The Class 2A state wrestling team title has been a Western affair the past seven years, with Cokeville winning six championships and Greybull-Riverside capturing one.
Moorcroft, which won the East Conference regionals last season on its way to a third-place finish at state, believes it can break that streak this year.
“I’ve been at Moorcroft for nine years, and this is probably the best team I’ve ever had,” Moorcroft coach Charlie Williams said. “We have all the right ingredients: we have kids that are willing to work, we have a great coaching staff, and we have a bunch of parents that support us wherever we go.
"You combine all those things, and it makes for a great season.”
The Wolves entered this weekend’s Ron Thon Memorial Invitational in Riverton behind only Cokeville in wyowrestling.com’s 2A team rankings. In addition to the attributes Williams mentioned, Moorcroft returns 10 wrestlers who placed at state last year and, more importantly, has wrestlers ranked in 13 of 14 weight classifications.
“This year, we have someone in every weight class that’s either a returning state placer or is very good,” Williams said. “You ask any of the 2A coaches and they’ll tell you we’re successful because of our depth. That’s something you see with some of the 3A and 4A schools. We have a small population to pull from, so a team like this, for us, does not come around very often.”
The Wolves have made the most of the opportunity. They are undefeated in duals this season and won tournaments in Greybull and North Dakota. Moorcroft entered Saturday’s medal-round matches in 10th place -- the highest standing of any of the 2A schools in attendance.
With the Wolves building confidence each time they compete, Moorcroft is in position to be the first East Conference team to win a state title since winning it all in 2005.
“We just knew we were going to have a great season this year,” Moorcroft senior Kenny Sisson said. “We had a lot of good guys coming back, and we had some freshmen that were pretty good. Even our teachers were talking about how good we were going to be.
“It would be great to get a state title this year.”
Williams said this year’s Moorcroft squad is a perfect blend of veterans and newcomers, all of them with talent.
“As a coach you’re always optimistic,” he said, “but we’ve been waiting for this team for about three years. We coach these guys from sixth grade all the way through high school so we knew what we had coming into the year.”
Currently, four Wolves -- sophomore Kole Schell at 113 pounds, senior Tyrell Lawrence at 126, junior Luke Lovett at 145 and senior Tanner Allison at 285 -- are all atop the wyowrestling.com rankings in their respective classes. In addition, five others are ranked second, including upper-weight wrestlers Dakota Ray at 170 and Tel West at 195.
“Usually our lower-weight guys are scoring most of the points,” Sisson said, “but now we’ve got it spread out. It’s a big relief knowing that if you have a bad match your teammates are going to carry you.”
While Moorcroft has dominated the 2A East Conference this season, Cokeville, which returned three state champions off last year’s title-winning team, have done the same in the West.
“Moorcroft has got some good kids and they wrestle well, so it should be a battle,” Cokeville coach Martin Linford said. “We’ll see how it all works out.”
Whether the Wolves are finally able to knock off the Panthers, Williams is looking forward to the challenge -- and to returning Moorcroft atop 2A.
“We will never take a backseat to Cokeville,” Williams said. “We’ve been waiting for our opportunity. They shut us out the last couple of years, but the way I see it, we have a lot more tradition than they do.
“We have a lot of pride in our program. I give Cokeville the utmost respect because they have proven themselves time and again, but we will never say that they are better than us.”