Colville High shared a Northeast A League wrestling title with Lakeside and Riverside last season. There is no reason to believe that the Indians will have to share anything this time around. Randy Clokeâ€™s Indians get the pre-season nod as the team to beat in the NEA.
The Indians, the defending District 7 1A champions, are particularly strong at the lower weights again this season. There are some holes in the upper weights.
Colville returns five of the seven wrestlers who qualified for the Mat Classic state championships in Tacoma last February.
â€śWe should be right there,â€ť Cloke said in reference to the NEA pecking order this winter. â€śLakeside will be tough and Freeman is up to about 25 kids. Newportâ€™s numbers are also up.â€ť
New weight classes were adopted by the National Federation of State High School Associations last spring and will be utilized starting this season, according to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. The changes are the most significant since 1988, when the lowest weight class increased from 98 pounds to 103.
As it stands now, the lowest weight will be 106. Most of the other weights have been adjusted upwards as well. The only weights remaining the same are at 145, 152, 160 and 285. Gone are 103, 112, 119, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 152, 160, 171, 189, 215 and 285.
Get accustomed to these numbers: 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285.
The goal by the national organization was to create weight classes that have approximately seven percent of the wrestlers in each weight class.
AT A GLANCE
The Indians pretty much returned everyone, although a couple of wrestlers who competed last season in the upper weights hadnâ€™t turned out at press time.
As strong as Colville is in the lower weights, the Indians could use some help on the upper end.
â€śI like what we have,â€ť Cloke said, â€śalthough a couple of football players who are potential district champions and played major roles on our football team this fall arenâ€™t coming out. We could certainly use them in the line-up. It would make us that much stronger.â€ť
Colville looks to be open at 220 and 285 pounds.
Morrison a standout wrestler
At 106 pounds, freshman Tyler Ward gets the nod. Another freshman, Ben Knight, will go at 113 pounds. State finalist Jesse Morrison could be Class 1Aâ€™s best at 120 pounds this winter. The sophomore is primed for another outstanding season.
â€śJesse is really wrestling well right now,â€ť Cloke said of his standout.
At 126 pounds, it should be Skyler Donner, although the state veteran at 119 last season is currently wrestling at 132.
Austin Donogh and Aaron Buckley are also slotted at 126 pounds.
The new weight reclassification has resulted in a serious logjam at 138 pounds for Colville. Josh Hamilton, a state veteran at 130 last season and a fifth place finisher, is slotted at 138 pounds with fellow state wrestler Trenton Welton. Add veteran Colyn Lindback to the mix and Cloke is three deep at 138â€”and too deep there in standouts.
At 145 pounds, junior Tanner Smith is another of Colvilleâ€™s State placers.
The 152-pound weight will be covered by sophomore Nithanial Blanchard and seniors Jesse Eslick and Hunter Carpenter.
Junior Julio Valencia, who made the regional field last winter, is back at 160 pounds. Austin Guthrie is also vying for mat time at 160 pounds.
Cloke picked up a blue chip transfer at 170 pounds with the addition of junior Chandler Knight to the program. Knight lost in the Nevada state finals last winter.
The Indians have a hole at 182 pounds. Sophomore Brock VanQuekelberg has been working at 182, although eventually Cloke figures junior Hunter LeCaire will be at the new weight.
Colville really has no one above 182 pounds.
Where are all those football linemen?
â€śWe have those holes,â€ť Cloke said. â€śBut I think weâ€™ll have a great year. â€śWe are a contending program and weâ€™re building the right way.â€ť
Strong feeder programs are paying off for CHS
The high school program has been aided immeasurably by the Basement Boys club program and the long-running Mat Rats program. The Colville Junior High School program of John Slater is very successful.
â€śWe are starting to see the connect there with those programsâ€¦more kids are wrestling at the junior high level,â€ť Cloke said. â€śWe are seeing the results of those successful programs at the high school level.
â€śI think we are moving in the right direction. We have almost two kids at every weight, save for the heavier weights. There is a lot of quality in the program.â€ť
For the first time in the programâ€™s history, CHS will host the regional tournament.
â€śIt will be great to have that tournament right here in our house,â€ť Cloke said. â€śThe kids will get to wrestle on their own matsâ€¦in their own house. It will be nice to have a little home court advantage and for our fans to be able to stay home for the regional.â€ť
At last Thursdayâ€™s season-opening Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) Shootout, Morrison (120), Donner (138) and Knight (170) all won championships.
In last Saturdayâ€™s high-powered Deer Park Invitational, Morrison finished second at 120 pounds and Chandler Knight lost a tough one-point decision at 170 pounds in the finals.
Ward (106), Donner (132) and LeCaire (195), all finished third. Tanner Smith, after losing his opening round match, came back to finish fourth.
Class 4A power Mead High School won the tournament. Host Deer Park was second.
Colville High was the highest placing Class 1A team. The Indians finished fifth in the 16 team field.
â€śWe had some tough draws going in, but I thought we wrestled well,â€ť Cloke said.
Colville will host a Jamboree on Wednesday (5 p.m. start) with Kettle Falls, Republic, Selkirk and Chewelah.
On Saturday, the Indians are in the Granger Invitational field.