Now in his junior season, Mead wrestler Jordan Rogers has a singular goal this year: to return to the top of the podium at the state tournament.
Entering his sophomore campaign, Rogers was a defending state champion, but his season ended short of the state tournament after falling to University’s Jake Mason in the regional tournament.
If anything, the disappointment has only fueled his fire for the upcoming year.
Wrestling against top competition from Washington, Idaho and Oregon on Saturday, Rogers made it clear he will be a force at the 171-pound weight class. He won all three of his matches by pinfall to take the championship and earn the Outstanding Wrestler award at the Inland Empire Wrestling Tournament at Central Valley High School.
Winning the tournament was defending State 4A champion University with 192 points, beating Post Falls (187) and Central Valley (176) for first place.
“I definitely got a chance to wrestle some tough kids this weekend,” said Rogers, who pinned U-Hi’s Jacob Fry in 1:22 in the title match. “You can’t ever say there’s not going to be tough competition because there’s always going to be someone.”
Rogers has been on a mission after last season, training year-round and competing overseas in the offseason. With the Tri-State tournament and the GSL season looming, Rogers is looking to tune himself in preparation for a state title run.
“It’s just hard work and getting in shape,” Rogers said. “I’m going to try and wrestle hard and get the mistakes out early so at the end of the season I won’t be making those same mistakes.”
Tinkering and shoring up mistakes will be a focus for a U-Hi squad looking to replace two state champions and compete for a title at the 3A level for the first time.
Jake Laden (215 pounds) and Tyler Clark (112) each won individual titles for the Titans on Saturday, but coach Don Owen is still looking for his host of seniors to take the reins in place of departed senior champions Mason and Ryan Zumwalt.
“We’ve still got a ways to go, and the holes that were created by those two guys leaving we haven’t filled those yet,” Owen said. “We’re getting better.
“We have a lot of seniors in this class and they have a lot of character. They’re the kind of kids anyone would love to coach.”
The measuring stick, Owen added, will be Tri-State, which the Titans will attend next weekend.
And for Owen, the competition over the past two days was a nice preview of the upcoming tournament.
“For an early tournament, this is probably one of the best we’ve ever had at the Inland Empire,” he said. “It was a quality tournament top to bottom and I thought we competed well.”
The depth of solid teams was indicated by the final scores as U-Hi edged Post Falls by just five points, with CV and Hermiston (Ore.) falling 12 points short.
Defending Idaho state champion Coeur d’Alene tallied 155 points to finish fifth.