High school wrestling in the Treasure Valley had a down year last season, claiming 20 individual state titles, the fewest since 2011.
But with Caldwell loaded to defend its team title with seven individual state contenders, Fruitland primed for another run at a championship and a new crop of talent at the 5A level, the Treasure Valley could return to the top of the podium more often at the state tournament in Pocatello in February.
We run down each classification below, looking for teams and individuals poised to make championship charges.
5A SIC RACE WIDE OPEN
With only one returning individual state champ — Capital junior Mysun Mather (106 pounds) — and one state runner-up — Meridian senior Jacob Garrison (120) — the Treasure Valley has few clear individual favorites and loads of state bids up for grabs.
“I think it’ll come down to coaching, who can keep their team focused and get them ready at the right time,” Columbia coach Todd Cady said. “There’s so much parity, it’s going to come down to who is peaking at the right time.”
Mather, wrestling at 120 pounds this winter, remains a force. Centennial junior Jaron Chavez at 152 or 160 and Borah’s Shea Randall at 132 carry state titles from 2014. Chavez took third last year; Randall fourth.
The team race remains just as murky. Centennial features a strong core with Chavez, third-place finisher James Fisher at 145, fifth-place finisher James Humphrey at 195 and Trent Johnson, a 2014 state runner-up who missed last season with a separated shoulder, at 120.
But Columbia returns six state tournament placers. And Meridian features a strong lineup from top to bottom, a recipe that might go a long way this season.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Centennial coach Sean Moon said. “It’s who can bring up those younger wrestlers.”
Defending state champion Post Falls, ranked No. 50 in the nation by USA Wrestling, remains the statewide favorite.
CALDWELL BUILDING OFF HISTORIC SEASON
Caldwell rolled to the 4A state championship last season, racking up 298.5 points — the most in any classification — for the first team title in school history.
And with 10 returning state placers, the Cougars already have a Buck’s Bags Duals title under their belt this season.
“They’re more confident,” Caldwell coach Jeff Kloetzer. “They actually believe that they can be there now. We’ve had good success at the beginning of season. We’re able to spread guys out a little more this year, but we still have to double some guys up.”
Juniors Dante Carreno (98) and Cyrus Salcedo (132) had to dispatch teammates in the finals to win state titles last season. Carreno and runner-up Emmanuel Cerros move up to 113, setting up another season-long duel and plenty of lightweight points for the Cougars.
Seniors Adrian Adame (138), Irving Capuchino (145) and Drew Sowards (285) return after runner-up finishes. Brandon Gonzalez, a 2014 state champ, gives Caldwell another title contender.
The conference remains top heavy with last year’s second-place state finisher, Kuna, and third-place finisher, Mountain Home, returning strong lineups.
Kuna brings back 182-pound champ Levi Perry. Mountain Home junior Pierce Mederios moves up to 113, searching for his third state title.
FRUITLAND AIMING FOR TOP OF PODIUM
A second-place state finisher in 2015 and ’13, and a state champ in ’14, Fruitland is ready to chase another trophy.
“It’s kind of an expectation now. Kids expect to be at the top,” Fruitland coach Isaac MacKenzie said. “We bring back a good squad this year with 14 (state) qualifiers out of our 18 qualifiers back.”
Senior Robert Diaz, the reigning 126-pound state champ, moves up to 132, and Sammy Eckhart, a two-time state champ, moves up to 138. Add in four more returning state placers, and the Grizzlies can count on points throughout the lineup.
Graduation hit Weiser hard, but the 2012 and ’13 state champ also returns several wrestlers who missed state last year with injuries, making the Wolverines an under-the-radar pick.
MacKenzie said defending state champ Snake River, which returns six state placers, remains the favorite to repeat.
NEW PLYMOUTH TRIES TO BOUNCE BACK
The Pilgrims missed out on their first state title in school history last year by the narrowest of margins — a half a point.
And with only two returning state placers — sophomore Joe Rice (first) and senior Levi Austin (third) — New Plymouth will have to fight off a challenge from Melba to defend its district title, Pilgrims coach Caleb Campbell said.
Rice remains the favorite to repeat after winning the 98-pound state title. Campbell said he’ll wrestle at 113 most of the year but cut down to 106 for district and state, as well as Rollie Lane, where he’s a threat for an individual title.
“He turned into a man from one year to the next,” Campbell said. “He is so much stronger than he was last year.”
Ririe, with all nine of its state placers returning, remains the heavy favorite to repeat at state. Campbell said its largest threat comes from district foe Challis.
Returning local state champions
- 106 pounds: Mysun Mather, jr., Capital
- 98: Dante Carreno, jr., Caldwell
- 106: Pierce Mederios, jr., Mountain Home
- 132: Cyrus Salcedo, jr., Caldwell
- 182: Levi Perry, sr., Kuna
- 126: Robert Diaz, sr., Fruitland
- 132: Sammy Eckhart, jr., Fruitland
- 98: Joe Rice, soph., New Plymouth
- Jan. 8-9: Rollie Lane Invitational, Ford Idaho Center, Nampa
- Feb. 10: Grapple for the Granite, Capital High
- Feb. 19-20: 5A District Three tournament, Capital High
- Feb. 20: 4A District Three tournament, Caldwell High
- Feb. 26-27: 5A-2A state tournaments, Holt Arena, Pocatello