Seen & Heard on Planet Coug 6/19

I'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT IT unfortunate that Washington State dropped its storied wrestling program, but I can tell you where to start looking for talent if the sport is rekindled on the Palouse any time soon. The Cougar football team this fall will feature three players who won two state wrestling titles each in their prep careers.

Two incoming freshmen -- lineman Steven Ayers of Bellingham and linebacker Marshal Pirtz of Boise -- each captured a state grappling title this winter and for Pirtz, it was his second-straight. And sophomore defensive end Kevin Kooyman of Maple Valley took home state wrestling titles in 2005 and 2006.

Ayers, an All-Stater in football, further added to his trophy collection a month ago when he captured the state Class 2A shot put and discus titles.

Kooyman was also a football-wrestling-track star in high school. In fact, the Tahoma High product was named the state high school male athlete of the year in 2006 by the Seattle Times. But get this -- the Times' newly crowned 2007 male athlete of the year also hails from Tahoma High and also is headed to WSU. Riley Tubbs is coming to Pullman to play outfield or third base for Donnie Marbut. Tubbs hit .480 this season, and also starred in football and basketball.

The state's prep female athlete of the year, as selected by the Tacoma News Tribune, also is headed to WSU. Fife's Angela Jensen, the Class 2A champion in the 100 and 300 meter hurdles and the 100-meter dash, is ticketed to compete in the heptathlon for the Cougs. In addition to track, she was a standout in volleyball, and advanced to regionals in the state's first-ever girls wrestling tournament.

FORMER COUGAR RECEIVER Trandon Harvey, the hero of the 2005 Apple Cup, is one of the leading contenders for Arena Football League rookie of the year honors. Harvey, a member of the Arizona Rattlers, concluded the season on Sunday with 10 catches and finished the year with a team-leading 1,412 receiving yards, 99 catches and 34 TDs. One of his Rattler teammates is Kevin McKenzie, a member of WSU's Fab Five receiving corps on the 1998 Rose Bowl team.

AT THE RECENT KING COUNTY Cougar Golf Classic co-sponsored by CF.C, WSU offensive line coach George Yarno told a funny story about sibling rivalry. When he was being recruited out of Spokane's Ferris High back in the 1970s, WSU, Oregon, Oregon State and others were vying for his services. His older brother John, a mainstay at Idaho who would go on to become a first-team All-American, had been ignored by WSU when he was coming out of Ferris two years earlier. And he was bitter about it.

"My brother told me I could go anywhere but WSU," George remembered. "When I decided I was going to be a Cougar, John didn't speak to me for three months." Yarno said he didn't heed his brother's advice because WSU's head coach at the time, Jim Sweeney, was much more persuasive in his pitch.

Like his brother, George was thought destined for the offensive line in college. But after the first scrimmage of his freshman season, he was told by WSU's offensive line coach that he was too aggressive to play on O so was switched to defense. The move also meant the two brothers would go head to head on the field -- John as Idaho's center and George as WSU's noseguard -- in 1975 and 1976. Like a true little brother, George points out with glee that the Cougs not only won the two contests, but that the scores were 84-27 and 45-6.

IN CASE YOU MISSED the recent Hot News item on the nation's top 100 prep basketball recruits for 2008, Michael Harthun, the South Medford High senior-to-be who verbally committed last month to Tony Bennett, is ranked No. 92 by Scout.com analysts. In addition, Scout rates him No. 9 among shooting guards in the Western states, while another member of WSU's 2008 class of recruits, Nick Witherill of Scottsdale, Ariz., is rated No. 13.

CONGRATULATIONS TO RECORD-setting Cougar receiver Jason Hill and star WSU track and field competitor Diana Pickler. They have been awarded the Pac-10's Conference Medal for outstanding achievement in scholarship, athletics and leadership. Hill wrapped up his sociology degree in 3 1/2 years, graduating this past Decemeber.

Pickler is a four-time All-American heptathlete who owns the Pac-10 record in the event. She holds WSU records in the pentathlon, heptathlon and 100 meter hurdles.

JUNE 29 IS WSU-UW Night at Safeco Field. The Mariners will take on the Blue Jays. Tickets are $15, with $5 going to the WSU Alumni Association Scholarship Fund. The first 25,000 fans to the ballpark will receive a Kenji Johjima bobblehead. For more information, visit www.alumni.wsu.edu/king.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS and buy your tickets. Huge numbers of great seats -- close to 50,000 of them, in fact -- remain for the Cougars' Sept. 8 game vs. San Diego State at Seattle's Qwest Field. Call 1-800-GO-COUGS or go online at wsucougars.com to get tickets. Prices range from $7 to $50. Game time has yet to be determined.


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