BY RYAN HOWE --
GOODING — Walking away from wrestling was perhaps the best thing Josh Finley could have done for his wrestling career.
He needed a break. After finishing fifth at state as a freshman at Gooding High, followed by the freestyle season, he decided to try something different his sophomore year. Finley joined the Senators’ basketball team.
“I hate basketball,” he laughs now. “I hate running lines. It’s stupid.”
When Finley returned to the mat this winter, he was rededicated and refocused.
“I didn’t really expect to win a state championship, but it was definitely a big deal to me when I did,” said Finley, the 3A 220-pound state champ and the Times-News co-Wrestler of the Year.
As an all-Idaho football player, wrestling is a secondary sport for Finley, but one that will help him achieve his goal of earning a college football scholarship.
“Wrestling is definitely a big part of football. It helps with the form and with my positioning to tackle,” said Finley, who plans to attend five or six football camps this summer.
With only one loss on his record, Finley entered the state tournament earlier this month as the No. 2 seed in his bracket.
“My main goal when I got there was to make the finals,” said Finley. “That semifinals night, that’s all I wanted. Once the championship came around, I decided, you’re here, might as well win it.”
That’s exactly what he did. In a exhilarating — and some Fruitland fans would argue controversial — match, Finley won a 3-2 decision over Christian Ketchu.
“I just liked when the Fruitland crowd was booing me, sticking both hands up to them,” Finley said. “It’s definitely a confidence booster. Whenever I do an activity now, I just feel confident about it. Before it was kind of like, ‘Am I good enough?’”
There’s no questioning it now. Finley realized everything he’d already worked out in his mind during his freshman year, before his one-year sabbatical from the sport.
“I always visualized hugging the coaches and everything (after winning state),” Finley said. “It pretty much played out how I planned it.”