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The Front Row with JASON ELLIOTT December 18, 2010

| December 18, 2010 8:00 PM

It still may be early in the season for some, but chances are by the time that most teams leave the campus of North Idaho College in the coming weeks, they will know exactly what they need to work on to compete for a state title.

FOR MOST schools, matches in today's Tri-State Invitational will mark the toughest competition they'll see all season.

While teams like Lake Stevens, University and Tahoma may be among contenders for the team title, local schools Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene could also be a factor when the finals start later tonight.

As most schools enter the Christmas break, the tournament is a good way of judging how good teams really can be this season.

And as tough as this tournament looks on paper, with some 50 teams traveling to the area, it should be nothing less than entertaining from opening bout to the final match.

But the real test will come after the break for most of the athletes, when it comes time to get back to the grind.

As easy as it could be for most athletes to sit around and remain content with their progress during the holidays, a two-week break for most athletes will be a welcomed sight come the conclusion of this weekend's events.

WHEN ACTION tips off at the Coeur d'Alene Holiday Inn Express Invitational at North Idaho College on Dec. 28, the level of basketball competition will be raised yet again as a handful of state champions converge on Christianson Gym for three days.

With teams in the girls bracket playing a true tournament for the first time in the event's history, chances are the level of each game will increase every day.

Coeur d'Alene defeated Priest River last Friday in Coeur d'Alene, with an anticipated rematch between the two teams being the final game on the opening night of the tournament.

Only a few of the local wrestling teams compete during the break, with both St. Maries and Lakeland getting a few home matches in on Dec. 30.

When school gets back into session, most compete in tournaments every weekend until regionals in mid-February.

Include some key league contests and most teams will hope the gifts keep coming long after the New Year.

Those teams with championship aspirations will have a good idea where they are by the end of this month. Others may have to play the grinch to get what they want.

Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via e-mail at jelliott@cdapress.com.

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