Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Vert, Hand earn medals at state wrestling

Crack the top six at Holt Arena

Express Staff Writer

Wood River High School wrestlers saved some of their best wrestling of the 2006-07 season for last weekend's 50th annual Idaho State High School Wrestling Tournament staged at Idaho State University's Holt Arena in Pocatello.

Wolverine coaches Tyson Young, Kim Orchard and Josh Alstrom were pleased with the efforts of senior Jordan Vert, junior Collin Hand and freshman Tanner Orchard during the three-day meet for wrestlers in 5A, 4A, 3A and 2A/1A.

Young said, "I'm extremely pleased with our showing. It's night and day, the transformation from the beginning to the end of the season. The kids made a lot of sacrifices and wrestled their tails off at state."

Vert and Hand earned medals for finishing in the top six of their 4A weight classes. Vert won three of his five matches to finish in fifth place at 160 pounds and Hand ended up sixth at 189 pounds with a 3-3 record at the state tournament.

"At times the kids were a little disappointed with what they did at state," said Young. "But even feeling like that shows a maturity and the will to go out and achieve more."

Great Basin Conference 160-pound champion Vert opened up Thursday with a quick 42-second pin of Jerome senior Josh Callen (18-13).

In the championship quarterfinals Vert earned the 5:58 fall with only two seconds left over Rigby senior Blase Barker. Then, in an extremely hard fought semi-final, top-seeded eventual state champ Kyle Sargent (38-8), a Blackfoot junior, managed to hold off Vert by a 12-7 decision.

Young said, "The Sargent kid had a different style that Jordan wasn't used to. Jordan wanted to get in there with a bang, but the Sargent kid picked us apart. Still, Jordan was that close from possibly wrestling for first and second place—after not winning a match at all at state last year."

Vert fell by a 3:09 pin in the consolation semi-finals to Hillcrest junior Jared Landon (33-17), who finished fourth in the class. In the fifth-place match, Vert (21-4) ended his senior season on a great positive note with a 9-2 decision over Middleton senior Matt Jordan (25-17).

Great Basin Conference 189-pound runner-up Hand (29-11) had a tough first-round match-up that he lost by 5:07 pin to #2-seeded Alfonso Hernandez (35-3) of Blackfoot. Hernandez captured the state championship over top-seeded Taylor Morris (42-6) of Sandpoint.

It's challenging to face a long consolation bracket haul, but Hand mustered the resolve to meet his final mat task of 2007.

Hand defeated Kuna junior T.J. Kiernan 12-3 and, in the consolation second round, captured a close 6-4 decision over Columbia junior Andrew Allen. In the third round, Hand stayed alive again with a 5-1 decision over Mountain Home junior Matt Ward. And in the consolation semi-finals, eventual third-place Steven Stores (27-14), a Lakeland senior, just nipped Hand by a 7-6 score.

The outcome put Hand in the 189-pound fifth-place match, which the Wolverine junior lost by the closest of margins, 4-3, to Great Basin Conference champion Corbin Bowers of Burley (29-8) on Saturday.

Coach Young said, "For taking a year off from wrestling, Collin did an outstanding job. He's a fighter, just like Jordan and Tanner, and he battled as much as he could at state."

It was a very successful state tournament for the three Wolverine qualifiers, who won seven of their 14 matches. And a promising youngster contributed to Hailey's success.

Wood River freshman Tanner Orchard (16-18), competing in his first state tournament in the 135-pound class, went 1-2 over two days.

Orchard opened action Thursday with a loss by pin to eventual second-place finisher Alex Vickers (27-7), a Skyview senior. Orchard stayed alive in the consolation round with an 18-0 technical fall over Kuna freshman Kyle Stevens. Then, fifth-place wrestler Nico Pinque (40-7), a Mountain Home junior, ousted Orchard with a 2:42 pin in the second round.

Young said, "This year at state gave Tanner experience and opened his eyes. The fact that he won a match in probably the toughest 4A weight class was very impressive."

The Blackfoot Broncos crowned individual champions in the 160- and 189-pound classes—Kyle Sargent (38-8) and Alfonso Hernandez (35-3)—en route to their first state team wrestling title since winning back-to-back 5A team titles in 1999-2000. Blackfoot nipped Sandpoint 178-165.

Defending state champion Minico of Rupert was eighth (116 points) this year and Wood River (23.5 points) ended up 18th of 22 schools.

Former Wood River High wrestler Murdoch Miller of American Falls (45-3), second last year and now a senior, won his first State 3A championship in the 152-pound class.

Shelley (270.5 points) captured its first State 3A title since 1986 and third overall by a large margin over defending king American Falls (187.5). Shelley's point total set a new record in the 3A class. The Russets boasted four individual champions and two second-place wrestlers.

In the 5A category, Centennial (226) won its first state championship in 18 years over defending champion Idaho Falls (214.5). And North Fremont of Ashton (205.5) was the repeat 2A/1A champion over Challis (171). It was North Fremont's 12th state wrestling title and eighth in 12 years.

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