Printed on: March 24, 2013
Middleweight of the Year
By Paul Lambert
Just how legit is Ruger Piva? Ask 4A state champion Jacom Stacey. And then ask 3A state champion Nic Arnold.
Piva, from little ol' 1A Challis, beat both Stacey (Bonneville) and Arnold (Sugar-Salem) at 152-pounds this past season.
Piva also beat each of the other 45 wrestlers he faced en route to an unblemished 47-0 record, individual state championship, Tiger/Grizz title and a Post Register All-Area Wrestling Middleweight of the Year honor.
Of all his accomplishments this past season, Piva is most proud of his win under the Tiger/Grizz spotlight at Skyline High School.
But after finishing second at state as a freshman and third as a sophomore, none of Piva's 47 wins this season were sweeter than the one that came on the state mats at Holt Arena.
"My favorite achievement was winning state, for sure, but the win at the Tiger/Grizz was probably the toughest one," he said. "With the 152 4A, 3A and 2A state champions (as well as half of the 5A state placers) in the bracket, that's a pretty good tournament to win, I guess."
Pretty good? Try uniquely good.
No 1A wrestler had ever won an individual title at the prestigious Tiger/Grizz, and after he outdueled Blackfoot's Ruben Pulido 3-1 in the final, Piva pumped his fist in celebration toward his uncle Johnny.
That is, Challis coach John Piva,
"Everything that makes Challis good starts with Johnny," Ruger said. "He's a slave driver, believe me. Our practices are terrible, but we're all in shape."
Those practices take place in an upstairs antechamber at Challis High School, a place where the "Blackhearts" honor past state champions by putting their names on the wall.
That antechamber is a sacred place of sorts in Challis culture, a place where you feel hushed like a library or cemetery.
The name Ruger Piva will now always be on that wall of champions, and the Challis junior hopes the next generation of wrestlers will draw inspiration, not intimidation, from the immortals.
"I'd just tell them to have fun with it, not to put too much pressure on themselves and to not look too far ahead," he said. "When I was young, if I won, I won. If I lost, well, it was a learning experience, ya'know?"