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By: Will Hoenike

Will is an award-winning broadcaster who has been doing play-by-play on a professional level since the early 2000s. His "roll call" of sports called includes hockey, football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, gynmastics, mixed martial arts, volleyball and wrestling. He has done pro games, including serving five seasons as the play-by-play broadcaster of the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads, major and small-college contests and high school events. He is a graduate of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University and is originally from Spokane, Wash.

A Team Of Their Own

Led by district champion Tito Garcia (285), Valley once again has its own wrestling program taking part in state this week.

Published: 2/22/2019 9:53:18 AM

Friday will not be the first time Valley High School from Hazelton has wrestlers in the Idaho Wrestling State Championships at Holt Arena in Pocatello.

However, for the first time in several years, the Vikings will be coming from their own, independent team, not part of a cooperative agreement with another Magic Valley high school.

“We are still not a wrestling town by any means,” Valley athletic director Brian Hardy said. “But the interest is growing.”

Five wrestlers from Valley will be competing in Pocatello this weekend: freshman Evan Allen (106), freshman Zach Ross (132), junior Luis Cervantes (195), sophomore Tito Garcia (285) and junior Adan Coria (285) will all participate in the 2A classification representing the Vikings. Garcia won the district title at 285 pounds last week while Allen took second and Ross and Cervantes finished third in their respective weight classes.

Valley is a 1A school but there is no 1A wrestling bracket, so several 1A schools send their wrestlers to the 2A tournament. For example, Challis High School finished second in the 2A tournament in 2018, behind state champion Ririe, and Clearwater Valley finished tied for sixth. North Gem, Grace and Potlatch also finished in the top 15 in team scores last season.

All told, 15 1A schools earned team points in last season’s event. Many, like Valley, were part of cooperative teams with other schools but competed individually in the state championships. Now, Valley has its own team.

One thing stands out when Hardy lists the school’s qualifying athletes – none are seniors. And two of the school’s best, sophomores Julian Rocha and Kadyn Buhler, are both out with injuries. Rocha and Garcia each qualified for the state championships last season after competing during the regular season for nearby Kimberly as a co-op.

Translation: the best is yet to come for this group of competitors.

“It is a building process. We wrestled in a lot of JV tournaments at the beginning of the year to give our guys some experience at their level,” Hardy said. “I was really excited about our young guys from the 17-18 season and the foundation they provided. To see the growth we had this year and know that a lot of these kids will be back and better I can’t wait to see our team next year.”

Coaches Rick Hall and Brayden Cantu competed this season with a roster that included four freshmen, five sophomores and six juniors, with nine of them never having wrestled before. This year of experience will be very valuable going forward for the program and the community.

“We have a great group of senior citizens that want to support the kids in everything they do and they have been excited for the boys,” Hardy noted. “We only had one home match, but it was exciting. We will have more next year.”

The 2019 Idaho Wrestling State Championships kick off with Session 1 at Holt Arena in Pocatello on Friday at 9:30 a.m. The finals begin Saturday at 3:30 p.m. following the parade of athletes.



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