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Tri-State tournament turns 40

The highly esteemed Tri-State wrestling tournament turns 40 years old today.

Former North Idaho College coach and Tri-State tournament director John Owen never thought the tourney that he oversaw for more than three decades would become what it is today.

“When I was running it, it was an old tournament,” quipped Owen, 64, now in his second stint as coach at Central Valley. “I marvel that the tournament has lasted this long because so many things can happen.”

The tournament still serves as somewhat of a family reunion for the Owen family. Five of six brothers will accompany teams when the action begins this morning at 10. Another will be on hand to referee. Numerous cousins and nephews, some of whom were Tri-State champs, will return to watch.

University coach Don Owen won a Tri-State championship when he wrestled at Sentinel in Missoula.

Sentinel, Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls were original participants in the early days of the tourney when it was a small invitational. Post Falls didn’t participate for more than two decades but returned a couple of years ago.

“It started at a college in a small gymnasium,” Owen said. “I always thought we’d have to move it to a bigger venue – especially because it reached the size that it has. It’s been great for that community.”

About 28 full teams and 22 partial teams will gather in the cramped confines of NIC’s Christianson Gym, where it will be wall-to-wall action on six tightly placed mats until the tourney reaches the semifinals. Quarterfinals are tonight at 7 with the semifinals Saturday at noon followed by the finals at 5.

Like many of the Tri-States of past, this year’s edition should be highly competitive. Most years, coaches say Tri-State has more quality and depth than most state tournaments.

Defending champ Mead, which has won team titles in its first two tournaments this season, is heavily favored to repeat. But expect Post Falls, which finished runner-up to Mead at the Inland Empire Classic at CV last weekend, to challenge.

Other teams that will battle for trophies are traditional Oregon power Hermiston, Deer Park, Lake Stevens, Tahoma and Kuna from the Boise area.

Mead beat Post Falls by 10.5 points at CV. Post Falls figures it can tighten up the gap because it will have two in a couple of classes in which they can add extra points, as opposed to the format at CV.

“It’s going to be a great tournament,” Mead coach Phil McLean said. “Post Falls was neck and neck with us (last week).”

Mead secured the title at CV in the semifinals where it went head to head in the middle weights against Post Falls.

“We won but they were all overtime or one-point matches,” McLean said.

Post Falls coach Pete Reardon is excited to get another shot at Mead.

“We just need to work on a few things that we made mistakes on last weekend,” Reardon said. “We lost some tough matches in the semifinal round. But the thing that I was impressed with is we came back and won everything but one match in the wrestle-backs and medal rounds. That’s what you need if you want to win big tournaments.

“Mead is tough. They have some of the best kids in the western United States – in the United States, some of them. They’re well-coached, hard-nosed kids and talented kids.”

Seven Tri-State champs return. They are Joey Delgado and Tyler Berger of Hermiston, Jeremy Goulding and Jordan Rogers of Mead, Kyle Leir of Libby (Mont.), Dylan Miller of Deer Park and Josh Newberg of Kuna. Another 49 placers are back, and 25 state champs are in the field.

The tourney will be webcast live via pay-per-view on idahowrestlingnews.com. Cost is $9.95 for both days. Updated brackets and results can be found on the website.