Lewiston senior Casey George has seen plenty of Coeur d’Alene wrestling over his four years as a Bengal. The two-time state champion battled against CdA’s Braden Mowry the last two seasons and last year watched the Vikings win the 5A State team title.
This year, though, the Bengals are looking to match that feat by their IEL rivals. Led by George’s fourth consecutive district championship, they started down that road with a team title in the 5A Region tournament Saturday in Rathdrum.
The Bengals finished with four champions and moved 15 wrestlers on to state, scoring 341.50 points to beat the defending state champion Vikings (324 points) and Post Falls (220 points).
“I think our team really stepped up this weekend,” said George, who recorded a 16-0 technical fall against Austin Wilson of Post Falls in the finals. “We had guys upset higher-ranked guys and our No. 2 guys did really good on the back side, which was huge. All over we really did well as a team.”
Lewiston joined host Lakeland at the 4A level and Bonners Ferry at 3A as champions.
“We didn’t wrestle our best (today),” CdA coach Jeff Moffat said. “Lewiston wrestled very well. We’re pretty evenly matched teams, and wrestling them can only help us at state. We’ve been there before and we know what to expect, and that will help us too.”
The Vikings, who also advanced 15 wrestlers to next weekend’s state championships at the Idaho Center in Nampa, started the final round with 12 semifinalists but tallied just four wins.
Three of those came in matches that featured two CdA wrestlers, but the fourth saw freshman Hudson Staub down Lewiston’s Drew Randall 9-4 at the 125-pound weight class.
Staub was the top seed in the district bracket as a freshman and will advance to state as the top wrestler from the region.
“This season has been great so far,” said Staub, who also recorded a major decision and a pin in his other two matches of the weekend. “I knew I had to win the (championship) match to help my seeding for state, and knew it would be great for my team.”
At the time, Staub’s win helped bring the Vikings back into the picture for a district title, but losses at 130, 171 and 189 pounds erased any hopes of a repeat as regional champs.
Post Falls’ Cole Jesienouski, one of five title winners for the Trojans, defeated the Vikings’ Garrett Demers 5-1 at 171 pounds. Lewiston’s Ryan Rigney then caught Caleb Davis at the last second, taking the lead and securing a pin at the 5:58 mark in the third round.
“I hope we use it as a wake-up call,” Moffat said. “It’ll motivate some of our guys. Some guys that didn’t wrestle as well could come out and wrestle better at state.”
The Trojans had nine wrestlers advance to state, while Lake City finished with three state qualifiers.
As CdA will make a run at repeating as state champions, Bonners Ferry will try to dethrone the current champion – American Falls – at the 3A level.
With eight district champions and 22 district placers, the Badgers scored 340 points, easily outpacing Priest River (244.5 points) for first.
“This was an outstanding weekend,” Bonners Ferry coach Conrad Garner said. “Before this tournament I told my guys to get 15 to state and they gave me 16.”
Their eight district champions was a school record, according to Garner, and leaves them in prime shape to battle the top teams at the state tournament.
“We now match Sugar-Salem, American Falls and Fruitland,” Garner said. “Now we’re all equal. Now we just have to wrestle.”
The Badgers started quickly in the championship round, winning the first three titles. Josh Tucker (103 pounds) and John Brown (112) each won by pin and Blaine Invernon won the 119-pound match with a 12-5 decision over Kody Hongslo of Timberlake.
In the 4A tournament, Lakeland placed 15 wrestlers in the top three, edging Sandpoint 230-226 for the regional title.
The Bulldogs trailed by nine going into the final round, but rallied with six individual champions. Josh Wrenn (171), Justin Pepperdine (189) and Matt Locke (215) helped the Bulldogs win three consecutive titles, but they didn’t close the gap.
With just the top two wrestlers from each weight moving on to Nampa, the Hawks will bring 10 to the state tournament. Sandpoint and Moscow each qualified nine.