Last year, Greater Spokane League wrestlers dominated the 108-pound weight class at state.
This season, they are hoping to spread the wealth.
The top three 108-pound state finishers were from the GSL, including Gonzaga Prep’s first champion, Cory Brannon. And that didn’t even include a league champion who missed Mat Classic by a place during regionals.
A year older and several pounds heavier the four wrestlers are in different weight classes and join another returning state placer hoping to repeat last season twice over.
“I don’t think it would bother me if all were back in the same weight,” said Brannon, a junior. “But I think it is better we’re split out because it gives more of us a chance to try and do the same at state again.”
Brannon has grown into the 122-pound weight class and will likely avoid his protagonists, including district champ Daryl Groom of Rogers, state runner-up Jon Rugan from Mead and third-place finisher Shane Cunanan from Central Valley.
The trade off is University fourth-place state finisher Josh Knowles.
Last year, Brannon compiled a 30-5 record and surprised the state field, including an overtime semifinal victory over freshman Cunanan and 9-2 win for the title over fellow soph Rugan, who was 23-8 for the year.
He remembered taking the mat that night as being exciting and nerve wracking. Since he had beaten Rugan three of four previous meetings he said he was fairly confident.
“I don’t think the match was as scary as the semifinal against Shane,” said Brannon. “I experienced every emotion. I was scared, nervous and excited when it went into overtime.”
Last season’s success surprised Brannon, who has wrestled since fifth grade. He had had a poor freshman season.
“Once I was in the right frame of mind, I knew I could do it and did,” he said of last year turnaround.
After a summer of regional and national freestyle competition, Brannon’s most likely obstacle will be Knowles or, possibly, Groom.
Last year Groom went undefeated in league, beating the state placers in league matches, including 10-0 over Brannon and 9-7 over both Cunanan and Rugan. During districts he beat Rugan by two points again and won the title 6-2 over Brannon.
But at regionals, he ran afoul of Rugan in an overtime semifinal and lost 2-0 to Cunanan for state.
“He probably should have been at 115,” said Rogers coach Ken Pelo. “The last two weeks he was having a difficult time making weight.”
He’s at 115 this year, the same weight class as Rugan and Cunanan. So Pelo’s keeping his options open.
“Daryl’s strong as a bull,” said Pelo. “I’d hate to put him at 115 where the kids chew each other up. If I see at 122 he can reach state, I won’t be reluctant to put him there.”
Or he may stay in the same class as Rugan and Cunanan. Those two have become close friends since attending wrestling camp in Oregon.
Both are looking forward to wrestling each other.
“I’ve got a very good feeling about me and Shane,” said Rugan. “He knows what I do and I know what he does. It will be glorious.”
Cunanan said he knows he’s in a tough weight class and is facing some difficult matches.
The beneficiaries, said Rugan’s coach, Cash Stone, will be the fans who get to watch the athletes wage war.
“They will see some classic matchups,” said Stone.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: GSL wrestling Information on Greater Spokane League wrestling season, which begins tonight: Projected finish: Central Valley, Mead, Gonzaga Prep, University, Rogers, Ferris, North Central, Lewis and Clark, Shadle Park. League openers: Rogers at U-Hi, Mead at Shadle, LC at NC, Ferris at G-Prep, 7 p.m. Defending league champion: U-Hi, which last year ended Mead’s 42-match unbeaten streak (including two ties) in GSL. Panthers were second, one-half match ahead of Rogers. Returning district champions: Jared Osborn, jr., U-Hi; Daryl Groom, jr., Rogers; Fletcher Barkdull, sr., Ferris; James Clark, sr., Mead; Rick Giampietri, sr., CV; Bob Perkes, sr., CV. In all 13 finalists and 23 regional wrestlers are back. Returning region IV champions: Cory Brannon, jr, G-Prep. Region team finishes: Mead third, Rogers fourth behind Moses Lake and Davis. Returning State AAA placers: Brannon, first, 108; Jon Rugan, jr. Mead, second, 108; Shane Cunanan, soph., CV, third, 108; Josh Knowles, sr., U-Hi, fourth, 115; Barkdull, sixth, 122. Just missed state: Groom; Shawn Howard, Shadle, sr.; James Dawe, Rogers, sr.; Perkes; John Reese, CV, soph; Tom Brown, G-Prep, jr.; Lyle Beerbohm, Mead, sr; Mark Rinde, Rogers, sr. (now at NC). Notable: U-Hi returns junior Andy Roberts, who won state in 1994 but injured a finger and missed last postseason…. Regional placers Terry Swan and Rinde are not back at Rogers and A.J. Ahenakew did not return to LC…. . NC is dealing with the loss of regional-placing sophomore Eddie Jones, who died last February in a four-wheeling accident.