Winning is all in the family

WV wrestler Quinn Gannon sets his sights on a state championship

Quinn Gannon set a lofty goal for himself. It’s daunting, he admits readily. But it’s what drives him.

“By the time I’m done, I want to be the best wrestler named Gannon to have wrestled here,” the West Valley High School junior said. “I know that’s a huge goal. My uncle Steve won a state championship here in 1972.”

It’s a tall order: Steve Gannon, one of the three state champions on West Valley’s 1972 state title team, and was a national champion at North Idaho Junior College.

“Yeah,” Gannon laughed. “There’s that, too. I went back to St. Louis to watch the NCAA championships. There were a half-dozen coaches who all knew who my uncle Steve was. That’s impressive.”

And there’s a wrestling tradition that runs two generations deep in the Gannon family – a family that includes a dozen aunts and uncles, all with outstanding athletic credentials. His uncle, Glenn, was a third-place state finisher on that state championship team. His father Tom, a record-breaking running back, placed third at state as a West Valley senior and the Wall of Honor in the West Valley practice room is full of Gannons.

“I started wrestling pretty young, but it wasn’t until I got into middle school that I really got serious about it,” he said. “In fact, there were times when my dad threatened to pull me out of wrestling because I just wasn’t that serious about it.

“But once I got serious, that wall became pretty intimidating.”

Still, Quinn Gannon is locked in on his goal as he takes to the mat today in Ellensburg for the Eastern Regional Class 2A Wrestling Tournament. For the first time in his career he enters the tournament as a district champion, capturing the 130-pound title in last week’s tournament at West Valley.

“I am so far ahead of where I was a year ago,” he said. “My attitude is so much better, my conditioning is so much better and my technique is 100-times better than it was a year ago.”

Gannon is quick to credit first-year West Valley wrestling coach John Owen, who took over the job after six seasons at Central Valley and a 20-year career at North Idaho College where he led the Cardinals to eight national championships.

“He’s a walking wrestling encyclopedia,” Gannon said. “I’m in that wrestling room every day trying to soak up as much of his knowledge as I possibly can.”

A coach who claims 35 national junior college champions on his collegiate coaching resume is an exceptional resource for a high school program. For one thing, he understands how best to help his wrestlers.

“Last year was such a difficult year for us,” Gannon said. “For starters, the coach we had last year came in and weighed us all on the first day of turnout. Because of that, I was locked in wrestling at 135 pounds. By the time we got to our first matches, I was eating a full dinner the night before a match, eating a full lunch the day of the match, and still weighed in at 130 pounds.

“I should have been wrestling at 125, no question about it. I knew it, my dad knew it.”

A year in the weight room and an understanding of the state’s weight management program has the junior wrestling at 130 pounds and winning the district championship.

Going into his junior season, Gannon had only seen his teammates win one Great Northern League match.

“It was my freshman year, and we finished tied and won the match on criteria,” he said. “This year, when we won our one and only league match, the thing that impressed me was that everyone was back on that bus right after the match. They weren’t all that over-the-top about winning the match, and they were all back, ready to go out the next night and win another match. We didn’t, but we sure gave it our best.”

For a coach used to winning national championships and coming off back-to-back Greater Spokane League championships at Central Valley, Owen said he’s learned quite a bit himself this season.

“I have sure gained a whole new appreciation for the coaches on the other side of the mat back when we were going out and thumping teams pretty good night in and night out,” he laughed. “It’s a pretty humbling experience. But I don’t think I’ve ever coached any harder than I have this year, and I really wanted these kids to see success.”

Gannon, for one, looks forward to next year.

“I have a whole new appreciation for the Riversides and the Deer Parks,” he said. “They are great programs, but I honestly believe we have better talent here. We just don’t have the kind of experience they have. But we can get there.”

Contact Steve Christilaw by e-mail at schristilaw@msn.com

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