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A battered right nostril oozing blood didn’t rattle Keegan Gehlhausen. Neither did the uncertainty of an unknown opponent in Douglas’ Charlie Koss. No matter what, the returning state champion found a way.

The Pinedale sophomore overcame a multi-minute blood stoppage and a 2-0 first-period deficit on Friday to win his quarterfinal match in the 2019 Wyoming State High School Class 3A Wrestling Championships by a 4-2 decision. Those stoppages, partly caused by Koss’ constant batting at the sophomore’s nose, took long enough for coaches on the sidelines to wonder if Gehlhausen would be able to continue. He had no doubts of finishing the match.

“Everyone bleeds,” Gehlhausen said. “Just get it stopped and you go out and wrestle again. The plan doesn’t change this time of year.”

Once he figured out that Koss wrestled top-heavy, Gehlhausen was able to adjust and score winning takedowns. He scored two in the second period to take a lead and stayed in control during the third. The final whistle sounded with him triumphantly on back control.

Last year’s Class 3A champion at 106 entered the weekend with the confidence of a returning champ. That reputation hasn’t added extra pressure during matches but it has changed the dynamic with his teammates.

“My teammates,” he said, “it’s like they expect me to be on the top of the podium now.”

Pinedale finished the first day well-behind leading Star Valley. The Braves put themselves in prime position to win a fourth consecutive state title on Saturday with their performance on Friday. They finished the day with a 94.5-point lead over second-place Douglas.

Nine different Braves advanced into the finals. One of them was an unexpected Ren King, who upset Buffalo’s Clay Reiner in the semifinals. Reiner came in as the East Regional champion and finished third at state last year. He went ahead early and led for most of the match until King’s opportunistic counter gave him a lead late in the third period.

“I love getting big wins for my teams,” King said. “Dude, I feel invincible right now.”

King was one of 14 different Braves to compete in the semifinals. One of those other semifinalists was Tyson Hoopes, who pulled off consecutive tough wins in the first two rounds before falling to defending champion Brody Karhu of Powell in the semifinals. The fourth in the line of five Hoopes wrestling boys at Star Valley won his quarterfinal by a major decision, providing his team with another four points.

“We’re confident that we could do good if we worked hard and did our best,” he said.

Parker Merritt’s win at heavyweight put the final touches on another successful first day for the Braves, drawing them to within hours of another title.

“We’re so deep,” King said. “We’ve always got competition in the room and it’s always great. No easy spots on Star Valley’s team, that’s for sure.”

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Follow sports reporter Brady Oltmans on Twitter @BradyOltmans

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High School Sports Reporter

Brady Oltmans reports on high school and local sports. He joined the Star-Tribune in July 2016 after covering prep sports and college soccer in Nebraska. He also contributes to University of Wyoming sports coverage. He and his dog live in Casper.

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