Everyone wrote off Green River. That was the mentality the Wolves carried into the wrestling room after losing to Kelly Walsh by 39.5 points in the 4A West Regional. So they came into the 2019 Wyoming State High School Class 4A Wrestling Championships on Friday with the intention of proving the road to gold went through Green River.
At least that’s how junior Payton Tucker wrestled. The defending state champion won all three of his matches on Friday in 35 seconds or less.
He was one of three Wolves to qualify for the finals, alongside lighter weights Clayson Mele and Dominic Rodriguez.
“Kelly Walsh is the top dog and they’ve been beating us all year,” Dominguez said. “Our main goal was to beat Kelly Walsh this weekend, at this tournament. This tournament is where it matters most.”
Except, the Wolves weren’t able to accomplish that on Friday. Kelly Walsh overcame early problems, leaving points on the board in the first two rounds, to sit in second place. Thunder Basin took a 12.5-point lead over the Trojans into the final day of wrestle-backs and championships.
Green River led throughout the first two rounds with Cheyenne East trailing just behind, but both of those teams fell back during a topsy-turvy day in the standings.
East stood fifth after Friday’s action. One of the few bright spots for the defending champions was junior Amos Solano. Following a mid-season lull where he felt his effort wasn’t acceptable, Solano returned to his confident self with pins in his first two matches of the tournament. He advanced to Saturday’s finals with a major decision in Friday night’s semifinals.
Solano defeated Glenrock’s Tate Stoddard earlier this year, a win he still believes as possibly his biggest this season. That came before the rough patch of results.
“Had a few ups and downs at Ron Thon,” he said. “I lost in the semis that threw me back. Came back and got third. It wasn’t what I wanted but I’ll take it.”
Going into his semifinal he felt “good and healthy.” His mood only improved watching his teammates during the team’s title defense.
Meanwhile, Sheridan senior Quinn Heyneman battled through a prolonged blood timeout against Natrona County’s Hunter Weickham to score a quarterfinal pinfall. He then quickly moved to the adjacent mat to scout East’s Jackson Hesford, his semifinal opponent.
The Broncs haven’t challenged in the team standings but Heyneman led a small group of standouts that notched big wins. Defending champion Reese Osborne, Hunter Goodwin, Hayden Crow and Brenden Clem all went through to the semifinals. Clem even did it by scoring an upset pinfall over Kelly Walsh’s Kevin Anderson. After falling behind early, Clem scored a quick takedown and caught Anderson unexpectedly in a cradle. Clem eagerly got to his feet and pointed to the traveling Sheridan contingent in mid-roar. Anderson remained on his back for moments, still in disbelief.
“It’s a lot of fun having a talented group of kids in a room,” Heyneman said. “You’ve got a core group that you can rally behind and there’s plenty of people to scrap with every day.”