Minico head coach Clay Robinson admitted to feeling a “little disappointment” in Saturday’s final round of the 2023 Idaho High School Wrestling State Championships.
Joseph Terry, one of the team’s leaders, acknowledged the Spartans “didn’t wrestle to our best.”
That’s just how good this wrestling team is: Minico won its second straight 4A state championship, anyway.
With Preston Sonner-Cranney and Garrett Vail earning individual titles, the Spartans easily outdistanced Caldwell and Bishop Kelly to defend their team crown at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa. It was the third in a row for the Magic Valley, too — Jerome won in 2021.
“We’re always there for each other. We’ve got each other’s backs, no matter what,” said Vail, who won the 220-pound title by pinning Mountain Home’s Demetri Smith in the second period. “We’re just one big family.”
Added Sonner-Cranney, the champion at 195 pounds, “It’s very special. We keep thriving and keep progressing up as a team. We’re just gonna keep grinding, maybe for a three-peat next year.”
Four other Magic Valley wrestlers also won individual championships:Buhl’s Taylor Hood won the eight-county region’s second girls title, beating Filer’s Alice Clark in an all-Magic Valley final at 114 pounds. Lita Cruz of Minico won at 106 last year in the state’s first girls tournament.The Indians had a boys champion, too. Julian Ruiz capped a marvelous season with a 6-4 decision to claim the 3A title at 126, leading Buhl to a third-place finish behind South Fremont and Fruitland.Gooding’s Kayd Craig won at 152 in 3A, earning a 5-2 decision over McCall-Donnelly’s Matthew Daniels, who came into the finals without a loss. Craig had steamrolled his way to the title round with two technical falls and a semifinal win by pinfall.Declo’s Wallace Durfee, the only local 2A finalist, was victorious at 126.
Minico had hoped to bring home more than two individual champions, and that was the source of Robinson’s disappointment. He felt for the four wrestlers who had to settle for second place: “There’s a little bit of hurt there for those boys.”
Terry (138), Mikael Teague (98), Jose Contreras (126) and Paxton Twiss (160) all lost decisions in the finals — three against the No. 1 seeds in their brackets.
“I think we didn’t wrestle to our best, but we knew we had to be there for each other,” Terry told the Times-News. “We’re a family, not just a team. It’s been like a family all year.”
Added Robinson, “I’m extremely proud of the boys. They were there for each other, and we talk about that as part of our pillars of success. They showed it tonight. The boys were there for each other in the wins and there for each other in the losses.”
In his first state final, Sonner-Cranney admitted to nerves prior to facing off against Jerome’s Gavin Williamson in an all-Magic Valley championship clash.
“All day I had butterflies,” he told the Times-News. “But right when I stepped on the mat, I felt wonderful. I felt like it was my title to win.”
Sonner-Cranney won 8-2 after earning a trip to the title round with three straight pins.
There were jitters, too, for Vail — even as a defending state champion who had lost just once all season.
“It doesn’t get any easier, I learned that this season,” he told the Times-News. “I had wrestled the kid before and I was watching my previous matches against him. I felt worried still. I had butterflies.”
But, he added, “I gave it my all.”
Robinson commended the Spartans’ two champions.
“Those two guys, they had just watched all four of their teammates get beat, but they were able to shake it off. They got the job done," the coach said. “I’m excited for them.”
In addition to title wins by Hood and Ruiz, Buhl had three runner-up finishes: Bowen Brunson (132), Riley Brunson (145) and Jayce Bower (160), all of whom lost by decision against the top seed in their boys weight divisions.State champs!
The six wrestlers from the Magic Valley who won state wrestling championships on Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa:
Boys 4A: Preston Sonner-Cranney, Minico (195) and Garrett Vail, Minico (220)
Boys 3A: Julian Ruiz, Buhl (126) and Kayd Craig, Gooding (152)
Boys 2A: Wallace Durfee, Declo (126)
Girls: Taylor Hood, Buhl (114)
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