Varsity Extra

Top wrestlers, brackets and storylines to watch at the state wrestling tournaments

Caldwell junior Christian Hudson, front, knocked off three-time state champ Larry Johnson from Lakeland in the 145-pound championship at the Rollie Lane Invitational in January. Expect a rematch in the state finals Saturday in Pocatello.
Caldwell junior Christian Hudson, front, knocked off three-time state champ Larry Johnson from Lakeland in the 145-pound championship at the Rollie Lane Invitational in January. Expect a rematch in the state finals Saturday in Pocatello. doswald@idahostatesman.com

Nearly 1,000 high school wrestlers descend upon Pocatello’s Holt Arena this weekend for the state wrestling tournaments.

The two-day event always features plenty of drama as months of work culminate in one final shot at glory. The 5A, 4A, 3A and 2A tournaments start at 9:30 a.m. Friday, and 60 individual champions are crowned at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Here are the top storylines to follow at state:

[Related: Full state tournament brackets]

PILGRIMS’ RICE SEEKS FOURTH TITLE

New Plymouth senior Joe Rice will attempt to write his name in Idaho’s history books as the 25th wrestler to win four straight state championships.

Rice (35-1) enters with three state titles in three different weight classes: 98 pounds as a freshman, 106 as a sophomore and 126 as a junior. He’s the No. 1 seed at 138 this year with his only loss a controversial, one-point defeat to an out-of-state opponent in the finals at Rollie Lane.

But Rice isn’t the only one in the family with a shot at history. His younger brother, sophomore Brendon Rice, already has a 98-pound state title under his belt. Brendon (26-11) is the No. 2 seed at 113 this year.

NP Joe Rice
New Plymouth senior Joe Rice, back, is gunning for his fourth straight state title at the 2A state wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday at Pocatello’s Holt Arena. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

FOUR STATE CHAMPS AT ONE WEIGHT

Columbia senior Kade Grigsby will have to navigate a loaded field to repeat as the 5A 145-pound champ.

Grigsby (18-6) enters as the top seed and a two-time finalist in the weight class. But the second, third and fourth seeds are also former state champions.

Post Falls senior Matt McLeod (35-8) stands as the No. 2 seed as he jumps up to 138 after back-to-back state titles at 126 and 120. He also reached the finals as a freshman at 106.

No. 3 seed Highland senior Konnor Cordingley (48-2) is out for revenge after falling 4-0 to Grigsby in last year’s state final. He won the 132-pound title two years ago.

Centennial junior Ryan Wilson (39-9) enters as the No. 4 seed as the 2016 113-pound champ. And Grigsby might have to handle a rematch with fifth-seeded Cade Krishnek (40-8) of Capital. Krishnek beat Grigsby 10-3 in the district championship match last weekend.

Grigsby missed six weeks and Rollie Lane this season due to a knee injury. With 161 career wins, he would need to fall into the consolation bracket to tie Columbia’s career record of 166 victories.

CAN CALDWELL’S HUDSON SPOIL A FOUR-PEAT?

Lakeland’s Larry Johnson (37-1) enters with a rare distinction: A three-time state champion who’s seeded second.

Johnson can thank Caldwell junior Christian Hudson (38-0) for the honor. After Johnson beat Hudson 6-3 for last year’s 4A 138-pound state title, Hudson got revenge with a come-from-behind, 4-2 victory over Johnson in the Rollie Lane finals.

Expect another rematch as Hudson takes the top seed in the 145-pound bracket with Johnson looming on the other side at No. 2.

HOW FAR CAN LOVETT GO?

Post Falls junior Ridge Lovett (41-0) has yet to lose a single match in his high school career, entering the 5A 126-pound bracket with a 121-0 career record.

Lovett already has won major tournament titles this season at the North Idaho Rumble, Rollie Lane, Tri-State and Montana’s Sidney Eagle Invite. He flirted with disaster at Rollie Lane, getting penalized for stalling and needing to pull out an overtime victory with a takedown at the buzzer.

Hillcrest’s Derek Ramos looms as the bracket’s No. 2 seed. Lovett pinned him in the 98-pound final in 2016 and beat him 15-1 in last year’s 113-pound championship. But Ramos narrowed the deficit to a 3-0 decision three weeks ago in the Idaho Hall of Fame Classic.

No wrestler has finished his career undefeated in Idaho’s highest classification since Sandpoint’s Jared Lawrence went 133-0 before winning his fourth straight title in 1998.

EDELBLUTE BROTHERS EYE ANOTHER SWEEP

The Edelblute brothers of William, Sam and Alex each won a 4A state title for Lakeland last season, and all three enter state as the top seed in his weight class.

William (36-4), a senior, is the No. 1 seed at 126 pounds. Sam (35-7), a junior, is the No. 1 seed at 113. And Alex (26-3), a sophomore, enters as the favorite at 106.

Their uncle, Rob Edelblute, is Lakeland’s coach.

The brothers give the Hawks eight seeded wrestlers among their 22 state qualifiers as Lakeland guns for its first team state title since winning the 3A championship in 1989. Only defending state champ Minico sent more wrestlers to the 4A tournament with 25.

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama

TREASURE VALLEY TOP SEEDS

Wrestlers seeded No. 1 in their weight class at the Idaho state wrestling tournaments Friday and Saturday at Pocatello’s Holt Arena.

CLASS 5A

  • 106 pounds: Michael Mitchell, Kuna
  • 113: Cade Hernandez, Meridian
  • 132: Angel Rios, Columbia
  • 138: Kade Grigsby, Columbia
  • 145: Kekana Fouret, Columbia
  • 182: Hayes Neukom, Meridian
  • 285: George Barrera, Borah

CLASS 4A

  • 98: Kawika Doronio, Mountain Home
  • 138: Monte Zufelt, Emmett
  • 145: Christian Hudson, Caldwell

CLASS 3A

  • 182: Jonathon Fagen, Fruitland
  • 195: Jason Gissel, Fruitland

CLASS 2A

  • 132: Deveon Rodriguez, New Plymouth
  • 138: Joe Rice, New Plymouth
  • 220: Mason Hall, Marsing
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