Kemmerer was in unfamiliar territory Saturday at the Wyoming State High School Wrestling Championships at the Casper Events Center.
The Rangers entered the day in third place in the Class 2A standings, well back of Moorcroft and Glenrock and just one-half point ahead of Cokeville. Granted, Kemmerer won the West Regional title a week ago, but the last time it had taken home a team trophy from the state tournament was … 1987.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve placed as a team,” Kemmerer sophomore Donny Proffit said.
Since their third-place finish 30 years ago, the Rangers had never finished higher than sixth.
But that ended Saturday when they placed third behind five-time defending state champion Moorcroft and runner-up Glenrock and 29.5 points clear of Cokeville.
The fact that Kemmerer did it with just 11 state qualifiers – 14 fewer than Moorcroft – made it even more impressive.
“These kids have been doing it all year,” Kemmerer head coach Darrell Bullington said. “They get a lot of pins and they score a lot of points.”
No team scored more points in the finals than the Rangers did as they went four for four in the championship matches.
Freshman Dawson Schramm got things started at 106 pounds when he pinned Preston Seamands of Wright in 81 seconds. Four matches later at 132, Proffit needed just 40 seconds to pin Moorcroft’s Parker Seeley and win his second state title. Then, at 160, senior Gavin Julander earned a 7-2 decision over Cokeille’s Cordell Viehweg. Sophomore Hayden Walker completed the impressive run at 170 by pinning Rocky Mountain’s Nathan Hatch in 63 seconds.
Four finalists. Four victories. Twenty-one team points.
“We just have a great bunch of kids,” said Julander, who was sporting a black eye from his semifinal victory over Ruger Lewis from Burns/Pine Bluffs. “Winning just shows that hard work pays off.
“After losing in the semifinals last year I came here with the mindset of working hard. I knew I wasn’t going to lose.”
For Proffit, who won the all-class Ron Thon Memorial earlier this month and went 43-3 on the season, this state title was even better because he got to share that championship feeling with some friends.
“I’ve been wrestling with these guys for a long time,” he said. “And the fact that we all won just makes this (individual) title way more special.”
Proffit might want to get used to that feeling as Julander was the only senior on this year’s team.
In addition to Proffit, Schramm and Walker, the Rangers will welcome back sophomore Carson Carlson (fourth at 120) and freshman Colter Julian (sixth at 113).
Two for two
Proffit wasn’t the only 2A wrestler to win his second state championship in as many appearances.
Glenrock’s Tate Stoddard, who won the 3A title at 113 last year, completed an impressive sophomore campaign with a first-round pin of Moorcroft’s William Fish at 113.
“After being here last year I wasn’t nervous at all.” Stoddard said. “I went out there confident because I knew this space. This whole weekend I was fearless; I knew I was going to dominate.”
Going out in style
In addition to Julander, three other seniors won their first state title – Lingle-Fort Laramie’s Todd Walker at 138, Saratoga’s Thomas Ingraham at 152 and Sundance’s Yuli Viergets at 220.
Riverton’s Ridge Briggs entered the state championship match as just a freshman.
The Wolverines weren’t expected to make a run at Star Valley’s team title but Briggs still went toe-to-toe with the Braves’ Spencer Angell at 113 in Class 3A.
Briggs held his own and came away with a 2-1 decision victory to cap a 46-win season for the freshman.
Hayden Wempen, his only teammate to join him on the gold medal podium, won his first state championship on Saturday as a sophomore. Together the two could provide even more medals in Riverton’s future.
“Can’t think the coaches enough for helping as much as they have,” Wempen said. “It feels great.”
Koa Rodriguez was the only other Wolverine to make the state finals, falling by a 4-2 decision to Bridger Vandeburg of Star Valley.
Gold in 3A
Lyman’s Dryden Menck won the 195-pound championship in Class 2A last year but with the jump to 3A, there were some doubts on him repeating.
But Menck put all of those doubts to rest with a pinfall victory over Zach Easum of Powell. The Lyman junior finished the season with a 36-3 record.
Start and finish
Newcastle/Upton had three representatives in championship matches, starting with Reid Holmes at 106. Holmes was defeated by a 5-1 decision at the hands of Star Valley’s Tristan Hicks, which started a big championship round for the Braves.
After teammate Wyatt Corley also settled for silver in his match at 152, heavyweight Bryce Womack closed the ceremonies as well for Newcastle/Upton.
Womack got a bit of revenge for his team, defeating Star Valley’s heavyweight, McCabe Smith, by pinfall late in the second period.
Kelly Walsh and the calls
Freshman Jace Palmer started the day off with a win for Kelly Walsh, which set the Trojans up for even more success with more to come in the championship round.
But what followed in the next two matches for Kelly Walsh was a bit of bad luck and equally draining.
Caleb Nathan clung to a one-point lead in the last minute before his opponent, Cameron Metcalf of Rock Springs, scored an escape with only 16 seconds remaining to force overtime.
In that extra period, Metcalf scored a winning takedown alongside the edge of the circle with the clock ticking away.
Kelly Walsh head coach Travis Peak voiced his concerns to a referee and the scorer’s table, but his case fell upon deaf ears.
Peak again wanted an appeal after Kaden Schriner of Laramie scored an apparent pinfall on Javen Palmer in overtime at 145. The call was overturned, but more concern was raised when Schriner was not called for stalling when clinging to Palmer’s left ankle to prevent the Trojan’s winning escape.
Schriner went on to win with a takedown in a third overtime period.
Natrona’s returning champion, Brett Brenton was introduced to a standing ovation from the majority of those in the stands of Casper Events Center on Saturday.
Those same fans cheered him relentlessly through the first period and erupted when Brenton finally scored the pin to win.
“It’s a lot,” Brenton said after the win. “It’s just a lot to take in, all of it.”