2022-23 Winter High School Sports Preview: Wrestling capsules for the Greater Spokane League and Eastern Washington
Dec. 8, 2022 Updated Thu., Dec. 8, 2022 at 1:54 p.m.
The Washington high school wrestling season is underway. Here’s a preview of the Greater Spokane League 4A/3A and 2A, plus other teams in the area.
Teams in alphabetical order by classification. Records/standing listed from winter 2021-22.
Greater Spokane League 4A/3A
Central Valley (5-3, fourth): Eighth-year coach Shaun Williams lost as much talent to graduation as any coach in the league, but has 15 letter winners back including two state placers: Junior Blaine Beard (seventh, 126) and sophomore Danner Smith (eighth, 182). There are three other state qualifiers as well. “As long as we keep improving, we can have a good postseason in February,” Williams said.
Cheney (4-5, sixth): Fifth-year coach Jason Conner has 11 letter winners back, including seniors Joe Showalter (fourth at state, 132) and Dalton Taylor (third, 152).
Gonzaga Prep (1-7, ninth): The Bullpups had a great turnout this season with more than 40 wrestlers, but it’s a young, inexperienced group according to veteran coach Danny Pearson. “We’ll have a chance to fill 14 weights for duals,” he said. Senior Isaac Muniz (126) was fifth at state and sophomore Noah Holman (170) was third.
Lewis and Clark (2-6, eighth): The Tigers return 19 letter winners to their wrestling room for fourth-year coach Aaron Petak. Senior Bennett Hendrickson (132) and junior Quinnton Flores (285) qualified for state. “We have a few key returning wrestlers who are hoping to place at the state tournament this year,” Petak said, noting an impressive group of ninth-graders. LC will have a dedicated girls team for the first time with nine wrestlers.
Mead (8-0, first): In coach Phil McLean’s 22nd year with the Panthers last year, they finally got over the hump to win a state title. Nine letter winners return, led by seniors Austin Justice (second, 160) and Mason Knigge (sixth, 170) and sophomore James Mason (second, 120). “We are young, but they show a lot of talent,” McLean said. “We are hoping to be in the mix for a run at the end of the year.” Josh Neiwert, second at state in 138 for G-Prep last year, is a transfer addition.
Mt. Spokane (6-2, third): The Wildcats, after back-to-back titles, placed fourth at state. For the second year in a row, there’s a new coach as Todd Slatter takes over. Seniors Hudson Buth (second at state, 152), Jarom Liljenquist (third, 195) and Darren Airey (seventh, 220) and junior Tanner Crosby (second, 106) are leaders.
North Central (2-6, seventh): The Wolfpack returns six letter winners for second-year coach Steven Taylor, including a pair of state qualifiers: junior Tristan Zaragoza (120) and junior Tommy Elliott (152). Senior Andrew Boniecki (145) and sophomore Riley Hemminger (170) were regional participants. “We have a few kids who we think should be ranked in state but have not received that recognition yet,” Taylor said.
Ridgeline (1-7, 10th): The Falcons took their lumps in their inaugural season, but the benefit is second-year coach Brice Gretch has everyone back this season. They had four regional qualifiers last season including senior Brayden Phillips, who was sixth in regionals and a state alternate at 220. “We nearly doubled our participation numbers from Year 1 to Year 2,” Gretch said.
University (7-1, second): Third-year coach Ryan Montang has 15 letter winners back, including state champions senior Q’Veli Quintanilla (145) and sophomore Libby Roberts (106) – both members of wrestling family dynasties. Perhaps forgotten, but the Titans finished third at state last season. “U-Hi will be in a dogfight with Mead and Mt. Spokane in the GSL 3A again this year,” Montang said.
Greater Spokane League 2A
Clarkston (2-2, fourth): Second-year coach Corey Thivierge has eight letter winners returning and he feels the program is ready for a breakout. “Our goals are to take eight kids to state and have all eight place,” he said. “We feel like we can be a top eight team by the end of the year.” Key returners include Gabe Weza (126), fourth-at-state Dawson Bailey (132), Bodee Thivierge (138) and Braden Jared (220).
East Valley (4-1, second): Longtime assistants Tim Ervin (15 years) and Keith Larson (six) take over as co-head coaches for the Knights, who return 12 letter winners. Senior Alonzo Vargas (285) was an academic state champ and placed sixth at state last season. Other returning state qualifiers are senior Orlando Morales (220), senior Owen Spendlove (195) and junior Devin Pierce (170).
Pullman (6-0, first): The Greyhounds placed fifth at state last season and want more, with 11 letter winners back for third-year coach Marcus Crossler. “Pullman went from 19 kids last season to 35 this season,” Crossler said. “It gives the Greyhounds more depth in multiple weight classes.” They’re led by three juniors: Ivan Acosta (second at state, 138), Aydin Peltier (second, 120) and Gavin McCloy (sixth, 113).
Rogers boys (0-4, sixth): Senior state qualifier Blaise Cross (160) leads 10 letter winners back for 10th-year coach Rod Tamura. Senior Gabe Skinner (145) and junior Nam Pham (106) are key returners. “We have a very young, inexperienced group, but they are willing to work hard and accept any challenge we put forth in a practice,” Tamura said.
Rogers girls: The Pirates, under fourth-year coach Whitney Bowerman, return six, led by state sixth-placer Ellabelle Taylor (120) and qualifier Viktoryia Dovhoruka (170), both seniors. “We have a strong seniors class returning with a lot of experience,” Bowerman said.
Shadle Park (1-3, fifth): Two-time state champ Zach Lopez (132) has graduated, but eight letter winners return for the Highlanders, led by two-time state placer Mateo Escobar (160), the third brother to place. “Our team is fearless and wants to compete every chance they get,” 17-year coach Shawm Howard said. “The team is young, but we return seven regional wrestlers.”
West Valley (4-2, third): Seventh-year coach Geoff Hensley said 51 wrestlers came out this season, “Our biggest turnout in years,” he said. That includes 15 letter winners and three state qualifiers, including junior Logan Utecht (126) who finished third last season. “We should be a competitive and deep team,” Hensley said. “The league will be deep with a lot of returners.”
Freeman: Eight letter winners return for second-year coach Matt Smith, including senior Hunter Hawk (132), who placed fourth at state. “We have a strong core coming back,” Smith said. “It’s a tight-knit team who have wrestled together for a long time.”
Chewelah: Third-year coach Austin Burgess has eight letter winners returning, including state placer senior Clay Jeanneret (170) and state qualifier junior Jared Hayden (160). “We have multiple guys at different weight classes and they have all started the season healthy and eager to be on the mat,” Burgess said. The Cougars will field a girls team of eight this season.
Northwest Christian: The Crusaders have their biggest squad in 10 years and received an influx of athletes as a pair of football players came out for the first time. Coach Abraham Rocha enters his fourth season. “We expect our returners to have a good year, but a couple of our newcomers will surprise people with their athleticism and aggressive style,” he said.
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