NAMPA, Idaho – The Inland Empire League wrestling squads had better clear extra space on their team buses.
If Friday’s results are any indication, Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston and Post Falls will be bringing plenty of hardware back to North Idaho. The 5A IEL rivals combined to send 11 wrestlers to today’s championship round, and all three teams remain in trophy contention at the Idaho Center. After two days of wrestling, defending champion Coeur d’Alene leads a tight 5A race with 167 points.
“I can’t remember a team race being this close at the state tournament,” said Vikings coach Jeff Moffat. “It makes it a lot of fun, but we have to finish strong if we want to take home the title.”
Coeur d’Alene has three wrestlers in the finals – sophomore AJ Konda (103 pounds), senior Johnny Peregrina (160) and senior Caleb Davis (189). The Vikings won the team title without an individual champion last season.
Teams chasing CdA include Caldwell (160½ points), Centennial (153½), Lewiston (145), Mountain View (142), Post Falls (137½) and Highland (136). The top four teams earn trophies.
“We’re still in the hunt, but it’s probably not a hunt for first,” said Lewiston coach Dan Maurer. “Coeur d’Alene is going to have to lead the charge, but I’d like to see all three northern schools win trophies.”
While Lewiston lost ground in the team standings, 145-pound senior Casey George continued his march toward a perfect season by winning both of his matches by pin. George is looking for redemption after suffering the first state tournament loss of his career last season.
“It definitely changed my perspective,” George said. “Any match can be the one that ruins your perfect season. Now, I treat every match like it’s a state finals match.”
Freshman Johnny Kenyon (112) and junior Josh Carlton (119) also made the finals for Lewiston.
George’s opponent in the 145-pound title match will be sophomore Austin Wilson, one of five Post Falls wrestlers to make the finals. Four juniors – defending champion James Ost (135), Tyler Booth (140), Nathan McLeod (152) and Cole Jesienouski (171) – also made the championship round for the Trojans.
“Our kids fought their hearts out,” said Post Falls coach Pete Reardon, whose team went 15-3 on Friday. “I’ll tell you this – if you make it through our district, you’re battle-tested. Our kids are used to facing top-notch competition, and I think that showed today.”
The day’s most dramatic victory went to McLeod, who celebrated his 17th birthday by scoring five quick points in the final seconds to defeat Lewiston’s Sammy Metz by a 10-9 decision.
“I’m just floating on a cloud right now,” said McLeod, who placed third at state last year. “It felt so good to get over the hump, especially to win it late like I did.”
In 3A, Bonners Ferry sits in second place with 120½ points, 1½ behind Snake River. The Badgers have three wrestlers in the finals: sophomore Blaine Invernon (119), senior Ben Watt (140) and senior Trevor Hampton (145).
In 4A, Columbia has all but wrapped up its third consecutive championship with 228 points.