Columbia High coach Todd Cady wanted to make sure his wrestlers were ready for the final day of the state tournament.
Since Cady couldn’t go home with all 23 of them after the opening day, to make sure they ate well and got a good night’s sleep, he arranged to have his team sleep in the Wildcats’ wrestling room Friday night.
The sleepover strategy paid off.
Columbia went five-for-five in championship matches and won its first 5A team championship, turning as much as a 30-point deficit into a 58.5-point victory over two-time defending champion Post Falls on Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center.
Senior Brandon Kipper finished off the sweep with a 3-2 ultimate tie-breaker victory over Rocky Mountain’s Keeghan Freeborn in the 285-pound championship match.
It was Kipper’s second straight state title and capped an undefeated season — the first in program history.
“It’s mentality, and it’s believing that you’re going to win and going out there and just doing it,” said Kipper, who has signed to play football at Hawaii. “Today I just did it.
“It couldn’t have gone more perfect. Everything that could have gone right went right. You don’t dream it up better than that.”
Columbia’s four other champions were first-time winners. Freshman Angel Rios kicked off the finals with a 3-2 decision over Post Falls freshman AJ Delarosa at 120 pounds. Two weeks ago, Rios was the No. 5 seed in his weight class at the district tournament.
“I just really wrestled my heart out and gave it everything I got,” Rios said. “I left everything on that mat.”
Sophomore Kekana Fouret collected the 132-pound title with a 10-1 major decision over Rigby’s Kanani Mago. Fouret’s wrestling partner, Kade Grigsby, followed with a victory at 138, denying Highland’s Konnor Cordingly a second straight title with a 4-0 decision.
Grigsby is Cady’s stepson, and neither could hold back their emotions after his win.
“Definitely after I won my match, when he hugged me, it was a pretty special moment,” Grigsby said.
The championship haul continued with junior Nate Clements’ win at 170. He took second at state in the same weight last season.
“We showed up, and when we were under pressure, we performed,” said Clements, who pinned Eagle senior Brennan Ray in 2:43. “We made it happen. It was a great feeling.”
After winning the heavyweight title last season by injury default, Kipper had to earn his championship in 2017. His title dual with Freeborn was tied 1-1 at the end of the third period and 2-2 through two overtimes before Kipper registered an escape for the ultimate tie-breaker.
Finally, the always intense Cady was able to crack a smile.
“I love that man like a father. He’s done more for me than I could ever put words to,” Kipper said. “To see a smile on his face is the biggest victory of all.”