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Cunanan Grapples Through Tough Weight Classes

For Central Valley’s Shane Cunanan, wrestling success came early. The road for University’s Sam Butler was considerably more difficult.

The pair’s different paths converged at last weekend’s District 8 AAA tournament when both earned weight class championships.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Cunanan, the Bears’ 122-pounder. “It’s the first championship I’ve ever won.”

Hard to believe, but it’s because Cunanan has always wrestled in tough weight classes. As a 108-pound freshman, Cunanan found himself in the same weight as Gonzaga Prep’s Cory Brannon and Mead’s Jon Rugan.

That meant no championships in district or regional or in any of several invitational tourneys.

Brannon was state champion, Rugan finished second and Cunanan took third.

Last year he moved up to 115 pound class where Region IV again produced the state’s top three placers. Cunanan finished fifth.

This year he’s again in a weight class that includes two former state champions, Brannon and last year’s state 115-pound champion Aaron Mann of Richland.

“We were joking that we’d have to enter him in the Tri-County Classic (CV’s tournament for smaller school and second-string wrestlers) so he could get a title,” said CV coach Dale Ethridge.

Last Saturday Cunanan beat Brannon 6-5 in the district finals to scotch the thought.

Until this year, winning a district title was little more than a dream for Titan wrestler Butler.

Butler had little wrestling success from junior high until his junior year, but stuck with it.

“It’s just a fun sport, I guess,” he said. “I credit everything to the coaches. They’re the best.”

Butler finished sixth in district last year. This year he became a force, compiling a 22-5 record, much of his league success coming at 178 pounds.

Wrestling at 168 pounds in district, Butler was seeded third, but had little trouble with the field, winning 9-4 over top-seeded Brian Thatcher of North Central.

It was a dream come true.

Gonzaga Prep won its first district wrestling championship due, in no small part to the contributions of Valley wrestlers.

Nick Bliss, 148, and Chris Montgomery, 108, won individual titles and scarcely broke a sweat.

Not entirely. Montgomery was pushed in the final by Lewis and Clark’s Brian Lehrman, winning 3-0.

Getting that far was easy, however, with a pin and 15-2 decision.

Bliss won by pin and two technical fall 15-point decisions, including 16-0 in the title bout.

Valleyites Sean Malone at 135 pounds and Jason Francis at 215 were among the eight Bullpup placers.

The wrestlers showed up, as is becoming the fashion, their hair bleached blonde in a show of team unity.

Obviously it worked, as the 260 team points, 37-1/2 more than CV, attests.

University had five finalists, four of them champions, among its seven regional qualifiers.

State third-placer Jared Osborn at 115 pounds, two-time state champion Andy Roberts at 129 and Ed Stretch at 135 joined Butler on the victory stand.

Josh Vande Vanter was second to Bliss at 148. Sophomores Reggie Lee, third at 178, and Conor Jordan, fourth at 122, are other U-Hi regional entrants.

Central Valley had only one other finalist, Courtney Brown at 158 pounds. He finished second.

Second-seed John Reese at 115 lost in the semifinals, one of six Bears to do so.

But he came back to finish third as did Reggie Oakes at 129. Also third were Brandon Brown at 135 and Blair Alderman at 168 after losing in the second round.

Kyle Bush, CV’s second entrant in the 101-pound weight class, Shawn Conlon, 108, and Brandon Bouge, 215 were fourth.

The Bears finished second with 222-1/2 points behind Gonzaga Prep.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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