Natrona County will be looking to snap a three-year losing streak to crosstown rival Kelly Walsh when the Mustangs host the annual John Miller Memorial Dual on Thursday at Jerry Dalton Gym.
The Mustangs still lead the all-time series 20-4, but the two-time defending Class 4A state champion Trojans have been in control the past three years. Extending that streak to four won’t be easy, though. Natrona County enters Thursday’s match ranked No. 3 in Class 4A by wyowrestling.com while Kelly Walsh comes in at No. 5.
“It’s going to be close,” KW head coach Travis Peak said.
NC head coach Scott Russell agreed. “Both teams have quality kids,” he said. “When you compare scores against common opponents it’s very close between us.”
Kelly Walsh looks to have an advantage beginning at 152 pounds with senior Analu Benabise, the three-time defending state champ. Following him in the lineup for the Trojans are juniors Sam Henderson at 160, Noah Hone at 170 and Jesse Thornton at 182, and senior Aragon Garro at 195. Hone is currently ranked No. 1 in his weight class while Thornton and Garro are ranked No. 2 and Henderson No. 3.
“We’re not as ready as we’re going to be for state,” Peak said, “but we’re ready to beat NC.”
Natrona County counters with a lineup whose strength is primarily in the lower weight classes. Freshman Kaden Orr (106), junior Tate Tromble (113) and seniors Nathaniel Sausedo (126) and Kyler Henderson (132) are all ranked No. 2 in their respective weight classes. The Mustangs also have a returning state champ in senior Cyruss Meeks at 145 and No. 2 ranked junior Kaeden Wilcox at 152.
“I’ve got confidence in our guys at their weight classes,” Russell stated. “I know this is a big thing for the kids and the community and our kids are really looking forward to it.”
Breaking down the individual weight classes, Peak listed a number of matches that could go either way, including both involving the two defending state champs. KW sophomore Gio Lucchi will take on Meeks at 145 and at 152 NC’s Wilcox will try to avenge his loss to Benabise in last year’s 145-pound state championship match. Overall, in seven of the expected matches Thursday both wrestlers are currently ranked in the Top 5 by wyowrestling.com.
With so many matches figuring to be tightly contested, whichever team earns added points via major decisions, technical falls or pinfalls should have a decided advantage.
“I would be real surprised if bonus points don’t end up deciding this,” Peak admitted.
Peak remains confident the Trojans have what it takes to keep the Miller Cup in their possession. Russell, meanwhile, believes the Mustangs are ready to bring the trophy back to the west side of town.
“We’re motivated and we’re focused,” Russell said. “We’re going to bring our best.”
Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN