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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Locally: Spokane Valley wrestling official John Sisser earns Tom Cross Award

UPDATED: Sun., Sept. 6, 2020

John Sisser has been a wrestling official for nearly 50 years.  (Courtesy of John Sisser)
John Sisser has been a wrestling official for nearly 50 years. (Courtesy of John Sisser)
From staff and wire reports

Like Washington high school athletes statewide, John Sisser has his fingers crossed that 2020-21 sports seasons are in the cards.

Except that Sisser is not a high school student, nor an athlete. He’s an official. A wrestling official, and a darn good one, with a milestone in his sights.

“If I get to officiate,” said the 69-year-old former chewing gum salesman discussing his career, “this will be my 50th year.”

The Washington Officials Association, in recognition of that service, named Sisser the recipient of its second highest honor, the Tom Cross Award, at its 2020 virtual conference late last month. He’ll be presented with the award during the 2021 conference.

“It really means a lot to me,” said the Spokane Valley resident of the award named for the late Tacoma native who was considered “the Father of Officiating” in the state of Washington.

The award was inaugurated in 2005 and “and I’m the first wrestling official to receive it,” Sisser said. “It really is an honor.”

Only one other Spokane official has received it, football’s Bill Turnquist in 2007.

The only higher honor for a Washington official is induction into the WOA Hall of Fame.

A four-year wrestler in high school in North Dakota and one year in college at Minot (N.D.) State, Sisser got into officiating “because I just enjoyed” the sport. He has officiated in Montana and Southern California and had an earlier stint in Spokane before returning in 2000. He’s been a key member of the Inland Empire Wrestling Officials ever since.

Sisser hasn’t officiated any state tournaments, but he’s done bunches of districts, regionals and other pre-state tournaments at all of his stops and has worked tirelessly behind the scenes. He’s served in multiple board positions locally and been an assigner and a trainer. And the last few years he’s been working with the WOA to develop a video system to train and rate officials.

Of the time he’s put in to receive “my first award ever,” Sisser said, “I need to give credit to my wife and kids for their support over the years. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Two other Spokane officials received special awards during the virtual conference.

Gerald Howard, a member of the Spokane Softball Umpires Association, was named the WOA Slowpitch Umpire of the Year, and Damon Taggart of Spokane Basketball Officials received a WOA Meritorious Service Award.

Howard has umpired 35 years, 20 of them in Spokane, and is a USA Softball Elite slowpitch umpire who has worked seven national tournaments.

The award Taggart received goes to officials who have 15 or more years of service, served on their association board and been a regional and/or state tournament official. He’s done both, including state tournaments three of the last four years.

College scene

Idaho’s two defensive football standouts, linebackers Christian Elliss and Tre Walker, and Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere have picked up another preseason honor.

Elliss, who will be a senior, and Walker, a junior, were named to the Stats Perform FCS Preseason All-America second team. Barriere, who will be a senior, was named to the third team. They are part of the Big Sky Conference-leading 22 selections.

Idaho’s leading tacklers a year ago (Walker first, Elliss second) earlier picked up preseason All-Big Sky honors from the conference coaches and media and from Phil Steele and Hero Sports publications.

Barriere, the Big Sky’s preseason Offensive MVP selection, earned preseason All-America nods from Steele, Hero and College Sports Journal. In 2019, he finished fifth in the voting for the prestigious Walter Payton Award and was a third-team FCS All-American by Hero.

The Big Sky, which has postponed all fall sports to the spring because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, is hopeful of playing a modified football slate.


Retired former longtime Manito Golf and Country Club pro Steve Prugh of Spokane and Prairie Falls Golf Club owner Billy Bomar of Post Falls led the showing by area golfers in the 32nd PNW Senior PGA Professional Championship that concluded Thursday in Vancouver, Washington.

Prugh shot an 11-over-par 155 for 36 holes to tie for 18th and Bomar was at 12-over 156 to tie for 20th as the Royal Oaks Country Club course proved tough to solve for the field.

Only two golfers managed to break par, and pros Jeff Coston of Blaine, Washington, and Mark Keating of Woodburn, Oregon, finished tied for first with 3-under 141s. Coston won his ninth Senior title, and second straight, in a one-hole playoff.


The Spokane Chiefs made a move to reduce their overage numbers last week, releasing 2000-born forward Brad Ginnell on waivers, leaving the Western Hockey League team with five 20-year-olds. WHL rules limit teams to three during the season.

Ginnell, obtained by the Chiefs in a trade with Winnipeg in January 2020, was immediately claimed by the Moose Jaw Warriors. In 16 games with Spokane, Ginnell had three goals, three assists and a plus-1 rating.

Remaining on the Chiefs’ roster are 2000-born forwards Michael King and Eli Zummack, defensemen Matt Leduc and Bobby Russell, and goaltender James Porter Jr. from Bonners Ferry. WHL Defenseman of the Year Ty Smith is eligible to return, but the New Jersey Devils prospect is expected to begin his professional career.

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