ELLIOTT: A little family time for the Owens

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C. Owen

It can be difficult enough coaching in a wrestling tournament, especially opening the season.

Having athletes trying to make weight for the first time all season, then compete, and then do it again.

Trying to balance coaching each wrestler as at any given moment, a coach could have two or three competing at the same time.

WHEN IT came to Lake City High’s season opener in wrestling, it was a little bit of a family affair for Corey Owen.

Lake City, for the third straight year, competed in the Owen Invitational, the former Polson Invitational, recently renamed after his uncles Bob and Bill — the longtime coaches at Polson High in Montana.

“It has been fun for a lot of reasons,” said Corey Owen, who graduated from Sentinel High in Missoula. “When I was in high school, this was always our first tournament. So it has been fun to compare the tournament from 20 years ago to now. It is an honor to bring my team to a tournament that honors my uncle Bill and Bob, because they truly deserve it.”

Corey’s cousins Matt and Brett are the current coaches at Polson. Also coaching at the tournament over the weekend was Corey’s cousin Pat, the assistant coach at Frenchtown High in Montana.

“It is not only nice to get to see my uncles and cousins who coach, but I have other aunts and cousins who are there and help run the tournament,” Corey Owen said. “My aunt Kathy has a place on the Flathead River and she lets our team stay with her for the weekend. So that is nice for our bottom line to not have to stay in a hotel. But I also think the kids really enjoy bunking up in a big cabin on the lake.”

And Corey loves competing against his family.

“I purposely set up our schedule so I can see as many relatives as possible,” Corey Owen said. “This last weekend it was a little nerve-wracking going into the finals knowing we had a chance to win it and the two teams we were competing against was Frenchtown and Polson, who ended up edging us out by one point to claim the team title.”

Finishing second was something Corey was fine with.

“I was teasing my uncles before the finals that I wouldn’t be able to put the trophy in our case anyway because I’d won the Owen Invitational,” Corey Owen said. “To have family around all weekend, it was a lot of fun.”

IN A slight change, the tournament this year was moved to the campus of Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont., instead of Polson High, which is 9 miles away. Polson is some 50 miles south of Kalispell.

“The gym (at Salish Kootenai) seats more people and they can get four mats on the floor,” Corey Owen said. “They have been trying to expand the tournament over the past few years from a 16-team, one-weight-per-entry tournament to a full 32-man bracket. And changing venues was the only way that was going to happen.”

And who knows, maybe a little family time might pay off for his team this season.

“I thought our kids wrestled with a ton of confidence and energy this weekend,” Corey Owen said. “I think that is probably pretty common when you are returning almost your entire varsity lineup. I am hoping that as the competition stiffens this week against Post Falls (on Thursday at Lake City) and then next week against Lakeland (on Dec. 12 at Kellogg) and Tri-State (at North Idaho College Dec. 14-15) that we can take some losses and learn from it, but also continue to be confident. This weekend was a great start, but it’s a long time until February and the state tournament. We need to get better every week.”

Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at (208) 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via email at jelliott@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter @JECdAPress.

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