Star Valley head coach Eddie Clark wears one suit. He’s a P.E. teacher, after all, and doesn’t even wear a suit to church. But he wears the same suit — black slacks and sport coat, Star Valley-shaded red shirt and gray tie with the Braves’ logo repeated on it — to every state tournament at the Casper Events Center.
He said it’s because he’s not comfortable in a suit. But also, and possibly more likely, he’s superstitious and wanted the 2019 Wyoming State High School Class 3A Championships to end like the three that came before it.
And it did.
Star Valley essentially locked up the team championship by Friday night, taking a 90-point lead at one interval. Clark was convinced that may have led to the Braves’ sub-par performance on Saturday night. The Braves won only three of their eight championship matches. And one of those involved Haze Child beating teammate Brayden Andrews for gold.
“They wrestle the best when they wrestle for something,” Clark said. “And the tournament was over a long time ago. So it’s hard. They weren’t really motivated. I think we win a few more matches if we need them to win the tournament.”
Those losses dampened an otherwise happy day for the Braves. Pinedale’s Keegan Gehlhausen was able to capture a second consecutive state championship by beating Tristan Hicks just before Lander’s Nathan Redman beat Grayson Hicks. Redman’s victory came after years of toiling and dreaming of gold.
“This is the greatest feeling ever,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this for four years.”
Star Valley’s Ren King, upset artist on Friday night, couldn’t keep up with Riverton’s Ridge Briggs. And even Braves standout Koa DeLong fell victim in overtime to Rawlins senior Damon Taylor.
Taylor nearly won it on a takedown at the end of the third period but the officials ruled any potential points came after the whistle. So Taylor took that momentum into overtime, where he was able to score a pinfall win after an additional 90 seconds.
“Been a long time coming,” Taylor said. “I’ve been working for this all year and this is my year.”
But the Braves ended on a high note. Their two biggest wrestlers, Trent Clark and Parker Merritt, were able to cap the day with wins. Clark scored a major decision over Powell’s Bo Dearcorn and Merritt got the pin he was looking for against Torrington’s Brandon Bennick.
“I put a lot of time in the wrestling room the past two weeks,” Merritt said. “Been working my butt off in conditioning to go a few rounds. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I had to do it.”
Star Valley’s head coach gave Trent a few extra hugs after the match. He admitted to the special moment of seeing his son’s transformation from junior varsity football player and non-state qualifying wrestler to all-state center and state champion. Then he noted the hard work Merritt put in, just to get to the point of enjoying the sport.
The Braves ended up beating second-place Douglas by 103 points. Powell finished third, powered by Brody Karhu’s successful title defense and a third consecutive state championship for Reese Karst.