Mead was a near unanimous selection in our preseason poll to finish first in the Greater Spokane League this season and appeared first or second on every coach’s ballot in the league … except one.
Mead coach Phil McLean’s ballot.
The Panthers were GSL, district and regional champs and took third at state last season.
“For us, and I know everyone is picking us, we have a lot of returners,” McLean said. “Our strength is our depth. We still have over 80 kids still wrestling for me so there’s lots of kids, lots of depth and lots of good competition in our room.”
It’s maybe a bit of an embarrassment of riches for McLean, but that many kids in one program is a lot to handle.
“Part of our struggle and what we’re trying to learn how to do is give all the kids their special attention,” McLean said. “That’s a good thing, though – a good thing for our sport. We’re hoping to keep that. But to do that is a lot of logistics. I think we’re getting it figured out.”
McLean – in his 27th year as a head coach and 17th at Mead – has some quality with all that quantity.
Mead returns five state placers – including state champ Chase Tebbetts, who won at 106 last year and will bump up two weight classes to 120 this season – and two more state participants.
Tebbetts, a junior, was second at state as a freshman and McLean thinks he’ll adjust to the new weight class.
“He’s a high-end kid who works hard and he earns everything he gets,” McLean said. “He’s a great leader by example. And he’s growing now, so now the challenge is even a little bit more difficult. But I think he’s up for it.
“He’s just steady. He’s kind of a stoic, steady guy. He just shows up, works, and goes out and competes. He’s a handful if you have to wrestle him.”
Sophomore Chase Randall, is Tebbett’s polar opposite. Randall was fourth at 106 last year and will compete at 113 this season.
“(Randall)’s our little Tasmanian Devil. He’s full of energy. He’s a spark plug,” McLean said. “He likes good hook-ups and he rises to the challenge. He’s just fun to watch. He’s tough and hard-nosed and competes really well.
“Randall, you can read him like a book. Tebbets, you really don’t know quite what he’s thinking, but he’s always there. So they are a little bit different. But they work out together, they train together, and everybody gets along great. They are different personalities, for sure.”
Tristen Justice (senior, 170) placed seventh at state at 160 last year and two other state placers, seniors Matt Jones (120, third) and Devante Goodman (138, sixth) are out at the start of season nursing injuries.
That works into McLean’s depth a little bit but gives some younger guys an opportunity.
“I’m excited for our kids to see how they develop,” McLean said. “I think we can be in the mix by the end of the year. Right now, you just kind of have to survive through Christmas break and get everyone patched up and then make a run at the end of the year.”
If there’s one area that’s going to be a challenge for McLean it’s going to be the bigger kids.
“Our weak spot for us, well, not weak, but untested, is our upper weights,” he said. “We have sophomores in our lineup from 182 to heavyweight. And usually those are senior-dominated weights.”
By the results of our preseason poll, the other GSL coaches aren’t crying too much for McLean and the Panthers.
Greater Spokane League
University: Coach Don Owen, in his 31st year and 25th at U-Hi, has 11 starters returning and 12 seniors from his third in league, 10th in state team last season. State placers in 2016-17 include seniors Caleb Thomas (fifth, 285), Neftali Lopez (sixth, 220) and Terrell Sanders (seventh, 132). Sanders, Hunter Gregerson (sr., 195) and Tim Westbrook (jr., 113) were all GSL champs. Freshman Kyle Anstrom (138) should be an impact contributor right away. “We should be competitive and maybe chase Mead for the league title,” Owen said.
Mt. Spokane: State champion senior Jake Howerton (138) leads five returning state placers for coach Travis Hughes’ Wildcats, who finished second in the league last season. Also back are sophomore Jarret Sharp (second, 106), junior Blake Haney (second, 126), junior Mason Miethe (fourth, 195) and senior Tayven King (seventh, 182). Sophomore Jacob Carr (113) was a state qualifier. “We have good talent, dedicated wrestlers and a great group of kids,” Hughes said. “We have some young newcomers that will have to adjust to a new level.”
Central Valley: The Bears, under third-year coach Shaun Williams, finished fourth in the league last season. He returns 12 starters, including junior John Keiser (220), sophomore Wyatt Wickham (285) and junior Brad Wiggs (145). “We are young with lots of room for improvement,” Williams said.
North Central: Gone is three-time state champ Clai Quintanilla, but the Indians return nine from a team that finished fourth in state last season. New coach Mike Bundy said, “If we can stay healthy and do a good job of developing our underclassmen, we should be in the hunt for another trophy at the state tournament.” Returning state champ and two-time finalist junior Clayton Gilliam (126) leads three state placers, including state finalist Gavin Gies (sr., 145) and junior Kadin Shaw (fifth, 138), and state-qualifying seniors Josh Johnson (170) and Zack Cramer (120).
Shadle Park: Coach Shawn Howard, back for his 11th season with the Highlanders, returns 10 from last season, including district finalist and state alternate junior Klouse Albers (145) and senior Eric Leavey (152). Juan Escobar (152) could be an impact newcomer.
Ferris: Tim Owen is the dean of GSL coaches, entering his 38th year and 27th with the Saxons. His team was sixth in league last season and returns six starters and nine lettermen. Seniors Malachi Areta (220) and Zach Strauss (182) both placed third at districts and junior Connor Irvin (120) was fourth at regionals and a state participant. “We have decent experience in many weights,” Owen said.
Rogers: The Pirates return 10 starters for coach Rod Tamura’s fourth season at the helm, with two returning state participants: junior Tre Phillips (182) was regional champ and junior Josh Guzik (285) was third at regionals. “This is the best team work ethic in the practice room since I took over the program” Tamura said.
Lewis and Clark: Coach Mathew Orndorff has a young roster, with just one senior, Israel Alvarez (152), on the squad.
Gonzaga Prep: The Bullpups return 10 starters for coach Danny Pearson. “We have a solid varsity corps, but we need to stay healthy as we lack depth,” he said. Senior Daniel Dougherty (145) and juniors Drew Stephenson (160) and Darius Johnson (285) should start.
East Valley went 4-0 in league and had an overall 11-2 record in dual meets. Senior Winston Scott (182) finished second at state last season and is a national team member, while junior Noah McDermott (120) placed seventh for coach Craig Hanson, in his 32nd year as coach and 22nd with the Knights. East Valley had 11 girls turn out. … West Valley returns six starters, including state alternate Logan Reser (220), regional placer Scotty Bray (182), district champ Tanner Jones (170) and district finalist Adrian Ritcher (132). … Pullman won its first league dual meet in eight years last year with a win over West Valley.
Colville, and veteran coach Randy Cloke, are the (almost) unanimous pick for top of the league. The Indians return nine starters from a 17-0 team that finished second at state for the second consecutive year. Two-time state champ junior Trent Baum (126/132) leads, as does junior Trevor Morrison (145/152), who has a first and third at state under his belt. Other state placers are Rueben Seemann (soph., 132/138), Takota Ashely (sr., 160/170), John Knight (jr., 170/182) and Scout Walker (sr., 182/195). … Deer Park is right there with Colville, returning eight from its third at state squad. The Stags are paced by seniors Gabe Sanchez (285, fifth at state) and Ethan Newman (145, fourth), and juniors Brent Hodgson (138, second) and Evertt Pierce (113, second). … Freeman took seventh at state last year and brings back nine starters for coach Chad Ripke, including state champ Hunter Nees (sr., 120), who has signed with Eastern Oregon and hopes to be Freeman’s first four-time state placer. Logan Holt (sr., 138) placed third last year, Garrett Trevino (sr., 220, seventh) and Brandon Iris (sr., 182, eighth) also return. … Lakeside has three state placers coming back, all juniors: Jeff Friedman (113, third), Akio Yamada (195, fifth) and Andrew Smith (126, eighth). … Medical Lake has a deep team with 40-plus wrestlers and 12 returning starters, led by state placer Weston Thomas (136, eighth). … Riverside returns 10 starters, including state placers Sammy DesRoches (soph., 170, fourth) and Jared Lenz (sr., 160, eighth). … Newport boasts state participant in boys and girls programs, and Tessa Pillars (sr., 135) could wrestle at the next level.
Reardan was second at state last year and returns 14, including state champ senior Ethan Landt (182). He’s joined by state runner-up Caleb Cole (sr., 138), Ethan Hull (soph., 120, third), Thomas Perryman (jr., 145, fourth), Rylan Anderson (soph., 138, fifth) and Hunter Dawley (sr., 285, sixth). … Selkirk was ninth at state last season and has placed in the top 10 the past nine years. Ryan Issakides, state champ and three-time placer, and two-time placer Hunter Carmen.
Coeur d’Alene returns nine from its third-place finish at 5A State last season, including individual placers Hunter Schueller (120, third), Sam Reese (113, sixth) and Mitchell Moffat (145, fifth), with five other qualifiers. … Lakeland has four returning 4A State champs among 13 starters and 35 lettermen returning. Alex Edellute (106), Sam Edelblute (113), Will Edelblute (120) and Larry Johnson (145) all brought home title last season for 20-yar head coach Rob Edelblute. … Timberlake returns 12 starters, including three 3A state placers: Isaiah Evans (soph., 120, third), Connor Yanez (sr., 182, sixth) and Brayden Herbert (soph., 98, sixth). … Kellogg is led by state runner-up Taylor Bush (soph., 120) and senior Jesse Campbell (132, sixth).