Emery Thorson admitted he was “pretty scared” of Century’s Easton Millward when the two squared off in a district wrestling dual last week.
To the Preston sophomore’s credit, he was still able to take down Millward once before getting pinned in the second round. More importantly, Thorson learned he could hang with 4A’s defending state champion at 160 pounds.
That newfound confidence paid off at the 4A Fifth District Championships as Thorson got his revenge against Millward at the one-day tournament, which was contested Wednesday at Century High School. Thorson caught Millward in an underhook and pinned him with 36 seconds remaining in the third round to capture the district title at 170 pounds.
“It’s just amazing,” Thorson said. “... I mean, I’ve won a lot of matches this season, but I didn’t expect to beat somebody of his caliber, so it means a lot.”
Thorson headlined a strong performance by Preston at the three-team tournament. As expected, 4A power Century claimed the title, but only racked up 9.5 points more than Preston, 219 to 209.5. Short-handed Pocatello was a distant third with 109 points.
It’s been a resurgent 2020-21 campaign for the Franklin County Indians, who were triumphant in their first 19 duals and have been able to field a full lineup for the first time in more than a decade. Preston brought 21 wrestlers to the district tourney.
“I think it’s been awesome,” Thorson said. “It’s been recruiting kids and getting a lot more to come out, and I think it’s just been awesome having a lot more school support to (bolster) wrestling because wrestling haven’t been very big here for a long time.”
Only the district champions at each weight class are guaranteed a spot at next week’s 4A State Championships, although several grapplers from the district will be awarded wildcard bids. Century had eight champions, followed by Preston with five and Pocatello with two.
Other Preston wrestlers who captured district titles were AJ Starks (106 pounds), Brayden Weisbeck (132), Caigun Keller (145) and Jonathan Seamons (152). Starks was the only athlete in the district at the 106-pound division.
Weisbeck and Keller were No. 1 seeds and both prevailed by fall in the championship round. Seamons, the No. 2 seed at 152 pounds, defeated teammate Jaden Perkins, the top seed, 6-0 in the finals.
In addition to Perkins, other district runner-ups for Preston were Eli Hammons (113), Tavin Rigby (120), Quinn Bradford (145), Parker Bodily (160) and Micah Serr (182). Bradford went 3-1 for the Indians and won all of those matches in pinning fashion. Rigby and Perkins should be locks for wildcard bids to state, while Serr and Bodily will stand a pretty good chance, Thorson said.
Thorson, Keller, Weisbeck and Seamons should be seeded pretty high when the state tourney brackets come out. Seamons has been competing at 160 pounds the entire season, but dropped down a weight class prior to districts.
As a freshman, Thorson split his focus between wrestling and basketball. It’s been all wrestling this season and the results can be seen.
Thorson and Millward were knotted up at 2-2 in the third round before the Preston sophomore took control. It was only Millward’s fourth loss of the season.
“I was feeling pretty good in that third round,” said Thorson, who took Millward down in the second round. “I’m pretty good on my feet, so the fact that we were still in neutral and that it was tied up, I was hoping for the best at that point.”
“We know Easton is really good,” Preston head coach Doug Higley said in an interview with the Idaho State Journal. “We’ve wrestled him and he’s beat us, but we just told Emery to go out with confidence. He’s got a great double leg and that’s really what he used to win the match … I think he wrestled this time with much more confidence, believing he could win. I think that made the difference.”
WEST SIDE WRESTLERS
West Side was oh so close to placing third at the 2A Fifth District Championships, which took place Friday at North Gem High School. Soda Springs rallied past West Side for the No. 3 position by one point, 116-115.
Malad held off Grace for the team title in the seven-team field, 203-183.5. Aberdeen was fifth with 99 points, followed by Bear Lake (78) and North Gem (40).
Ironically enough, West Side also finished fourth at this tournament a year ago and accumulated the exact same amount of points.
The top three medalists in each weight class automatically qualified for next week’s 2A state tourney. West Side had three runner-ups in Tige Roberts (113), Colten Gunderson (152) and Aaron McDaniel (285), plus three grapplers who placed third in Jed Hurren (106), Joey Hansen (120) and Andrew Olinger (160).
Additionally, five Pirates finished fourth in Max Mumford (132), Hunter Checketts (138), Shadrach Groll (152), Fielding Mumford (170) and Ben Jensen (195). There’s a chance one or more of West Side’s athletes who placed fourth could receive an at-large bid to state.
Gunderson and McDaniel were edged in their championships bouts — McDaniel by one point. Hansen, Hurren and Olinger pinned their opponents in their three-place matches — Olinger in 27 seconds, Hurren in 60 seconds and Hansen in the second round.
The Pirates brought 17 kids to the district tourney.
The Idaho Girls Wrestling Finals took place last Saturday at Pocatello High School. Girls wrestling will be a sanctioned sport in the Gem State starting next season.
For the second straight year, West Side’s Camilla Tew made it to the finals — this time at 125 pounds. Tew, who won 40 matches this season, lost to the No. 1 seed. Tew, the No. 2 seed, went 2-1 at the tourney.
Tew’s teammate, Sesha Beckstead, went 2-2 at 120 pounds and won both of her duels by fall.
Preston’s Riley Bodily was the runner-up at 170 pounds. Bodily was seeded second out of four competitors in that weight class.