Varsity Extra

Controversial Kuna wrestler chasing history at state tournament

Levi Perry has a scholarship offer from North Idaho College, and Kuna coach Pat Owens said he could transition to Division I if he gets his academics on track. “He’s one of the stronger kids I’ve ever coached,’’ Owens said. Above, Perry takes down an opponent at Rollie Lane last month in Nampa.
Levi Perry has a scholarship offer from North Idaho College, and Kuna coach Pat Owens said he could transition to Division I if he gets his academics on track. “He’s one of the stronger kids I’ve ever coached,’’ Owens said. Above, Perry takes down an opponent at Rollie Lane last month in Nampa. doswald@idahostatesman.com

With his opponent rendered helpless face down on the mat, Levi Perry began to clap.

Seconds away from one of the biggest wins of his prep wrestling career, the crowd at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa didn’t celebrate with Perry.

The crowd booed when Perry clapped, and booed again when his arm was raised as the winner of the 195-pound championship at the Rollie Lane Invitational last month.

There’s no telling what Perry — or fans — could do this weekend when he attempts to become the third wrestler to win four consecutive 4A individual titles at the state tournament Friday and Saturday at Holt Arena in Pocatello.

“All eyes are on him, and he’s under a microscope because he’s a three-time state champion. He doesn’t mind being in the spotlight, or being the bad guy, in a way,” Kuna coach Pat Owens said. “... In that moment, he celebrated. It was probably not the best time to celebrate when he did, but he had never won the tournament and was celebrating for that reason.

“It brought negativity to the situation because of who he is, and that got the crowd into it and the opposing coaches, and it fueled the moment.”

It isn’t the first time an Idaho wrestler has been booed after a milestone victory.

Former Centennial standout Hayden Tuma was booed when he won his fourth 5A state title in 2014 to finish his prep career with a record of 170-5.

“Levi is intense on and off the mat, and with that intensity, sometimes he attracts fans, and he also attracts those that aren’t the biggest fans,” Columbia coach Todd Cady said. “I believe it goes with the territory of being (or trying to be) a four-time state champ.”

Perry isn’t bothered by the negativity.

“I don’t take it in a negative way. I take it in a positive way and feed off the energy,” he said. “Sometimes I think people just hate success.”

Perry, a senior, is 33-0 this season, including wins at the Tiger-Grizz Invitational in Idaho Falls, Tri-State Tournament in Coeur d’Alene, Red Halverson Memorial Invitational in Rupert and Idaho Hall of Fame Classic in Meridian.

He needs to win four matches this weekend to join Tristian Jarboe (Columbia) and Michael Cook (Kuna) as the only 4A wrestlers to four-peat. Only 21 wrestlers have accomplished the feat since the Idaho High School Activities Association began keeping records in 1958.

Perry, who wrestled his freshman year at Melba, has previous state titles at 132 (freshman), 160 (sophomore) and 182 (junior).

“If he wrestles the way he is capable of wrestling, I think he’ll dominate the (state) tournament,” Owens said.

Perry’s first-round opponent is Pocatello sophomore Talon Haskett (27-8). Twin Falls senior Dallin Hatch (24-1) is the No. 2 seed. Perry pinned Hatch in last year’s state final.

“I just have to keep my cool, because people are going to be out to get me, trying to take that fourth state title away from me,” Perry said. “I just have to wrestle my game and stay in the match at all times.”

Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @IDS_VarsityX

State title streaks

▪ Trying for four in a row: Alius Delarosa, sr., Post Falls (5A, 145); Levi Perry, sr., Kuna (4A, 195)

▪ Trying for three in a row: Tucker Leavitt, sr., Highland (5A, 182); Pierce Mederios, jr., Mountain Home (4A, 113); Sammy Eckhart, jr., Fruitland (3A, 138); Conner Burley, sr., Salmon (2A, 132)

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