Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Bill Pierce’s almanc: Wrestling replaces boxing

Believe it or not, boxing was once a sport offered at some local high schools. Boys of different weight classes would compete against one another in competitions called "smokers."  In 1949 Washington State cancelled the sport, concerned over injuries and some fatalities around the country.

About that same time, high schools began to organize wrestling programs. The first WIAA wrestling state tournament was in 1953. Moses Lake was one of the first schools to take up the sport and was a dominant force in those early years.

Spokane area schools adopted wrestling a bit later than other regions.  North Central was the first to show success on the state level, taking second in state in 1965, with Jack Coffee winning a title at 148.

Cash Stone became the coach at Mead in 1958 and began to build a strong program. Mead wrestler, Dan Hensley, was the first Spokane grappler to take a title in 1962 at 130 pounds.  Stone, and Rogers coach, Ken Pelo, were both active participants in the wrestling movie Vision Quest, filmed in Spokane.

West Valley won the area’s first team championship in 1972. The state tournament was a one-class affair until 1968 when a smaller school category was created. Over the years other classifications have been added. Today, six classifications meet for trophies in the Tacoma Dome to end the season.

In recent years a few girls began to show up in the sport, with a couple of them even winning trophies at state, battling the boys in the lower weight classes. They got their own tournament in 2006.

Over the years, Lewis and Clark, Mead, Central Valley, Gonzaga Prep and University have won one or more state titles in the sport. Some local smaller schools have had success as well. Aside from West Valley, Cheney, East Valley and Freeman have taken home titles.  Lakeside from Nine Mile, and Deer Park have won multiple championships, with the Stags having the most success, claiming six championships for the school.

Boxing may be a dim memory, but wrestling has more than replaced it as a popular high school sport.

Bill Pierce
Bill Pierce is a sports blogger who writes the weekly nwprepsnow prep sports almanac.

Looking for a Grip on Sports?

Vince Grippi's daily take on all things regional sports has been moved to our main sports section online. You can find a collection of these columns here.