Strong Showing at State for Salt River Wrestling Program
Jason James was exhausted, and he was running out of time.
The Salt River High School senior and Eagles heavyweight wrestler was down 9 points in the third and final round of the 2017 Canyon Athletic Association (CAA) State Tournament championship match on February 11.
Yet James found a way to win and repeat as CAA heavyweight state champion. He pinned Andre Enas in what was perhaps his toughest challenge this season—not only because it was the championship match, but also because Enas is James’ teammate and practice partner.
Enas was up 11-2 when James used a standing attack to put Enas in a headlock throw-down to the mat for the pin.
“I got lucky off a throw,” James said. “People say it’s not lucky, but then again I consider it lucky because we both were tired.”
The two wrestlers have been practice partners for years. Both had to win two matches before reaching the championship match. Once he pinned Enas, James raised his hand in victory and also raised Enas’ hand because of his effort.
“It was a great match,” James said. “I was glad I ended the season with him. I held up his arm because he deserved to have that accomplishment, too. We both made it to the finals, and you rarely see teammates do that.”
James, the Eagles’ team captain, ended the season 16-1. His December loss was to a wrestler whom he beat in the second round of the state tournament. Last season, James only suffered one defeat on his way to the state championship.
James wasn’t the only member of the Salt River High School wrestling program to win a state championship. Senior Nazhonii Leos won the 152-pound division championship and sophomore Julia Gutierrez captured the 160-pound division title.
The awards and recognition didn’t stop there. Salt River wrestling coach Na Humma was named 2016-17 CAA Wrestling Coach of the Year for the second-straight year.
“It’s definitely an honor to be recognized by my peers from our opposing CAA schools,” he said. “I’m still a young man, so I hope this means that the wrestling program’s best years are still in front of us, but that we’re on the right track and that our coaching staff has created an environment for success, both on and off the mat.”
Humma, in his fifth season as coach, said he was “incredibly” proud of how this season ended.
“This year is the first that we’ve had a really strong mix of experience and new varsity wrestlers on the team,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have a great class of seniors who really stepped up as leaders this year and have made it their mission to leave as much behind [as they can] for the classes coming behind them. This is the year I’m starting to really see the change in our team culture; we’re seeing [fewer] one- or two-year wrestlers and more who are coming up from the junior high and who are returning season after season to improve both themselves and the team.”
The future of Salt River wrestling continues to look bright, Humma said.
“I would like to recognize that it’s far more than my efforts that have brought success for the Eagles,” he said. “My varsity assistant coach, Dave Crebs, is a friend I can lean on to help me through difficult decisions, keep me accountable, and bring his signature Pennsylvania way of thinking to mix things up in the room. Our administration, in Athletic Director Brandon Tauscher and Principal Jon Gentile, is incredibly supportive of our program and the good it [provides] our students, and [I’d also like to thank] our teachers for holding our kids to a high standard in the classroom. Additionally, the fact that our junior high coaching staff, head coach Hosteen Smith and assistant coach Alondra Chase, and our three program volunteer assistants are 100 percent SRHS alumni is something that I’m really proud of, and I think [it] speaks volumes to what our program aims to do.”Click here to view photo gallery.