Cheney Free Press -

By Paul Delaney
Cheney Free Press 

Cheney wrestling will rely on youth in '22-23


Last updated 12/9/2022 at 9:06am

Roger Harnack

Cheney's only girl wrestler, Jalisca Holmgren, works a knuckle roll and attempted arm bar on Mersadies Miravalle of Lewis and Clark during the Medical Lake Scramble's opening round Saturday morning, Dec. 5. Holmgren won by pin in 2:24.

CHENEY — Jason Connor spends his days as a biologist for the Kalispel Tribe working to improve the health of fish species that travel the Pend Oreille River and its watershed.

Since 2018, however, he's spent much of his free time trying to perform similar duties as head coach with Cheney Blackhawks wrestling, of which he's both competed and coached for years.

Connor, who wrestled for and graduated from Cheney High School in 1991, has woven his way in and out and very much through the fabric that is the school's program - and wrestling period.

"When my kid was about five, we started wrestling over and Medical Lake; that was prior to Cheney starting their youth program," Connor said.

His path to high school head coach began, as do many, by "paying dues" on the lower rungs of the ladder. He has been an off-and-on volunteer at Cheney High for several years, mostly as a practice partner.

"I'd come in and work with kids, mostly one on one, when Aaron Mason was around," Connor explained.

Connor became a full-fledged assistant when Wade Slaughter took over the program, a job that lasted about six years he said. Next up was a six-year stint as head coach at Cheney middle school.

When Brad Rasmussen took over from Slaughter, Connor returned to being an assistant at the high school. But Rasmussen was involved in a serious bicycling accident in June 2017 and Connor jumped in to fill the void.

"I helped kind of as an interim head coach when Bradley was out for medical reasons and then kind of took over," Connor said. He was named as Rasmussen's successor in June 2019.

Like most Cheney coaches, this season marks Connor's second true year in the 3A division of the Greater Spokane League. "(The) 20-21 (season) was what I call kind of an intramural year," Connor said with a chuckle referencing the COVID-19 shadowed campaign.

"I mean, it was brutal, we lost a lot of kids," he said. And coming out of the COVID tunnel showed as a large group of newbies, "Got to take their lumps a little bit as freshmen wrestling on varsity."

That in what Connor contends is "For 3A, probably the toughest league in the state."

With the 2022-23 team still in its early stages, Connor said getting into naming names would be counterproductive. "I just don't feel like it's that meaningful until later in the season and our depth charts are sorted out," he wrote in an email.

That "sorting out" will be accelerated as Cheney jumps right into GSL competition Dec. 7 at Ridgeline, followed by a Dec. 10 tournament at West Valley of Spokane.

Paul Delaney is a retired Free Press Publishing reporter and can be reached at


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