The 2017-18 Idaho high school wrestling season begins this month. Below is the Times-News’ classification-by-classification preview for District 4.
4A Great Basin Conference
Boe Rushton enters this season with a near-impossible standard to live up to.
Rushton is entering his first year as Minico High School’s head wrestling coach. One season after the Spartans won a state title. One season after hall of fame coach Brad Cooper retired.
Rushton views his promotion as an honor, a passing of the torch. Pressure is minimal.
Following a state title-winning career at Wood River, Rushton became an all-American wrestler at Boise State. He was an assistant wrestling coach at Meridian from 2004 to 2008, then at Kuna for a year. He was a home health care worker in Las Vegas for a few years before returning to Boise, where he completed his history degree at BSU and earned a Master’s degree in education at Northwest Nazarene.
Through some wrestling connections, he landed an assistant wrestling coach position at Minico in 2015 — the same year Cooper returned to coach the Spartans after a five-year absence. Rushton described the two years under Cooper as a mentorship.
“I’ve been very blessed the last two years working under coach Cooper,” Rushton told the Times-News last week. “He thought he was gonna retire, but I still call him like once a week.”
Rushton’s goal the last two seasons was to send Cooper off with Minico’s first state championship since 2006. Mission accomplished.
“A legendary coach deserves to ride his white horse out of the arena,” Rushton said.
Now, Rushton is focused on maintaining the momentum. Although the Spartans lost some irreplaceable wrestlers, they return enough talent to make another run.
Three Minico wrestlers won state titles last season, and all three — James Anderson, Boe Boston and Eddie Daniel — were seniors. The Spartans also graduated Koy Meredith, who placed second at state.
But the Spartans couldn’t win a team state title on the backs of those wrestlers alone. Minico qualified 19 wrestlers for the state tournament, and 14 finished in the top six. Ike Allred, Dallas Andrade and Brian Borden all took third place, and all three are seniors this season.
Zak Allred (sixth place at state), Anthony Rawson (fourth), Juan Ruiz (sixth), James Rydalch (sixth) and Avery Stimpson (fourth) all return, as well.
“We’re not in a rebuilding,” Rushton said. “We’re in a reloading.”
Canyon Ridge and Jerome finished seventh and eighth, respectively, at the 2017 state tournament, and Twin Falls was 10th.
The Riverhawks graduated 285-pound state champion Michael Easterling, but key wrestlers such as Braeden Dickinson (third at state) and Harrison Haller-Cruz (sixth) are back this season.
Jerome’s Ezekial Williamson beat Meredith for the 152-pound state title last season, and he’s only a junior.
Twin Falls’ key returners include sophomore Kase Mauger (second at state) and senior Troy Morfin (fourth).
Rushton inherits a Minico program that has now won four state titles, including back-to-back under Bob Halverson in 1969 and 1970. The other two title teams were coached by Cooper.
“Hopefully, we win another title,” Rushton said. “It’s gonna be a lot harder to win a second one. It always is.”
3A Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference
No District 4 has won a 3A state wrestling title this century. In fact, Buhl’s championship in 1998 is the only one District 4 has ever captured at the 3A/Class B level.
The SCIC was well behind last year’s state champion, Sugar-Salem, with Kimberly leading the way at No. 9. But the conference boasts several individual standouts, including a pair of defending state champions who are back this winter.
Both of those champions wrestle for Gooding. Now-senior Dabid Romero won last year’s 3A 126-pound state title, and junior Jake McGinnis won it at 285. McGinnis is also a standout lineman for the Senator football team.
“He’s grown and matured. He’s a lot stronger,” Gooding fourth-year coach Lyle Rogers said of. “He’ll be a real force to reckon with the next two years.”
Gooding’s now-senior Mike Needham took second place at state in the 220-pound weight class last season. But Needham tore his pectoral a couple weeks ago, and Rogers isn’t sure if he’ll return for wrestling season.
Gooding finished third at last year’s district tournament behind Kimberly and Buhl, which won its second straight SCIC team title. But the Indians finished 13th at state, one spot behind the Senators. Buhl sent 17 wrestlers to the state tournament, and only three finished in the top six.
One of those three — Mark Poehler, who took second at state in the 182-pound bracket — was a senior last season. The other two are Theron Christensen (second at state) and Slade Peyman (sixth), and both are seniors this season.
Buhl fifth-year coach Fred Bartlett expects a better showing at state this time around.
“We better. We’ve been working our butts off,” he said. “I’m not happy with how we’ve finished the last two years with as many kids we’ve qualified for state.”
Kimberly didn’t have any top-three placers in any weight class at state last year, but five finished fourth or fifth, and they all return. Jonah Bacon and Kolten Burk both placed fourth at state as freshman last season. Carson Schvaneveldt, now a senior, placed fourth, while Michael Coy finished fourth and fellow junior Riley Hallett was fifth.
2A District 4
Every District 4 wrestler who won a 2A state title last season has since graduated. Shoshone’s Cade Horn won the 138-pound championship, while a pair of Declo seniors placed first at 182 and 285 pounds. The 182-pound winner was Tyler Matthews, who is now wrestling for Indiana University.
The losses of Matthews and Bryson Robinson, the 285-pound champ, haven’t hurt KC Wells’ confidence. Declo’s fourth-year head coach said wrestlers like Matthews and Robinson have built the underclassmen up, and the Hornets have a large, talented group of freshmen this winter.
“I’m a little worried about how we’re gonna find room for all the kids coming in. It’s a good problem to have,” Wells said. “I see incredible things happening in the wrestling room.”
Among Declo’s key returners are junior Caden Crider (sixth place at state), senior Tony Marino (fourth) and sophomore Dawson Osterhout (fifth). As a team, the Hornets finished fifth at state last season.
“If we don’t come home from the state tournament with a trophy, whether that’s first, second, third or fourth, that will be a letdown for us,” Wells said.
Oakley finished second to Declo in the district tournament and was the next-best District 4 team at state last season, finishing 17th. Oakley returns now-senior Sam Mitton, who placed fourth at state.
Valley returns now-senior Kodi Burk, who placed third in the 152-pound weight class at state last season. Raft River senior Traven Hansen also finished third at 170 pounds.