Lapwai hosts first wrestling event in 35 years

Jan. 11—LAPWAI — The past couple of years, Lapwai wrestling coach Chris Katus has been working hard to rebuild a wrestling program that laid dormant for more than three decades.

On Wednesday, he and his wrestlers took another step to reestablishing the fledgling program.

For the first time in 35 years, Lapwai hosted a wrestling event — a mixer featuring Potlatch (coached by Katus' uncle, Bryan Bryngelson), Orofino and Clearwater Valley/Kamiah.

If Wednesday's mixer was a sign of things to come for the Wildcat grapplers, the program has a bright future.

In front of a packed Lapwai High School gymnasium, the home team continued to show its growth against some of the better wrestlers and programs their classification has to offer and ended the mixer with two straight wins: a second-period pin by Zachary Eneas in a 160-pound match against Clearwater Valley's Curt Vantress and a Leland Whitefoot first-period pin in 195-pound competition over Potlatch's Jonah Berger.

"I think it was awesome," Katus said. "The kids showed up and they wrestled hard. Some of the kids, this is the best they've wrestled all season right here. So I'm just proud of the team. ... We had a lot of people from Lapwai coming out."

Here's some more highlights from Wednesday's wrestling mixer:

Sending the crowd home happy

By the end of the 39-match scramble, those remaining of the partisan Lapwai crowd got to see Eneas' and Whitefoot's victories.

Eneas had already earned respect earlier in the mixer as Carson Yearout beat the rookie grappler in the first period the first time the two faced off this season. After his 16-3 win, he went to Katus to compliment Eneas and told the second-year coach that Eneas is getting better.

Whitefoot's first-period pin over Berger capped off a 2-1 day for the 190-pounder, who's only blemish was a second-period fall to Clearwater Valley's Bass Meyers.

As the only wrestler on Lapwai with extended wrestling experience on the team, Whitefoot and Meyer's battle might just be the first in a series of installments, especially come postseason.

"Leland is kind of my star," Katus said. "When we started the program last year, he was the only kid with any experience. He had a tough match against Bass — they'll probably be battling it out at state. So to end the night on the win for Leland was great."

Family ties on display

It seems only fitting that the Wildcats' first home wrestling match in over three decades was against a Yearout. The Yearout name has become synonymous with Lapwai's success on the basketball court over the last decade. Titus Yearout helped bring the town two state basketball championships before taking his talents to the hardwood at the University of Idaho, and his younger brother, Ahlius, has been carving out his mark on the team, as well.

On Wednesday, there were two Yearouts competing in front of the Lapwai faithful. The first was 160-pounder Carson, draped in the Loggers' trademark forest green, going against Eneas. Carson Yearout won the match via 16-3 decision. William Yearout, also wrestling for Potlatch at the event, won his first match wrestling at 153 pounds — an 11-4 decision win over Clearwater Valley's Conner Christiansen.

The two Yearouts went a combined 5-0 at the event. Three of those wins came via first-period fall.

The fact that the two are also coached by Katus' uncle highlights some of the family ties that helped define Whitepine League athletics over the decades.

"My kids did notice the electricity that was in the air tonight," Bryngelson said. "That was really special, that was really cool. Hats off to Chris for what he's been doing here. (Lapwai) looked good. He's a good coach. Chris was a junior high coach for Potlatch a few years back. Just to be able to add another team to the league is awesome. And the atmosphere was great. It was a great night for wrestling."

Whipple dominates

Kamiah's Porter Whipple is arguably the best wrestler the Whitepine League has to offer and he showed why on Wednesday.

The 200-plus pounder went 3-0 at the event and ended all of his matches in the first period via pin. The lone match to go past 30 seconds was his first against Lapwai's Gavyn Moffit, which he won with 0:55 left in the opening period.

Girls match the intensity

Girls wrestling has been on a steady growth over the past couple of years and the Rams/Kubs, Wildcats and Loggers all had girls hit the mats at the event.

Among the girls to see competition were Clearwater Valley/Kamiah's Riley Parson, Jayden Ocain and Emma Boller; Lapwai's Ameris Kager and Sicily Treetop; Potlatch's Hayley McNeal, Ariana Johnston, Brindle Beckner and Tierney Prather.

The girls showed out, with two of the five matches being decided in the third period and and four of the five going past the first minute.

"Girls wrestling is an emerging sport," Bryngelson said. "The fact that (Katus) brought in girls and boys both on the same docket, I think it's awesome."

Gamble shows out for Maniacs

The Maniacs' lone representation on the mat was 138-pounder Hunter Gamble. Gamble went 2-1 at the event, winning his first two against Clearwater Valley's Parker Olsen and Christiansen via first-period pin and 10-9 decision, respectively. His last match of the night was a 17-2 technical fall loss to William Yearout.

It was a good showing for a competitor that carried the weight of his school, being their only representation.

Good things to come

Wrestling in the small-town areas of Idaho and eastern Washington have always been at the liberty of numbers. Proof is the case of Orofino and Kamiah. The Maniacs had one wrestler at Wednesday's mixer and the Kubs have been co-opting with Clearwater Valley for wrestling the whole season.

But the support and turnout for Wednesday was a good sign that the Wildcat grapplers, and Whitepine wrestling as a whole, will have many more good years in the future than bad.

Kowatsch can be contacted at 208-848-2268, or on Twitter @Teren_Kowatsch.