For the second time in eight days, Kelly Walsh’s Analu Benabise got the better of Natrona County’s Cyruss Meeks in a matchup of defending state champions. At the end of the day, however, it was the Mustangs who finished on top of the Trojans, just as it was eight days ago in the Miller Cup. Friday, Natrona County won the Class 4A Northwest Quadrant wrestling qualifier at KW.
The Mustangs won eight of the 14 weight classes to finish with 256 points. Kelly Walsh had four first-place finishers to take second with 202 and Laramie was third with 126.5.
“I thought everybody wrestled as tough as they could,” NC head coach Scott Russell said. “We’ve been getting better and I think we’ve really come on strong the last three weeks.”
The Mustangs started strong and finished stronger Friday. Freshman Kaden Orr earned a major decision over Laramie’s Liam Knerr at 106 pounds, followed by Tate Tromble’s first-period pin of KW’s Luke Guseman at 113. And they erased any chance the Trojans had of a comeback in the final three matches as seniors Davis Knight at 195, Colter Helm at 220 and D’Anthony Smith at 285 all won by pinfall over Kelly Walsh opponents.
For Helm, his pin of Dom Gray allowed him to avenge last week’s overtime loss to Gray in the Miller Cup. Helm wasted little time gaining a takedown and near-fall points. And while Gray held off the initial surge, Helm remained in control and eventually got the first-period pin.
“I always get anxious before big matches, so I was very nervous,” Helm said. “ But at the same time I was really looking forward to it.
“I just watched a ton of film since last week and I didn’t let him get in my head.”
The Mustangs’ other championships came from senior Kyler Henderson at 132, junior Billy Brenton at 138 and junior Kaeden Wilcox at 152.
But it was the rematch at 145 that drew the most interest. Benabise, the three-time state champion, had wrestled at 152 all season before dropping down to 145 to take on Meeks, who won his first state title last year. In their first meeting, Benabise was able to get a third-period pin after Meeks had tied the match late.
Friday, Benabise held a 5-1 advantage after two periods before Meeks got a reversal to make it 5-3. He allowed Benabise to escape and then got a takedown to cut the margin to 6-5. Once again he allowed Benabise to escape with hopes of getting another takedown to tie the match and force overtime, but Benabise was able to hold him off.
“He changed up his game plan from the last time we met,” Benabise said. “I think he was preparing for that shot I used on him a lot in our last match. I was still trying to get back to that shot and it slowed me down a little bit. But I just tried to stay on the offensive.”
With the win, Benabise improved to 31-0 on the season while Meeks fell to 34-2, with both losses coming to his crosstown rival.
“Nothing against Wilcox, their 152-pounder, but I just felt that Cyruss was the best wrestler in the state for me to go against,” Benabise said.
Kelly Walsh’s other titles came from senior Cole Wirtz at 120, senior Sam Henderson at 160 and junior Noah Hone at 170.
Laramie had two wrestlers finish atop the podium in freshman Dakota Ledford at 126 and senior Gavin Kopp at 182.
All three teams will compete in their first multi-team meet next Saturday at the Class 4A state championship at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper.
Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @wyovarsity