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Idaho Represents at National and International Wrestling Competitions
Idaho was well represented at several national and international competitions
Published: 3/31/2022 12:57:49 PM
Al Fontes
Contributing Writer

The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships are among the toughest tournaments in the country to win and/or to earn All-American honors (top 8). Simply put, the NCAAs are a three-day grind where only the toughest survive and make it to the medal stand. Having to make weight each of the three days of competition, coupled with relentless competition throughout, the physical and psychological requirements to succeed at this level humbles many.

The Gem State was well-represented at this year’s championships, held at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. 

Ridge Lovett (Post Falls High School)
Lovett is a 4x Idaho 5A State Champion. Now competing for the University of Nebraska in the 149-pound weight group, Lovett (Soph.) entered the NCAA tournament seeded tenth. Despite being seed low, Lovett stepped up to the challenge and wrestled a great tournament. In round one, he faced returning All-American Jaden Abas of Stanford, winning a close decision, 4-2 in a highly contested match. He then beat #7 seed Josh Heil of Campbell University by decision, 8-1. In the quarter-finals, he faced an uphill battle with Tariq Wilson of North Carolina State, the No. 2 seed and a returning 3x All-American. Trailing 2-1 in the second period, Lovett wasted no time on top when he executed back-to-back cradles to win by fall in the waning seconds of the period. Facing the No. 11 seed, Bryce Andonian of Virginia Tech. in the semis, Lovett won a hard fought match, 5-4 to advance to the Championship match against 3x NCAA Champion Yainni Diakomihalis of Cornell. Despite losing in the final 11-5, Lovett earned his first collegiate level All-American honor and wrestled a great tournament in a highly competitive weight group. While attending Post Falls High School, Lovett compiled a prep career record of 169-0 and was a recipient of the prestigious Dave Schultz Award (Given to Blue Chip level wrestlers by region and state). Additionally, Lovett was a 3x Fargo National Champion (10x All-American in the Cadet and Junior Divisions) and was a member of the 2017 Cadet World Team. An honor student, Lovett is a pre-med student majoring in Biological Sciences. 

Casey Randles (Coeur d’Alene High School) 
Competing for Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, Randles capped his collegiate career by winning a national title at the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Championships held at the Hartman Arena in Wichita, Kansas. Competing in the 174-pound weight group, Randles defeated Trenton Munoz of Hastings College by a decision of 4-2. While competing for Coeur d’Alene High School, Randles was a 3x Idaho 5A State Champion and finished with 104 wins in his high school career. Joining Ridge Lovett, Randles was also the Idaho state winner of the Dave Schultz Award. Additionally, he earned All-American honors at the Folkstyle Nationals (runner-up) and was a National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) Senior Division National Champion. 

The Pittsburgh Wrestling All-Star Classic, held in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania is considered the most prestigious prep level All-Star dual meet in the country. Originally called the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic, the Pittsburgh Classic features the Elite of Pennsylvania versus the United States All-Stars (primarily consists of top ranked seniors in the country). In addition to the PA vs. USA dual, the All-Star Classic conducts an additional dual between the Western Pennsylvania (WPIAA) All-Stars versus an All-Star team from either an out of state team or a district in Pennsylvania. 

Rylan Rogers (Coeur d’Alene High School)
Rogers became the sixth Idaho wrestler to represent the USA All-Star team since the first All-Star meet held in 1975. Wrestling in a highly contested match in the 195-pound weight group, Rogers trailed for a majority of the match, but in the end lost to PA Star Mac Stout (Mt. Lebanon H.S.) by a close margin, 7-5. Heading to the University of Michigan, Rogers earned National Prep title for Blair Academy and also earned All-American honors at the Fargo Nationals. Other Idaho wrestlers to compete at this prestigious event include Chris Owens (1988 – Idaho Falls), Shane Hanson (1993 – Idaho Falls), Jake Rosholt (2001 – Sandpoint), Clayton Foster (2007 – Kamiah), and Trevor Rupp (2010 – Pocatello). On another note, back in 1995, Team Idaho sent an All-Star team  that competed against the Western PA All-Stars. 

This past weekend (March 24th-27th), the NHSCA held its 33rd Annual Championships in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Going back in history, the NHSCA initially conducted their national championships for seniors only (just over a decade), but gradually expanded to junior, sophomore, freshman, middle school, and girl’s divisions. The 2022 Championships had a small contingent from Idaho compete this competition. 

In the Senior Division, Columbia High School in Nampa produced two All-Americans in Simon Graber and Nico Rodriguez. Competing in the 120-pound division, Graber finished in 6th place while Rodriguez finished 3rd at 285s. Moreover, Rodriguez finished his prep career with three 4A state titles, four medals overall, and two NHSCA All-American honors. Also earning four state medals, Graeber was a 3x 4A state finalist. In the Junior Division, 2x 4A State Champion Hunter Bidelman of Caldwell High School earned All-American honors by placing 8th in the 132-pound weight group. Among the top underclassman in Idaho and in the nation, Meridian’s Jason Mara dominated his competition throughout to earn a national title in the Sophomore division at 138s. To date, Mara is a 2x Idaho 5A State Champion, USAW Folkstyle National Champion, and Fargo All-American (Cadet). 

A Junior at Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian, Mia Furman earned her fifth career All-American honor when she placed 7th in the 136-pound weight group in the Girl’s division. Finishing 3rd place at this year’s State Championships, Furman earned a State Championship in 2021 and is in position to earn a possible fourth state medal in 2023. 

On the international scene, the Tallinn Open held each year in the Republic of Estonia is among the largest and most prestigious youth events in Europe and the world. No stranger to international competition, Jadon Skellenger of Meridian (Sophomore at Mountain View High School) recently competed in his second Tallinn Open, earning a Gold medal in Freestyle and Silver in Greco-Roman (Junior Division). In 2019, Skellenger also won Gold in both styles at Tallinn and added another Greco Gold at the U15 World Championships. Competing for Suples Wrestling Club in Boise under the leadership of Ivan Ivanov (World Silver Medalist representing Bulgaria), Skellenger is among the top youth Greco-Roman/Freestyle wrestlers in the country.  Earning many national and international accolades, Skellenger has future goals of making senior level world teams and ultimately winning an Olympic and World Championships.   

Joining Skellenger at the Tallinn Open was 2022 5A state champion Rider Seguine of Post Falls High School.  Only a freshman, Seguine is among the rising stars in Idaho, earning a Silver medal in Freestyle and a Gold in Greco-Roman (U15 Division.)

It’s my desire in the future years to come to observe a greater number of Idaho wrestlers competing at the NCAAs (other collegiate level competitions inclusive), as well as national level prep competitions in order to showcase the talent that is being produced in the Gem State. Only a sophomore, Ridge Lovett has great potential of earning additional All-American honors for Nebraska and will definitely challenge for an NCAA title in the years to come. At the high school level, I encourage more Idaho wrestlers to compete at the NHSCA, Folkstyle Nationals, and other prestigious national events. Internationally, Jadon Skellenger continues to pursue his dream of winning an Olympic and World title someday by competing at highly competitive international competitions, such as the Tallinn Open in Estonia. The Idaho wrestlers that earned All-American honors at NHSCA is only a small sample of talent being produced in the Gem State. There is a lot of hidden talent in Idaho that is more than capable of placing at these national level events. 

Congratulations to all Idaho wrestlers that earned All-American honors and to all competitors that represented the Gem State. 

Job well done!

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