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

Prep wrestling: Mead handles University in clash of GSL powers ahead of Tri-State tournament

By Madison McCord For The Spokesman-Review

As the majority of students at Mead and University high schools head toward winter break, wrestlers from the two programs are in the midst of the most grueling four-day stretch of the season.

The teams started the week with Greater Spokane League dual victories Wednesday – Mead defeated Central Valley 63-12 and University defeated Ferris 66-12. That set up a Thursday night showdown between not only two of the best teams in the GSL, but also the state.

In front of a boisterous home crowd, the Panthers showed why they are the two-time defending State 3A champion with a resounding 51-17 victory over U-Hi.

The Panthers jumped out to an 18-7 lead thanks to pins from Markus Fetcho (285 pounds) and Kaysic Lundquist (113), before U-Hi’s Czar Quintanilla cut into the Mead lead with a first-period pin to make it 18-13. Mead then showed its depth and wouldn’t look back, winning eight of the final nine matches.

Seniors Josh Neiwert, Braxton Smith, Jeroen Smith and Aaron Ask all had pins for the Panthers down the stretch.

“It is really early in the season, but the fact that we competed this hard is fun to watch and I think everyone competed really hard tonight,” Mead coach Phil McLean said. “If we put in that effort every time and don’t stress so much about wining and losing, good things tend to happen.”

If back-to-back league duals weren’t tough enough, the teams will turn their attentions across the Idaho border as the Tri-State tournament takes place Friday and Saturday at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene.

Quintanilla, a sophomore, will look to make it two consecutive titles at Tri-State, while teammate Libby Roberts hopes to bounce back from her second-place finish in the 106-pound bracket last year. Roberts – who won via major decision against Mead’s Trandyn Lundquist – is also coming off a victory at the Walsh Ironman Tournament last week in Ohio.

“I expect to go in and win again,” Quintanilla said. “It’s a huge event and I just want to be there with my team. They’re my biggest supporters and we just need to go out and wrestle for each other.”

Another silver medalist from last season’s tournament looking to take the top spot on the podium is Neiwert (138), while teammates Kaysic Lundquist (113) and Jeroen Smith (157) also have high hopes for one of the region’s most prestigious events.

“As a team, we just have to go in and battle every match. We’ve placed high at this tournament before, but we are coming for the title this year,” Jeroen Smith said.

Thursday’s dual will also go a long way in determining the GSL title, although both teams still have to wrestle Mt. Spokane. McLean also sees the win as a good barometer of where his team is with Mat Classic less than two months away.

Mead entered the night as the top-ranked 3A team, according to Washington Wrestling Report, while the Titans were ranked fourth behind Hermiston (Oregon) and Yelm.

“We talked about this is a possible GSL title match because University is so good and it was a tough dual,” Jeroen Smith said. “We just came together and were really focused on doing the little things right.”

Tri-State finals are scheduled to begin Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Tickets for the event can be purchased at NIC’s Christianson Gym and cost $15 for an all-tournament pass and $10 for finals.

“I call this the ‘death march’ and if we make it through and to winter break, then we’ve earned that time off,” McLean said. “You can talk about being tough and mentally tough, but you have to experience it, and our guys are going through it right now.”