New coach will lead powerhouse White River boys’ wrestling program

Josh Sneva is coming from North Thurston High School, where he was named South Sound Conference Coach of the Year.

There will be a new coach leading the successful White River High boys’ wrestling team, once the 2022-23 winter season rolls around.

Josh Sneva has been hired to lead a Hornet program that has been among the state’s best in recent years. He replaces Ruben Navajas, who served as head coach the past four campaigns.

Sneva comes to the rural Buckley campus after spending six seasons guiding the boys’ program at Class 3A North Thurston High School. The most recent season finished on a personal high note for the Rams’ coach, with Sneva being voted the South Sound Conference Coach of the Year.

He inherits a White River program that has been a force in recent years at Mat Classic, the state championship tournament. The Hornet boys won the 2018 state title, took second-place honors a year later and placed third in 2020. The 2021 state meet was cancelled due to the pandemic but White River bounced back with a seventh-place showing earlier this year.

Sneva’s staff will include current assistant coach Luis Cardenas and will add Joe Cordes, a physical education teacher in the White River School District (Foothills Elementary). Cordes was most recently an assistant coach at Bonney Lake High.

Sneva is a Western Washington native, having graduated from Mount Vernon High School where he was an all-state wrestler. He continued his athletic career at Pacific Lutheran University where he wrestled for coach Brian Peterson and played football under the legendary Frosty Westering. He went on to earn a law degree from Seattle University.

While working toward becoming an attorney, Sneva spent time coaching defensive backs for the football program at Ballard High School. He also did some coaching at the middle school level and coached both freestyle and Greco Roman for club wrestling programs.

Now with an established law practice, Sneva and his family recently made a move from the Olympia area to Pierce County. “I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to continue coaching at North Thurston,” he said, alluding to the travel time from his new home to the Rams’ gym.

But then the White River opportunity came up and Sneva tossed his hat in the ring. It paid off with a job offer.

Sneva will still have a hefty commute but he’s been in the game long enough to understand the commitment and how to shuffle priorities. “I’ve gotten pretty good at moving my work around so I have afternoons free during the wrestling season,” he said.

Sneva said those who follow Hornet wrestling will be getting a coach who is big on positivity and giving kids a chance to explore the sport. “I want a program that takes anyone interested and lets them give it a shot,” he said.

That attitude, he said, will trickle down to the local junior wrestling program. His goal is to unite all wrestlers, kindergarten through high school, “so everyone feels like they’re part of the program.”