WENDELL • For a tournament dubbed the Magic Valley Classic, the weekend’s event in Wendell was largely dominated by outsiders, but a trio of locals helped the area close on a high note.
Wood River’s Ryan Anderson, Declo’s John Nunnelee and Glenns Ferry’s Jack Riggs each won their respective weight classes Saturday, helping to salvage a weekend that saw no area squad finish higher than 10th in the team standings.
Wood River’s Colby Castle, at 98 pounds, also made the finals but was pinned after a roll in the first period of his match.
Within minutes, though, Anderson was up at 120 pounds and quickly got to work avenging his teammate. Anderson’s opponent, Dallin Ward of Malad, was the top seed at the weight, but neither wrestler was able to get much going early, remaining locked up from either standing or knees. Neither seriously threatened on shots in a scoreless first period.
“I knew he had long arms,” Anderson said. “I wanted to keep my distance on our feet. My best position is top and bottom, so I knew if I could get out of the first period down by two or tied I’d be pretty golden.”
Ward got a takedown in the second period, but a late reversal tied it up and another reversal in the third gave Anderson all the points he needed to be able to ride Ward out for the 4-2 win.
Wood River was the lone 4A school in attendance. Typically the team competes at tournaments against larger schools. With a smaller roster this season, this tournament made the most sense and, for Anderson, gave him just what he needed.
“Coming into this year, I had a lot of momentum,” he said. “I was excited. Then I started losing. This tournament was getting my momentum back and realizing that I can win tournament like this.”
Taking the very same mat right after Anderson was Nunnelee against Homedale’s Nash Johnson. Just as with the prior match, the first period ended scoreless with neither wrestler getting their shots deep enough for takedowns.
Starting neutral in the second, Nunnelee was able to capitalize on an error by Johnson for a massive momentum swing.
“I took a shot on him and I caught his ankle ‘cause he posted,” Nunnelee said. “He came down on his hip and tried to spladle me, but I saw it coming and reached over and caught his head, put him in a cradle. That was intense. His foot was behind his head.”
Though not a pin, the move gave Nunnelee a sudden 5-0 edge that would essentially clinch the match. A third period takedown was simply gravy that made the final margin 7-0.
“When I hit that, I knew he gave up,” Nunnelee said. “You could feel it.”
Declo, in 11th place, finished second among area teams with five other wrestlers placing in the top six of their weight classes, including Blaine Phillips, Nunnelee’s practice partner.
“Wrestling these tough kids is great experience, but everyday in the wrestling room, I wrestle Blaine Phillips,” Nunnelee said. “He pushes me to the test every single day.
Also among the placers for Declo were heavyweights Braxton Doman and Bryson Robison, who actually had to wrestle each other in the consolation rounds at one point with a berth in the third-place match on the line.
The king of the heavyweights, though, was Riggs. After dispatching Doman in the semifinals by pin, he was matched up with West Jefferson’s Tristin Wright in the finals. Riggs had faced Wright once before, pinning him in about 15 seconds last season, but said he could tell immediately Saturday that the opponent had improved.
“He made incredible improvements,” Riggs said. “He’s grown up. I think he’s only a sophomore. Wrestling in the finals here, I didn’t even do that as a sophomore.”
Flashing quickness uncommon for heavyweights, Riggs got a quick takedown on a drop before both wrestlers tumbled out of bounds. On the restart, Riggs faked letting Wright up before grabbing his legs and inverting the Panther nearly to the point of a handstand before the pair crashed back to the mat.
In the second period, Riggs started on bottom before hitting a quick switch and getting Wright on his back with legs split. After a few moments of struggle, Riggs got the pin :57 into the period.
“It was a matter of taking my time finishing it or wearing him down enough that I could finish it in the third.”
Riggs does not plan on Saturday’s win being the high point of the season, though. As a returning runner-up at the state tournament, he said his focus must now be on still having room to improve.
“Getting momentum this early, I didn’t want to peak too soon,” Riggs said. “I want to peak around districts and state time.”
Magic Valley Classic Results
1. West Jefferson 196.5
2. New Plymouth 189
3. Malad 177
4. Challis 160
5. Ririe 152.5
6. Salmon 149.5
7. Homedale 121
8. McCall 99
9. Aberdeen 92
10. Oakley 87
11. Firth 86.5
12. Declo 85
13. Wendell 66
14. Wood River 62.5
15. Raft River 62
16. Grace 61
17. Glenns Ferry 38
18. Soda Springs 37
19. Marsing 34
20. Melba 30
21. Prairie 28
22. Filer 25
23. Kimberly 22
98: Castle, Wood River, 2nd; S. Mitton, Oakley, 5th.
106: Schoth, Wendell, 6th.
113: Anderson, Raft River, 3rd; Wells, Oakley, 4th.
120: Anderson, Wood River, 1st; Wells, Declo, th.
138: Nunnelee, Declo, 1st.
145: Phillips, Declo, 5th.
152: L. Mitton, Oakley, 4th.
160: Jimenez, Wendell, 3rd; Burk, Kimberly, 4th.
170: Toothman, Wood River, 5th; Matthews, Declo, 6th.
182: K. Mitton, Oakley, 4th.
195: Gomez, Raft River, 3rd.
285: Riggs, Glenns Ferry, 1st; Doman, Declo, 4th; Robison, Declo, 6th.