SANDPOINT — Sometimes the best stories in high school sports take place behind the scenes and away from the bright lights, which is why a local woman recently called the Daily Bee sports about something pretty cool that was going on.
When Sandpoint senior wrestler Hyrum Hunsaker scored his biggest win of the season over a Tri-State champion from Post Falls in the finals of the Rocky Mountain Rumble recently, coaches from around the state took notice, and he was suddenly chosen by a state committee to compete at the prestigious Idaho Hall of Fame Wrestling Classic last weekend at Bishop Kelly High School in Boise.
The annual classic picks the two best wrestlers from each weight class in the state, regardless of classification, to go head-to-head in a state all-star dual. Hunsaker joined Casey Randles as the only Bulldogs to compete in the four years of the dual.
The caller to the Bee was beaming about a gesture by James Matthews, a representative of Natural Balance dog food, who offered to pay parents Leo and Cathy Hunsaker’s way to Boise to watch their son compete. Leo works at Carter Country, and upon learning that is was going to be tough for him to make it down to Boise, Matthews said he wanted to pay for the trip.
“He’s so proud of his son, it’s amazing,” said the caller of Leo, not leaving her name. “He (Matthews) offered to pay his way down to Boise.”
So imagine Hyrum’s surprise when he bumped into his parents in the lobby of the hotel on the morning of the dual, as he had no idea they were making the trip.
“I was at the hotel sitting in a chair, and I was like ‘how did you get down here?’” recalled Hyrum. “I definitely shed a few tears. I was so surprised.”
Leo and Cathy were able to make the trip south to enjoy not only the special dual, but a moment the family will remember far longer than any wrestling match.
“We surprised him when we showed up that morning,” said Leo. “He got in between his mom and I and there were a few tears shed. It was great that we got to watch him.”
Hunsaker lost the all-star dual in a tough, defensive 3-1 decision to Austin Ford of 5A Bonneville, and now sports a 35-4 record on the season. Ford, who competed in the dual last year during a 48-2 season, is now 39-4 after his narrow win over Hunsaker. Both seniors figure to contend for state titles in their respective classes later this month.
“If I see him again, I can beat him,” said Hyrum, who learned a lot in the loss. “It took to the third period to find out what was working.”
While many wrestlers operate best while pumped up and highly aggressive, Hunsaker opts to wrestle more calm and efficient, relying on superior technique and skill. But make no mistake, he’s got some serious game when he takes the mat, and a competitive nature.
The quiet leader of the Bulldogs was injured for most of his junior year, and is more than making up for lost time, including a solid 11-6 win over Bonners Ferry state runner up Jesse Sandelin earlier this week.
Despite the loss, the Hall of Fame Classic was a wonderful experience for Hyrum and his whole family, and even better than he anticipated.
“I was expecting everyone to be cocky,” admitted Hunsaker. “But most of the kids were really nice.”