During the most intense moments of matches, against some of the toughest competition, Jace Palmer could still hear coach Travis Peak telling him to “be Jace Palmer.” That’s all he needed to do.

The Kelly Walsh junior, top-ranked in the state, faced one of those moments in the semifinals against Rock Springs’ Ashton Dupape. Palmer was able to overcome that hurdle, putting him in the finals of the 2019 Wyoming State High School Class 4A Championships. And in Saturday’s finals at the Casper Events Center, facing Natrona County’s Cyruss Meeks, he wrestled like Jace Palmer and walked away a state champion.

“No one here can stop Jace Palmer,” Peak said. “When he gets in that zone, man, you just can’t stop it.”

Palmer clinched a third consecutive state championship with a 13-4 major decision over Meeks at 132 pounds. Palmer’s victory, the first of four championship wins for the Trojans, also sealed Kelly Walsh’s first team championship in program history.

Sophomore Analu Benabise and junior twins Josh and Kole Kraus all also secured individual state championships, helping the Trojans beat Green River by 19 points. After leaving some valuable points available on Friday, the Trojans dominated Saturday’s consolation brackets, giving them a slight lead going into the finals.

Benabise secured his second straight state championship with a tight victory over Thunder Basin’s Warren Carr. Carr remains one of the rare Wyomingites to hold a victory over Benabise. The two entered the 145-pound championship tied 2-2 against each other. The Trojan scored two takedowns on Carr, a first for him during their meetings, and held on for the win.

Josh Kraus faced a similar situation against Cheyenne East’s Jackson Hesford. Going into overtime Kraus reminded himself he’s been through worse. He then waited for his moment and seized, getting Hesford’s back to win gold. It wasn’t until after hugging his coaches that the moment overcame him. He ran over to his inspirational mother, who watched her son accomplish his goal for the first time from her wheelchair.

“I kept reminding myself that I’ve been through worse,” he said. “My mom’s got cancer and I had to keep pushing for her.”

Minutes later Kole put away Thunder Basin’s Riley Mitchell to give both siblings their first taste of gold. Kole also ran over to his mother after his match, where she reminded the senior how proud she is of him and his accomplishments.

“What an accomplishment for those two,” Peak said. “They got to do it with mom sitting right there. Pretty special.”

Jesus Alvarado was the only Trojan not to win gold. He did, however, push No. 1 Terren Swartz of Thunder Basin throughout most of the match. The gap between them remained one point until halfway into the third period when the future Wyoming Cowboy wrestler was able to put it away. Peak noted that Alvarado was the one who impressed him the most on Saturday.

All five returned to the medal stand on Saturday to cheers from their fans and teammates. Together, they had all just accomplished history.

“First team ever from Kelly Walsh High School to win a wrestling state title,” Benabise said. “It’s amazing. I love it.”

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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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