Pocatello ends Blackfoot’s three-year run to claim first district title since 2012

Jordon Beesley/Idaho State Journal Pocatello’s Gabe Blessinger attempts to escape the single-leg takedown of Idaho Falls’ Kayson Kenney in the 157-pound championship match at the 4A District 5-6 tournament Wednesday at Pocatello High School.

Jordon Beesley/Idaho State Journal
Pocatello’s Gabe Blessinger attempts to escape the single-leg takedown of Idaho Falls’ Kayson Kenney in the 157-pound championship match at the 4A District 5-6 tournament Wednesday at Pocatello High School.

By Michael Guise, mguise@journalnet.com

POCATELLO — One of the first people to call Lorenzo Brower when he got out of surgery was JB Plato.

Plato, then an assistant coach on Pocatello’s wrestling staff, made sure to check in with Brower following his procedure to repair a fractured left ankle. Plato was another “father figure” for the then-freshman, who only got to wrestle for one month before his season ended prematurely.

On Wednesday at the Palace, head coach Plato was the first person to embrace Brower after the sophomore captured the 145-pound title at the 4A District 5-6 meet. Brower was one of six Indians to finish first, helping the squad claim its first district crown since 2012 with 355 points.

“It feels good,” Brower said. “Last year, I was out with an injury. I came back strong and I feel really good. It made me want to come back stronger.”

Brower defeated Century’s Easton Millward in a 7-1 decision to improve his record to 34-12. Brower enters state on an eight-match winning streak after district wins against Millward, Blackfoot’s Jacob Despain and Idaho Falls’ Devryn Livingston.

“JB pushes me hard,” Brower said. “He shows me that I can be something bigger. It helps me through a lot.”

The Indians finally got over the hump Wednesday after finishing second in the previous four district meets. The Indians also ended Blackfoot’s three-year reign as district champions. Blackfoot finished second, 59 points behind the Indians. Century, Skyline, Preston and Idaho Falls rounded out the six-team conference results, respectively.

Jorsh Ronquillo (98 pounds), Kobe Felde (132), Jaxon Chapman (138), Jayden Paul (170 pounds), Talon Haskett (285) and Brower all finished in first for Pocatello. Ronquillo won his third consecutive district title, while Chapman has won back-to-back district crowns.

“This is great,” Plato said. “The kids worked their butts off. Hats off to them because they are the true warriors out there. We are heading to state, and I think we are ready.”

Pocatello had 16 wrestlers finish in the top four, qualifying each for the state meet Feb. 23-24 at Holt Arena. Last season at districts, Pocatello also had six first-place finishers and 16 state qualifiers.

The Indians finished fifth at state last year, just short of earning a spot on the podium. With a re-energized squad in 2018 under Plato’s leadership, Pocatello has high hopes for next weekend.

“We’ve done amazing,” Brower said. “We are strong, we have a great lineup. We are on fire.”

“IT’S HUMBLING” 

Michael Millward’s first season coaching at Century isn’t over, but it has already been fulfilling.

The Diamondbacks have built their program from the ground up and have created a consistent team that was missing before Millward joined. On Wednesday at the 4A District 5-6 meet, the Diamondbacks took another step after finishing third with 226 points.

The squad finished fifth with 117 points a season ago.

“It’s impressive,” Millward said. “It’s humbling to see our steps.”

Century was led by Canyon Mansfield (106 pounds), Easton Millward (145) and Ben Ditton (170), who all finished second in their respective classifications.

The D-backs had 10 top-four finishers, each earning a spot in the state meet Feb. 23-24 at Holt Arena. Century sent six wrestlers to state in 2017 and three in 2016.

“Every kid battled their heart out,” coach Millward said. “Our kids are good.”

Of the 10 D-backs headed to state, eight are underclassmen, including freshmen Easton Millward, Mansfield, Dillon Turner (98), Xander Thompson (113) and Gerardo Duran (220).

“The rest of the team looks at the freshmen and says, ‘We are coming. Let’s follow along with them,'” coach Millward said. “They aren’t much as leaders, but they lead with their actions and how they wrestle.”

“IT WAS FUN”

Esai Castaneda flashed a smile to his corner before wrapping up his match.

With Pocatello’s Dylin Praska pinned below him, Castaneda looked toward his friend video taping his match with a grin that stretched from ear to ear. The sophomore 126-pound wrestler from Blackfoot knew victory loomed, and he couldn’t contain his excitement. When the referee slapped the floor to signal the end of the match, Castaneda won his second consecutive 4A District 5-6 crown Wednesday at Pocatello’s The Palace.

“It was surprising,” Castaneda said. “It was fun. It lifted stress off my shoulders. It feels good to win it.”

The Broncos finished second with 296 points, snapping their streak of four consecutive first-place finishes at districts. The team had 12 top-four wrestlers, including first-place marks by Nathan Sargent (220 pounds) and Boeden Bassett (152). It was Sargent’s third consecutive district crown after beating Preston’s Rhett Keller.

“We did the best we could,” Castaneda said. “Pocatello came out and played their game. It was a close call, but Poky wrestled better.”

Keller was one of eight Preston wrestlers to earn a spot at next weekend’s state meet after the team finished fifth with 145 points.

Ben Seamons (182) was the lone Preston wrestler to nab a first-place mark.