Billy Brenton’s pin at 113 pounds brought the Natrona County bench to its feet and put doubt into No. 1 Kelly Walsh. Maybe this dual wasn’t going to be so easy after all.
The rival schools squared off in a dual for the first time this season during the second round of Friday night’s Trojan Border War at Kelly Walsh High School. Even the cheerleaders and friendly fan section didn’t help the home side as Brenton’s pin cut the top-ranked Trojans’ lead to 30-27.
Senior Devyn Mostellar, a product of Kelly Walsh wrestling’s renaissance, then stepped in to reinstall confidence in the Trojans. And he was coming in cold against Cole Wirtz since his 120-pound match in the first dual against Fruita Monument, Colorado, was an open-weight forfeit.
“I’ve still got the little nervousness in me,” he said after the dual. “But once I get out there I’ll be fine.”
After initial jostling, Mosteller took Wirtz to the mat and scored a pinfall just before the first-period horn, reigniting the home crowd and his teammates. Kelly Walsh didn’t lose another point and went on to win the dual 45-27.
That victory sent to Trojans to 2-0 and their rival Mustangs to 0-2 to start. Natrona County and its young lineup struggled out of the gate in a 45-24 loss to Star Valley. Brenton, however, was one of the few Mustangs to capture wins in all three duals on Friday.
“I feel comfortable using all of my new moves now,” Brenton said after Tuesday’s dual win against Cheyenne South.
He used them not only in his pin against the Trojans but also by hooking Star Valley’s Waylon Nelson’s leg in an awkward position during the overtime period and bringing him down to win by a 3-1 sudden victory in the opening dual. That was one of the only bright spots for the Mustangs before their 51-21 win over Alliance, Nebraska, to end the day.
Star Valley won seven of its eight matches by pinfall to defeat the Mustangs in the opener. That victory gave Star Valley its 74th consecutive dual win, a testament to the Braves’ depth and power regardless of their opponent’s classification.
“It’s tough competition,” Star Valley heavyweight Parker Merritt said. “That first round was tough but you’ve just got to get past it.”
Merritt lost his initial match to Natrona County’s Trevon Smith but rallied for a first-period pinfall in the Braves’ 55-21 win against North Platte, Nebraska. The junior moved up to varsity this year after the graduation of longtime heavyweight Hunter Cranney. It’s big shoes to fill but Merritt’s found the belief to be a valuable grappler.
“A lot of pressure for me coming up,” Merritt said. “A lot of the heavyweights are a lot heavier than me. I’m 245 and they usually weigh a lot more than me.”
Smith is one of those opponents who significantly outweighs Merritt, which does put the Braves’ junior at a disadvantage. He’s found a way to conquer that, though, like he did with a pinfall against Connor McBroom of Kelly Walsh.
The Trojans’ Jace Palmer scored a pinfall to force a 34-all tie with just one match remaining, putting Star Valley’s undefeated streak in jeopardy. But a pinfall by Grayson Hicks in the finale was enough to lift the Braves to a 40-34 win, extending their undefeated dual streak to 76.
Douglas, the only other Wyoming squad in action at the Border War, did not wrestle against in-state competition on the first day of action. The Bearcats won their first two duals with sweeping victories from their core wrestlers. At the heart of that group is senior Dax Read.
Read scored a major decision victory against Alliance, Nebraska, and scored a first-period pinfall against North Platte, Nebraska. Read didn’t know anything about either opponent so, upon warmups, he started studying.
“Before we started I looked around to figure out where he was and watched how he warmed up a little bit,” Read said. “Then the first few seconds I was watching him just to see how low he was and which leg was his lead leg.”
Read lost by pinfall in Douglas’ closing dual against Rapid City Central.