When Jace Palmer finally put away 132-pound rival Cyruss Meeks, he clinched Kelly Walsh’s first team championship and simultaneously added another small chapter in the Oil City rivalry.
Palmer and Meeks, one of three Mustangs to make finals matches, met multiple times this season and the Trojans’ now-three-time state champion came away victorious each time. Notably, there was the Trojan Border War, the now-annual event at Kelly Walsh High School involving multiple schools and multiple states, and the lopsided Miller Cup that saw the Trojans win back-to-back for the first time in the traveling trophy’s history.
Natrona County had always had its three state championships to the Trojans’ empty shelf. That changed with a five-year rebuilding project and one eventful weekend.
Three Trojans followed Palmer’s lead in sophomore Analu Benabise, and junior twins Josh and Kole Kraus. Activities director AJ Nathan watched from nearby, cheering all of them, and former principal Brad Diller warmly welcomed every champion with a post-match celebration.
Head coach Travis Peak, who had been tasked with changing the fortunes of the Trojans’ wrestling program, actively tried not to think about what had been accomplished on the final night of the season.
“We just wanted to get through matches and go 5-for-5, and we went 4-for-5,” he said. “We have an amazing coaching staff and an amazing group of kids. Very, very talented kids that needed a lot of work and growing up to keep them together.
“The talent was there. We just needed to bring it out of them and keep them all together.”
Senior Jesus Alvarado stayed with Thunder Basin’s Terren Swartz at 220 pounds but couldn’t beat the Bolt, becoming the Trojans’ only finalist not to achieve gold. Peak still noticed Alvarado’s effort against the University of Wyoming signee as one of the weekend’s high points for the team.
Directly before and following Alvarado’s match, however, was the other side of the Miller Cup rivalry. Seniors Yahav Shraiber and Tre’von Smith both won state championships to lead the Mustangs to their second straight sixth-place finish. Shraiber pinned Evanston’s Pablo Escalante with 26 seconds remaining to break the school record for pins in a season. One of the two previous holders of that title, Brett Brenton, witnessed Shraiber make school history from the stands.
“I really wanted the pin so I was ready to grind and go all the way for it,” Shraiber said. “(Brenton) is not very happy with me breaking that record. But it’s all good.”
Smith secured his second consecutive championship by beating Thunder Basin’s Dalton McInerney in a 3-0 decision. An outcome even more satisfying because McInerney was the one responsible for the 1 in Smith’s 42-1 record.
“I just had to wrestle smart and do it my way,” Smith said. “Feels amazing. I’ve got three state championships now between wrestling and football.”
Green River’s Payton Tucker achieved his goal of repeating, winning the 182-pound title by major decision. He was one of three Wolves to win gold along with Clayson Mele (106) and Dominic Martinez (113). All will return next season. Sweetwater County rival Rock Springs captured three individual championships thanks to Zack Vasquez (126), Cameron Metcalf (138) and Tristan Profaizer (160).
Cheyenne East junior Amos Solano won gold with a major decision at 120 pounds.