“All I knew was that I couldn’t make any mistakes.”
Kellogg High School senior Tanner Figueroa had been competing at the state level for the last three years and each year it seemed as though he was just one mistake away from being a state contender.
This past weekend Figueroa(145 pounds) became Kellogg’s first state champion since Blake Ivie’s three year title run ended in 2015.
The win came in a match that showed off Figueroa’s skill in both the physical aspect of the grueling sport, as well as the mental strength one needs to handle the magnitude of the situation that he found himself in.
“I got behind and knew that I needed to make sure that I didn’t make any more mistakes that would cost me points,” Figueroa said.
Following the win, the usually stoic Figueroa was all smiles as he had finally climbed to the top of the mountain, but that was quickly replaced with a sense of loss when he realized that he had just put the final touches on a magnificent career.
“I was so excited to win,” Figueroa said. “I had worked so hard all year, but when it set in that it was over, that I was done wrestling for Kellogg, it was a tough feeling.”
After finishing in respectable places during the previous three tournaments, Figueroa made the decision to work harder than he ever had because he on last chance to get that elusive championship.
Being the de facto leader of this year’s squad of grapplers, Figueroa (more affectionately known to the team, school, and community as Fig) took the responsibility of team leader very seriously and made it his to goal to help keep the team (and himself) focused at all times.
“We struggled with low numbers this year and that got to be frustrating,” Figueroa said. “We did well, but with low numbers we had a lot of forfeits that cost us points as a team and it got pretty hard to stay positive and focused when you keep losing as a team because of that.”
Kellogg took 11 wrestlers to state this year, including Fig’s cousin, freshman Taylor Bush.
Bush finished this past weekend as the 98 pound state runner-up, which may become a mere footnote on his development and the absolute worst thing for every other wrestler in Idaho that crosses his path over the next three years, and according to his cousin it will make him hungrier.
“Taylor works very hard and he isn’t going to let this stop him from getting even better,” Figueroa said. “The next few years are going to be tough on the team, but I think he’ll be a good leader, him, Juddson Hall, and Jesse Campbell.”
Wildcat coach Scott Miller was proud of Figueroa for his championship, but was more thankful for his hard work throughout his career.
“I'm really proud of Tanner not only for the state title which is a tremendous achievement, but for being such a great leader for our team this year,” Miller said. “I couldn't be happier that he was able to cap a stellar career with this title.”
Day two of state competition was brutal for both the Wildcats and the Wallace Miners as Juddson Hall(113 pounds) and Kaleb Johnson (220 pounds) both struggled in their matches.
Bush won his semi-final match, but ran into a tough opponent in his narrow 2-1 loss in the championship round.
Miller was pleased with his team’s perseverance, but will once again go to the drawing board to figure out how to make sure that his guys are even better prepared for the high level of competition that state tournament brings.
“I'm proud of the season we had and the work ethic we showed,” Miller said. “This team faced a lot of adversity all season yet only misses a league title by a point and a district title by 12. This was just a very impressive group. Unfortunately at the state tournament we just never got that consistent run going that could have kept us in the team race. With that said though, our kids wrestled hard and represented our school in a positive way. It was a good year and we look forward to next year.”
Miner wrestler Austin McKinnon (106 pounds) lost his match and finished the weekend in sixth place.