Here's a look back at the top local sports stories from 2020.

1. Golden trio

The Nyssa trio of Elijah Cleaver, Adam Simpson and Brian Flores finished their high school wrestling careers in their favorite spot, atop the podium. For Cleaver, the end of the season was a little awkward as he beat Taft’s Riley Ellis via forfeit in the finals. It was the senior’s third state championship. Cleaver is now a part of the Stanford wrestling team.

Simpson picked up his second state championship after finishing second as a junior. Flores won his first title.

2. Capps-ing the comeback

The Fruitland boys basketball team closed the 19-20 season with a 88-65 drubbing of Filer, and taking home third place in the 3A state tournament (the Grizzlies’ third year in a row coming home with a trophy, finishing first in 2018 and second in 2019).

But the highlight of the day came in the closing minutes, as senior Colton Capps was subbed into the game to cheers from Fruitland faithful. Capps suffered a serious leg injury during the district tournament and was unable to participate in the state tournament games. Capps stood at the three point line and was unable to cross the court to play defense. After a couple of misses, Capps finally sunk a three-pointer to a raucous ovation from fans from both teams.

3. Tyler Two-Timer

After escaping an early cradle by Glencoe’s Elbereth Ragsdale, Vale’s Tyler Richardson took home her second state championship in as many years after picking up a pinfall victory in one minute and 15 seconds.

Only a sophomore in the 19-20 season, Richardson remains on-pace to become the first official girls four-time state champion in OSAA history.

4. Pilgrim trio take gold

The New Plymouth wrestling team finished the 19-20 season with a second place finish at the 2A/1A state tournament, with the trio of Kyle Rice (120), Trent Myers (138) and Joel Campbell (145) finishing with gold in their respective weight classes.

Rice and Campbell, both sophomores in the 19-20 season, remain on-pace to be four-time state champions, but both overcame drama in their finals matches. Rice injured his ankle during the second period, and was on crutches after the match. Campbell was thrown to his back from a chin whip and had to come back for a 17-7 major win.

5. Patience pays off

For the first time since 2015, and the first time in coach Amber Drollinger’s tenure as coach, the Fruitland girls basketball team advanced to the state tournament following a 60-42 win over rival Weiser.

For the past two years, the Grizzlies came up just shy of a trip to the state tournament, and had to overcome an injury to forward Lilly Richins.

6. Lady Viks shock the state

The OSAA had the Vale girls basketball team ranked at No. 10.

But the Vikings proved that rankings don’t matter.

And with a tight 48-45 win over No. 7 Oregon Episcopal, the Vikings punched their ticket to Coos Bay to compete in the state tournament, where they came within seconds of stunning No. 2-ranked Sutherlin. In the consolation semifinals, the Vikings avoided elimination in a big way, crushing No. 3 Pleasant Hill 50-28 and brought home the fourth-place trophy with a tight 34-33 win over No. 4 Willamina.

7. Pirates getting hot

With a field goal by Martin Ceballos, the Payette football team picked up a big 31-28 win over Parma on Sept. 25.

The win marked the Pirates’ first win over a Snake River Valley district opponent since 2014 and also capped off a historic three-game winning streak for Payette. The Pirates had bested Marsing 34-16 on Sept. 11 and beat Wendell 20-14 in overtime on Sept. 18.

The streak was something coach Kip Crofts didn’t see coming, as the Pirates had to miss the first game of the year due to COVID-19 protocol.

8. A rivalry continued

There’s no love lost in the Fruitland and Weiser rivalry, that’s for sure.

In the 2020 regular season the Fruitland football team picked up a close 18-15 win over Weiser on Sept. 25, a game where the Grizzlies were without coach Ryan Tracy as he was serving a two-game suspension after sharing the Weiser playbook with the Emmett coaching staff.

A month later, the Wolverines got their revenge in a big way, clobbering the Grizzlies 42-0 in a state play-in game.

9. Ladies taking the mat in Idaho

The 21-22 wrestling season will see a historic showing, with the IHSAA approving a plan to sponsor an official girls state tournament. The plan was voted on in the Executive Board’s September meeting.

The vote follows a meteoric rise in girls wrestling in the state. In the 2016-2017 season, there were 40 girls wrestling statewide. In the 19-20 season, estimates show that number growing to as high as 200, with multiple girls tournaments being held in the state.

10. Grizz’ volleyball storms at state

The Fruitland volleyball team had a rollercoaster of a 2020 season.

After seeing a big graduating class leave in 2020 and losing middle blocker Ellie Baker to an injury early in the season, the Grizzlies continued to roll through the SRV schedule, but ran into a brick wall against Parma. The Panthers beat Fruitland 3-1 in the district championship game.

Fruitland rebounded in a big way at the state tournament, beating American Falls 3-0 and coming within a few points of upsetting eventual state runner-up Kimberly and coming within a few points of beating Parma for third place.

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