Treasure Valley wrestlers made names for themselves at the state and national levels in 2017. And a crop of talented returners shows no signs of slowing down in 2018.
Reigning 5A state champion Columbia brings back three individual state champs and a loaded squad to gun for another title. At 4A, Caldwell fields a seasoned squad that has finished first or second at state the past three years. And some of the state’s most decorated wrestlers reside at the 3A and 2A levels, including Fruitland’s Jonathon Fagen, the reigning 182-pound Cadet Greco-Roman national champ.
Below are just a few of the Valley’s best wrestlers sure to make headlines this season.
George Barrera, Borah
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The Lions’ first-team all-conference defensive lineman finished third at state in 2017, then took eighth in the heavyweight division at the Junior Greco Nationals.
He’s pinned his way to an undefeated record so far this season. And with defending state champ Brandon Kipper graduated and defending runner-up Keeghan Freeborn not wrestling, he’s the clear 5A state favorite.
“He’s a legitimate force,” Kuna coach Pat Owens said. “I think that kid can be a Division I wrestler. He’s big, physical and intimidating.”
Cade Krishnek, Capital
The 132-pounder broke out with a third-place run at state and a runner-up finish at Rollie Lane two years ago. An injury at the district tournament ended his season last year, so look for him to make up for lost time.
“He’s been at the top of every age bracket he’s ever wrestled,” Columbia coach Todd Cady said. “He’s pretty much beat up every kid in the Valley over the years.”
Kade Grigsby, Columbia
The 138-pound senior stands 14 wins short of the school record for career victories (166) entering the week. Cady, Grigsby’s stepfather, said the wins aren’t always pretty. But the defending state champ keeps racking them up.
“He’s physical. He’s not afraid to compete,” Owens said. “He goes out and he sets the tone, and he gets in the guy’s face.”
Kekana Fouret, Columbia
The reigning state champ at 132 moves up to 145 for his senior season. His flashy, athletic style allows him to rack up points in a hurry. And a busy summer circuit added even more moves to his arsenal.
Angel Rios, Columbia
Rios finished his freshman season 40-12 and with the 120-pound state title. Growth has pushed him up to 132 this winter, but Cady said he’s making the adjustments to take down larger opponents.
Kreede Peterson, Kuna
After winning a state title at 106 two years ago, the senior finished fourth at 113 last year. His funky style and ability to score points in a heartbeat make him a contender for another title.
Christian Hudson, Caldwell
After taking second at state at 138 pounds, the junior earned Cadet All-American honors with a fifth-place finish in Fargo, N.D., at 145. His ability to score on his feet, on top and from the bottom will have him in contention at Rollie Lane and at state.
Monte Zufelt, Emmett
The athletic junior proved he belongs with the big boys. After finishing second in 3A at 126 pounds two years ago, he rolled through 4A’s 132-pound bracket last year for a title.
“He wrestles enough that he just picks stuff up,” Caldwell coach Jeff Kloetzer said. “He seems like he can just look at stuff and do it.”
Joshua Gallup, Skyview
The senior won a state title two years ago at 98 pounds, then finished second at state and at Rollie Lane last year at 106. He rolled through Buck’s Bags and the Calhoun Classic undefeated and has his eyes trained on turning those second-place finishes into titles.
Jonathon Fagen, Fruitland
The reigning Cadet Greco-Roman national champ and two-time state champ won every tournament he entered last year except Rollie Lane, where he finished third.
The 182-pound junior looks to rectify that fact this year with the top two Rollie Lane finishers in his weight class graduated.
Joe Rice, New Plymouth
After winning titles at 98, 106 and 126 pounds, Rice is gunning to become the fifth wrestler in 2A history to win four state titles. He’s competing at 138 pounds early this season.
He’s not the only Rice opponents have to contend with. His younger brother, Brendan, also won a 98-pound state championship last season as a freshman.
Jan. 5-6: Rollie Lane Invitational at Ford Idaho Center, Nampa
Feb. 8: Grapple for the Granite at Borah High
Feb. 16-17: 5A District Three Tournament at Borah High
Feb. 16-17: 4A District Three Tournament at Vallivue High
Feb. 23-24: State tournament at Holt Arena, Pocatello
The Idaho Statesman will reveal the 42nd annual All-Idaho football players of the year Wednesday afternoon at IdahoStatesman.com. Look for the full teams in each classification online later this week and in Sunday’s paper.