HS wrestling: Snake River in 2nd; Blackfoot, Highland in 3rd after opening day of 2019 state championships
POCATELLO — Snake River coach Jeff Gardner said if his team was going to have a shot at competing for a wrestling state championship, “everything had to go right.”
Friday was a pretty good day by those standards.
The Panthers head to championship Saturday with 10 semifinalists, including No. 1 seeds Destin Summers at 126 pounds and Sway Cook at 138. The team brought 13 wrestlers to the state tournament, and all 10 non-wild-card qualifiers went 2-0 Friday to guarantee top-six finishes.
“They get on a roll, and they feed off each other,” Gardner said Friday at Holt Arena. “It’s fun, man, it’s just fun to be there and be a part of that.”
Snake River’s 10 guaranteed placers won 13 of their 20 matches Friday by pin or technical fall. Summers, Cook and Marcus Mortensen (170 pounds) maximized their scoring output by earning two pins apiece.
“We’re damn good,” said heavyweight Ty Belnap, who was Snake River’s final wrestler to earn a semifinal berth Friday by beating Parma’s Antonio Godina via 9-6 decision. “We showed up ready to wrestle.”
Snake River is, historically, one of the most successful wrestling programs in Idaho. The Panthers have won 14 IHSAA state titles – tied with Teton for the most by a school.
The Panthers won back-to-back banners in 2015 and ’16, but have been outdone by Sugar-Salem the last two seasons. Clubhouse leader Sugar-Salem still holds an edge in the team standings heading to Saturday (110-100.5), but second-place Snake River is primed to challenge for a record title No. 15.
“They’re rising to the occasion so far,” Gardner said. “These kids want to win it pretty bad.”
HIGHLAND, BLACKFOOT IN THIRD PLACE
Highland and Blackfoot are still in the thick of the state trophy race through Friday’s results.
The Rams’ 93.5 points are the third-most among 5A squads, and Blackfoot is in third place in 4A with 84 points. Highland sent five wrestlers to Saturday’s semifinals, including top-seeded Kael Anderson at 152 pounds.
Anderson pinned Capital’s Inan Ayres to start the day and battled Thunder Ridge’s Tristan Stanton to a 6-4 decision to send himself into the semis.
“He had a tough match against a good kid from Thunder Ridge,” Highland coach Colby Cordingley said of Anderson. “We’ve wrestled him before. We knew he was going to be tough. I thought (Anderson) wrestled smart. He did a good job and ended up getting the win.”
Highland’s other state semifinalists are Emilio Velasquez at 126 pounds, Kael Cordingley at 132, Jonas Anderson at 182 and Logan George at 220.
Blackfoot has four wrestlers in the state semis, highlighted by second-seeded Esai Castaneda at 126 pounds. He’s joined by teammates Landon Abercrombie at 106 pounds, Tommy Gallamore at 132 and Austin Despain at 138.
The Broncos are consistent contenders in 4A, but haven’t taken home state hardware since 2011, when they were state runners-up. It’ll be up to the team’s four semifinalists, plus seven wrestlers still alive in the consolation bracket, to snap the streak.
“Kids are wrestling really tough right now, and that’s awesome,” Blackfoot coach Thain Cashmore said.
CENTURY, POCATELLO SEE NUMBERS DWINDLE
The Gate City’s two 4A wrestling programs – one that’s among the most storied in Idaho and one that’s building its reputation – struggled Friday at Holt Arena.
Pocatello and Century are down to two state semifinalists each, and both squads lost six wrestlers to elimination Friday.
Poky’s semifinalists are defending state champ Jorsh Ronquillo at 98 pounds and Brian Jackson at 220 pounds. Ronquillo fought through illness Friday to beat Kuna’s Aries Gilboy via 11-8 decision and pin Jerome’s Lucas Shewmaker.
Jackson, last year’s 182-pound runner-up, pinned Bishop Kelly’s David Loach in 2 minutes, 39 seconds to start the day and reached the semifinals by pinning Moscow’s AJ Fahey in 2:47.
Jackson is the No. 2 seed and has his eyes on the state title that barely escaped him last season.
“I’m feeling great,” Jackson said. “I’m peaking this year.”
Pocatello’s lone other wrestler competing Saturday is Derrek Lindstrom, who stayed alive by beating Caldwell’s August Pena in a consolation loser-out bout at 132 pounds.
Century continued its uprising this season by bringing 17 competitors to the state tournament.
But only Canyon Mansfield (113 pounds) and Alex Apel (220) remain in the hunt for a state title.
The Diamondbacks have nine wrestlers remaining in the consolation bracket and are in sixth place with 68 points.
“We were hoping for a few more (semifinalists), but that’s wrestling and that’s why you compete and that’s why you do it,” Century coach Michael Millward said. “We’ve got two seniors in that group. That means 15 are underclassmen. They’re just not used to the stage or the presence or everything that comes with it. It takes some time to get them to that point.”
OTHER LOCAL RESULTS
Malad enters Saturday 5.5 points out of trophy territory, in fifth behind fourth-place New Plymouth. … Bear Lake has four semifinalists, including third-seeded Hayden Hunt at 160 pounds. … Defending state champion Clayton Lunt is Grace’s lone semifinalist at 120 pounds. … Marsh Valley carries four wrestlers into Saturday’s semifinals, led by second-seeded Brady Dahlke at 98 pounds. … North Gem’s three semifinalists — James Rindlisbaker, Michael Barfuss and Chance Williams — have combined to lose three matches this season. Williams is undefeated. … Defending state champ Kolton Stacey is in the semifinals for Shelley at 106 pounds. … West Side’s Enoch Ward, the No. 1 seed at 160 pounds, is in the semis after taking second a year ago.
WRESTLING STATE TOURNAMENT TEAM STANDINGS
1. Post Falls 131.5, 2. Centennial 107, 3. Highland 93.5, 4. Coeur d’Alene 93.
1. Kuna 127.5, 2. Columbia 97, 3. Blackfoot 84, 4. Jerome 82.5, 6. Century 68, 12. Pocatello 30, 14. Shelley 29, 21. Preston 16.
1. Sugar-Salem 110, 2. Snake River 100.5, 3. South Fremont 97, 4. Fruitland 95, 7. Marsh Valley 64, 10. American Falls 53.
1. Ririe 107, 2. Declo 86, 3. McCall-Donnelly 81, 4. New Plymouth 76.5, 5. Malad 71, 7. Bear Lake 60, 13. North Gem 34, 15. Aberdeen 29, 17. Grace 28.5, 22. West Side 16, 24. Firth 14, 24. Soda Springs 14.