When junior Jordan Rogers squared opponent Keegan McCormick’s shoulders to the mat at the 1:31 mark of the first round – earning the 171-pound wrestler his first Tri-State championship – the Mead Panthers accomplished a milestone in the rebuilding that has been in the works since last season.
As one of the youngest squads in the Greater Spokane League, the Panthers felt the growing pains last year. This season, with just one senior in the varsity rotation, the Panthers are hoping youth will be no issue.
That was on full display Saturday, as Mead used wins in the championship round from Rogers and junior Jeremy Golding (135 pounds) to overtake University and earn the team title, scoring 162 points at the Tri-State tournament in Coeur d’Alene.
In one of the tightest races for first place in the 39-year history of Tri-State, the top four teams were separated by 12 points. U-Hi placed second with 159.5 points, Lake Stevens (152.5) took third and Post Falls (150) finished fourth.
“As a team we did awesome,” Rogers said. “We have a very young team, with just one senior. When I was a freshman I thought, ‘This was tough.’ We had guys this year who, even if they lost, came around the back side and scored some big points for us. We did really good as a young team and I’m excited to see what we can do in the next couple of years.”
Adding to his list of achievements during the young season, Rogers was named Outstanding Wrestler for the tournament after pinning all four of his opponents, all but one fall coming in the first round. After taking third as a freshman and second as a sophomore, Rogers finally snagged the first-place trophy in his third go-around.
In his championship match against Tonasket’s McCormick, Rogers dominated start to finish, something his teammates are used to seeing.
But unlike last season, according to Jeremy Golding, some of the younger wrestlers are beginning to take Rogers’ lead in their own matches.
“We’re a really close-knit group and we just push each other to get better,” said Golding, who beat Richland’s Dustin Utecht in a 6-4 decision. “Me and Tyler (McLean) are close to the same weight and we push each other to be the best. And Jordan just is the best.”
Golding saw vast improvement in his second Tri-State, finishing first a year after taking eighth. He said preparation made the difference.
“Last year I came here just wanting to wrestle, but this year I came in with the goal to finish in the top three and possibly win it,” he said.
“All these kids are still real young,” Mead coach Phil McLean said. “All our placers are underclassmen. They could get intimidated, but, I don’t know if it’s because Jordan is one of the best, they felt like they could come out and compete at this level.”
The win by Rogers gave the Panthers just enough clearance over the Titans, even though U-Hi senior Dustin Johnson gutted out a win at 189 to give the Titans four more points.
Johnson bested Hermiston’s Curtis Berger 2-1 in three OTs, a week after losing to Berger 1-0 at the Inland Empire tournament.
“I feel like part of our team performed well, but part of our team could’ve performed better,” Johnson said. “There’s always room for improvement and for us, with the team we have, I don’t feel there’s a tournament or a team that’s better than us.”