As a high school wrestler, Tommy Owen knew nothing but success, reaching the state finals four times at University.
Now a first-year coach, Owen has his Central Valley Bears poised for a Greater Spokane League title challenge after dispatching North Central 45-24 on Thursday night at NC.
At 5-0, the Bears look like contenders, particularly with a favorable remaining schedule until the Battle of the Bone against defending champion U-Hi.
The Bears (5-0) stuck it to the already-reeling Indians (3-2) early by winning seven of the first nine matches for a 24-point lead and cruised from there.
NC’s chance at a triumph had taken a hit prior to the match with the absence for various reasons of three wrestlers, who among them had compiled a 10-1 record in GSL matches. Included was Jace Clary, who underwent likely season-ending knee surgery.
“The wheels came off the wagon the last couple of days,” coach Luke Leifer said of the setbacks. “I would have liked to see what we could do if we were full strength.”
Owen, with two solid 119-pounders to jockey his lineup around, continued bumping up the bulk of his lineup through 152 pounds with success, including Jarod Maynes’ 11-5 win over Jared Berlinger at 130 in a match of returning multiple state placers.
“I got to his legs, which is always good, and was able to take him down,” said Maynes.
Through 145 (Clary’s weight class) CV was up 36-12. Tanner Davis clinched the team victory with a pin in his first league match at 160. His previous four were at 171.
“When we showed up, NC had a couple of guys out of the lineup and we bumped a couple of guys up,” Owen said. “We haven’t come close to wrestling our best yet. I expect a lot as a coach and the kids expect a lot. I feel we can win a state title.”
In other GSL matches, the Titans (5-0) routed host Gonzaga Prep (0-5) 75-3, with nearly every match decided by pin or forfeit. … Returning Mead state champion Jeremy Golding defeated state placer Darren Bunke at 140 as the host Panthers (4-1) topped the Highlanders (1-4) 45-23. … A pin in the night’s last match, by Tanner Thomas at 189 pounds, enabled visiting Lewis and Clark (2-3) to edge Rogers (0-5) 36-35. … Mt. Spokane (3-2) won the last five matches, including Christian Nibarger’s pin in a 119-pound match with Kaleb Richardson, and the Wildcats won 50-26 over visiting Ferris (2-3).