In its second year in the state’s largest classification, COLUMBIA won its first 5A District Three Tournament team championship last season. Before moving up from the 4A SIC, the Wildcats won four district and state championships, and they are an early front-runner for the 2017 title.
The Wildcats received all but two first-place votes in a preseason poll of the league’s coaches.
“We welcome the challenge to defend the title, and we’re prepared to do so,” Columbia coach Todd Cady said. “However, we know that if we stumble, there are probably three teams out there that if they had a stellar tournament with the quality coaching that they have, they could definitely take that title away.”
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Columbia returns 18 state qualifiers from last year’s state runner-up team, including heavyweight champion Brandon Kipper and second-place finishers Kade Grigsby (138 pounds) and Nate Clements (170).
MERIDIAN wasn’t far behind Columbia at state last season, taking third by seven points when the Wildcats leapfrogged the Warriors with wins in the final two championship matches. The Warriors return 10 state qualifiers.
“I think the goal is to be a trophy team and try to finish in the top four every year,” Meridian coach Brad Muri said. “We’ll know a lot more as the season plays out, but we’ve got some tough kids who are working hard.”
CENTENNIAL, the state champion in 2013 and 2014, could make a return to the top with a talented group of returners. Ryan Wilson (113) and Jaron Chavez (160) each look to defend their titles, and the Patriots have nine state qualifiers back from last season.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN could be poised for the best season in program history after landing third in the coaches’ poll, three points ahead of the Patriots. The Grizzlies also aim to crown their first individual state winner.
With a move up to the 5A classification this season, KUNA — a 4A state champ in 2014 and 2012 — could be the league’s darkhorse. The Kavemen own the 4A state record for most points in a tournament with 318.
5A SIC WRESTLERS TO WATCH
JARON CHAVEZ, CENTENNIAL
Chavez wrapped up his junior season with a record of 42-1 and looked untouchable at state, winning two 160-pound matches by pin and two others by major decision. He also won a state title as a freshman at 126 and will wrestle again this year at 160.
BRANDON KIPPER, COLUMBIA
The senior has multiple offers to play college football, and he’s just as tough to contain on the wrestling mat as he is in the trenches. Kipper’s 285-pound individual state title last season helped the Wildcats pass Meridian for second in the team race.
MYSUN MATHER, CAPITAL
He missed the 2016 season with a fractured collarbone after winning a state championship at 106 as a sophomore and taking third at 98 in 2014. “He is fearless and dynamic on the mat,” Capital coach Kelly Bartlett said. Mather will wrestle at 120 this season.
KREEDE PETERSON, KUNA
He followed up his fourth-place finish at 98 pounds as a freshman with a state championship at 106 in 2016 (4A), pinning his opponent in three of four matches. Peterson will compete at 106 again this season.
RYAN WILSON, CENTENNIAL
The freshman took third at 113 pounds at last year’s district tournament and then surprised the competition at state to win his first championship. Wilson upset top-ranked Kade Lincoln of Skyline in the semifinals and scored a 3-1 decision over Post Falls’ Mathias Delarosa to win the title. He moves up to 126 this season.
Other returning 2016 state runners-up: Kade Grigsby, Columbia, 138; James Fisher, Centennial, 145; Nathan Clements, Columbia, 170; John Ojukwu, Boise, 285.
5A SIC coaches’ poll
Team (1st-place votes)
1. Columbia (10)
2. Meridian (2)
3. Rocky Mountain
10. Mountain View