the semifinals.
“I think we wrestled really well early in that first round or two,” Fruitland coach Isaac MacKenzie said. “But that last round kind of hurt us. We lost some kids that we needed to come through and place. That might come back to bite us, but we’re still right in there.”
Fruitland will need its six semifinalists — they won 11-of-12 opening matches by pin — to advance to championship round if the Grizzlies want to have any chance at overtaking Sugar-Salem.
“If our semifinal guys come through and do what they’re supposed to do to make it to the finals, I think we’re OK,” MacKenzie said.
RIRIE LEADS 2A, NEW PLYMOUTH IN HUNT
If New Plymouth hopes to match its program-best finish of second from 2015, the Pilgrims will need every point Saturday. Seven of New Plymouth’s 13 state qualifiers made it through the first day, and five wrestled their way into the semifinals.
Two-time defending hampion Ririe holds a comfortable lead with 119.5 points and 11 wrestlers still alive, including nine semifinalists.
The battle for second is likely between New Plymouth and Challis. The Vikings sit in second with 75 points, and the Pilgrims are third with 70. Both programs have five semifinalists and two consolation wrestlers.
“I think the next round is going to be absolutely crucial point-wise,” New Plymouth coach Caleb Campbell said. “We want to place as high as we can, and we want our guys to place as high as they can. I think if we wrestle well, we could have five in the finals.”
New Plymouth freshman Brendan Rice, the No. 1 seed at 98 pounds, won both his matches by pin. Older brother Joe Rice, a two-time state champion, did the same at 126.
Freshman Nathaniel Nesbitt (106), junior Deveon Rodriguez (132) and junior Dallin Beus (182) round out the Pilgrims’ semifinalists. They won eight of their 10 matches by pin Friday.
POST FALLS LOSES SEMIFINALIST
Brelane Huber, the No. 2 seed at 98 pounds, pinned both her opponents to advance to Saturday’s 5A semifinals. But the Post Falls freshman failed to make weight after Friday’s competition and has forfeited her remaining matches.
Huber was one of a record seven female wrestlers to qualify for state.
Only Post Falls freshman Devin Hill (106, 5A) and Blackfoot junior Lana Hunt (98, 4A) made it to Saturday.