Green River entered Saturday’s championship round with a 21.5-point lead over second-place Natrona at the Wyoming State High School Class 4A Wrestling Championships.
The consolation rounds were kind to the Wolves, who created more separation between themselves and the rest of the pack before the finals matches began.
A repeat championship could have slipped away at the Casper Events Center, and it started to look like it would. Kelly Walsh’s Jace Palmer and the Wolves’ Cyro Montoya matched each other point-for-point until the Trojans freshman took a lead in the third period.
Palmer kept that lead and held onto it, along with the returning 106-pound state champion’s leg, to ride out the clock and become champion himself.
“At that point I looked up at the crowd and I knew I was winning, everyone was cheering,” Palmer said. “It was just the best win of my life.”
With his win Palmer became the first wrestler at Kelly Walsh to win a state championship since 2012.
The Wolves got another crack at a championship in the following match when Justin Flores wrestled Natrona’s Dylan Anderson. Flores took control of the match from the start and eventually ended it with a pinfall in the first period.
Then, at 126 pounds, returning 120-pound champion Gage Byers stared at the reigning 126-pound 4A champion, Laramie’s Idris Elias.
Elias scored a takedown early and held a 5-2 lead into the latter moments of the second period. That’s when Byers scored a reversal on Elias and put the reigning champion in a pinning predicament.
“Stay calm, stay comfortable,” Byers told himself.
The Green River senior pinned Elias in the second period to give the Wolves their second and final state champion of the day. Despite only two champions, the points were enough to retain the team title.
“To come from the team that’s placing second — and we worked from the very bottom to the top as a team,” Byers said. “It just feels great to win the team title. Just feels awesome.”
‘Stangs fall short
Natrona had a chance to make it two weekends in a row of upsetting Green River but those hopes were dashed in the championship round.
Anderson’s loss at 113 started the round for the Mustangs before Jon Gasperetti fell by major decision to Gillette’s Trevor Jeffries at 138. Daniel Slack was pinned by Cheyenne Central’s Andrew Nicholson just before the end of the second period to end the night for the Mustangs.
But in the middle, junior Brett Brenton scored a pin in the second period of the 152 championship against Wyatt Yenney of Rock Springs to become a two-time state champion.
“I felt a lot of pressure, actually,” Brenton said, “because I did it last year and then I had all the pressure on my back trying to win again.”
Kelly Walsh, which also had four participants in the championship round, finished sixth.
Sheridan’s Hayden Hastings became only the third four-time Ron Thon champion earlier this year and he can add one more impressive accolade to his trophy case before heading to the University of Wyoming to wrestle.
Hastings controlled his match in the first period but couldn’t ground No. 2 Thomas Neal of Cheyenne East until early in the second period.
Last year’s champion at 160 pounds took his opponent to the mat and pinned him to capture the 170-pound title, capping an undefeated 32-0 season in the process.
“It’s icing on the cake really,” Hastings said. “The wrestling career that I had, I’m just thankful to all my coaches, all the coaching I’ve had.”