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Fruitland wrestler joins elite company with fourth state title

Sammy Eckhart defeated Boone Giulio of American Falls 4-2 in the 3A 138-pound final Saturday to earn his fourth state championship.
Sammy Eckhart defeated Boone Giulio of American Falls 4-2 in the 3A 138-pound final Saturday to earn his fourth state championship.

Fruitland High senior Sammy Eckhart wasn’t feeling his best heading into the final state tournament of his high school career.

But with a rare fourth straight individual state championship on the line, Eckhart came through.

Despite a shoulder injury and a strained meniscus, Eckhart fended off two-time champion Boone Giulio 4-2 in the 138-pound final to become the ninth wrestler in Idaho history to win four championships in the 3A classification.

Eckhart is also the first four-time champ in Fruitland history.

“I’ve been able to accomplish something that only 1 to 2 percent of kids can claim to be,” said Eckhart, who is committed to wrestle for Boise State next fall. “I feel very honored to be in that group.”

Fruitland sophomore Jonathon Fagen won his second individual championship with a 5-4 decision at 182 pounds, helping the Grizzlies take home the fourth-place trophy.

Sugar-Salem won the team title — its 11th in program history but first since 2003 — by 15.5 points over Shelley.

▪ Parma junior Jesse Camancho dominated his 152-pound final, collecting a 16-3 major decision over Spencer MacDonald of Priest River.

▪ Payette senior Alex Barbian finished the season 22-0 with a pin of Gooding’s Michael Needham in 3:05 at 220.


Senior Nate Cooper became the first Rocky Mountain wrestler to win state, earning a 5-0 decision against Meridian’s Matthew Twait at 152 pounds.

Cooper, who wrestled all season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, finished fourth at 145 last season.

“It’s pretty cool to win. I’ve been working for it since I was a little kid,” Cooper said.

The Grizzlies finished sixth in the team race, which was also a program best.

Cooper was one of 10 Treasure Valley wrestlers to win at the 5A level, including Columbia’s five individual champs.

▪ Kuna freshman John Kallmeyer finished the season 20-0 after an 8-6 decision against Coeur d’Alene’s Dom Jessos at 98 pounds.

▪ Meridian senior Trevor Ball pinned Highland’s Andrew Sagendorf in 1:13 at 106 pounds for his first state championship.

▪ Centennial produced a pair of champions as senior Jaron Chavez won his third individual title and second in a row at 160 pounds with a 12-2 major decision over Bonneville’s Austin Ford. Chavez went 40-1 this season. Teammate James Fisher won his first championship at 145 in a 3-1 decision against Post Falls’ Braydon Huber.

“I definitely thought I trained for it and was better prepared than the rest of my competition,” Chavez said. “I just went out there and performed the best I could.”


Minico led Caldwell by just 2.5 points going into the championship round, and both teams qualified five wrestlers for the finals.

The Cougars ended up with only one champion — senior Dante Carreno at 126 pounds — while the Spartans won three-of-five matches to edge Caldwell 247-236.5 for the 4A team title.

It was the Spartans’ first title since 2006 and fifth in program history.

“We’ve wrestled as a team all year, and they did all weekend,” Minico coach Brad Cooper said. “We were pretty confident coming in. I’m just elated, tickled, pretty proud of them.”

▪ After winning a state championship at the 3A level last season, Emmett sophomore Monte Zufelt repeated the feat against 4A competition. Zufelt won at 132 pounds with a 15-6 major decision over Caldwell’s Ismael Cerros.

▪ Fourth-seeded Owen Rockwood of Skyview upset top-seeded Triden Mitchell of Caldwell in the semifinals and then beat his brother, No. 3 Travis Mitchell of Caldwell, 7-2 to win the 220-pound championship.


With his older brother watching nervously at the edge of the mat, New Plymouth freshman Brendon Rice pinned Malad’s Riggin Smith in 5:14 to win the 98-pound championship in the 2A classification.

Rice then took his turn as the nervous brother, cheering on junior Joe Rice, who won his third consecutive championship with a 3-1 decision over two-time champion Jake Kesl of Salmon.

“I felt like I was on the mat wrestling basically for him,” Joe said. “I was coaching him and yelling and doing all that a normal brother would do, cheering him on.”

New Plymouth qualified five wrestlers for the finals and brought home the second-place trophy for the second time in three seasons, finishing second by 38.5 points to Ririe, which won its third straight title.

“Our team did really good, and I couldn’t be more proud of our team and me and my brother,” Brendon said. “It’s awesome to win state titles together.”

▪ Melba junior Cameron Williams was the only other District Three wrestler to finish at the top of the podium. Williams held off New Plymouth’s Nathaniel Nesbitt 6-3 at 106 pounds.

Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @IDS_VarsityX

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