The semifinals of the Wyoming State High School Wrestling Championships started in unconventional fashion for Kelly Walsh on Friday night at Casper Events Center.
With so little recent success at the state meet it was surreal to see two in matching singlets square-off for a spot in the state championship.
Lane Jackson and Jace Palmer each won their first two matches of the day, which meant they’d collide with a berth in the finals up for grabs.
“It’s just tough because I see him every day in practice,” Palmer said. “It’s not exactly another day at the wrestling room, but it’s tough. When we step on the mat we’re not exactly friends so I was just going at him, hammering, being tough, trying to get the win.”
Palmer got out to an early 3-2 lead at the end of the first period. Jackson started to gain momentum towards the end of the second, but Palmer seized complete control in the third period for a 13-4 decision victory.
Just a freshman, Palmer came into the semifinals as the top-ranked wrestler at 106 pounds. He insisted that he had wrestled on big stages before with national wrestling but there was something different about the state meet.
“Just the hype of it made me so nervous,” he said. “I’m glad I got to go out there and get the win.”
His win was also one for The Trojans. Kelly Walsh got quarterfinal points out of not only Palmer and Jackson, but Caleb Nathan (120) and Josh Kraus (132) early Friday. All four of them advanced to the semifinals but only Palmer and Nathan punched tickets to the finals.
Javen Palmer joined his teammates in the finals with a 1-0 decision win over Evanston’s Malek Wagstaff at 145 pounds.
Those are crucial points that puts Kelly Walsh in sixth after the first day, but within 10 points of second place.
“We have a lot of young guys,” Jace Palmer said. “Even just being here is cool for the team so it shows just how we’ll do in the future.”
That teamwork showed when Kraus advanced to the semifinals, when he was both excited and disappointed with his 9-3 quarterfinal win. Then, his teammates came to the rescue when Kraus was upset with a 1-0 decision loss in the semifinals to RJ Stassinos of Rock Springs.
“I’m glad my team was here to support me,” he said, “especially Jace and Caleb. They’re always on my side. I’m just glad that I have them.”
One win away
Sheridan’s Hayden Hastings is just one win away from one of the most impressive seasons in Wyoming high school history.
Hastings completed his day with three pinfalls, all three in the second period of each match, to qualify for the state championship match.
Already a two-time champion, Hastings could cap an undefeated season with his third championship on Saturday. The only one standing between he and 34-0 is No. 2-ranked Thomas Neal of Cheyenne East.
Fireworks at 126
Speaking of Laramie, returning champion at 126, Idris Elias, is set to defend his title against another returning champion, Green River’s Gage Byers.
Byers won the state championship at 120 last season but moved up a weight class and will challenge Elias for his state championship.
Tight at the top
As expected, the team race was looking like it would come down to the wire.
Defending champ Green River led after Friday’s competition with 156 points but the team title will still be decided on Saturday. Natrona (127.5), Gillette (120.5), Cheyenne East (120), Rock Springs (120), and Kelly Walsh (118) all stayed within the mix for the final day.
Others of note
Looney won his first-round match with a pin in 19 seconds and moved into the finals of the 195-division with two additional first-period pinfall. Looney is in the hunt for a repeat championship after winning last year at 170 pounds. ... Tom Parke, Natrona’s No. 2-ranked heavyweight was upset by Tony Ortega of Laramie in the quarterfinals after Ortega scored the winning takedown in the third overtime session.