by nathan oster
Greybull-Riverside rode its eight placers, including 160-pound champ Nathan Hetzel, to a first-place finish in last weekend’s Don Runner Invitational.
Held each year in Pavillion, the tournament was the first measuring stick for 2A teams because it attracted all of the title contenders from the western side of the state, including Cokeville and Lovell.
With those two teams still missing key point scorers due to injuries, the Buffs were able to capture the title.
But Coach Mark Sanford was far from satisfied.
“With the lineups (Cokeville and Lovell) put on the mats, we should have won,” he said.
Sanford said it’s “the year of the injury bug. We had it early, right after the Powell tournament when we had three or four guys out of their lineup. Lovell’s still got it … and Cokeville, they had three or four guys out, too.”
Lovell, which came to Buff Gym for a dual last week, welcomed back three standouts in the Hopkin brothers and Preston Blankenship, but went without three quality kids in Mark Grant, Jacob Beck and Tony Rodriguez.
The Buffs? After welcoming Rob Nuttall back into the fold, they went into the tournament at full strength for the first time in several weeks. And in spite of that, the margin between them and the second-place Bulldogs was just 14 points.
“We didn’t finish nearly as well as we needed to,” said Sanford. “We did a good job, we wrestled hard. But I asked the kids on the bus, ‘Who has a bitter taste in their mouth?’ About seven of them raised their hand. I did too. We didn’t finish.”
Some kids came up short by losing in the finals, while others finished just out of the placing round.
“We need to have 10 or 11 guys placing, and we only had eight,” Sanford said. “State is going to be tougher … the teams from the East will be there then. We just need to keep getting better.”
Hetzel was the only one of the five Buffs in the finals who came away with a victory. He went 4-0 at 160 pounds. His key win was an 11-9 victory over Brigham Hopkin of Lovell in the semis. With that in hand, he moved to the finals, where he crushed Justin Rickert of Kemmerer by an 18-1 score. Earlier, Rickert had beaten Bronson Teichert of Cokeville, whom Sanford considered one of the wrestlers to beat.
The second-place finishers for the Buffs included Matt Grovenstein at 120 pounds, Luke Zeller at 152, Gabe Villegas at 195 and Zane Edeler at 220. Each of them went 3-1 in tournament action.
Grovenstein “had a good tournament,” Sanford said, noting that he won his first two matches by fall before losing a 5-4 decision to Dyson Barker of Rich County, Utah, in the final.
Zeller cruised into the finals where he faced Nathan Grant. The two had wrestled one week earlier on the Greybull mats. In that one, Zeller came out on top. The rematch was more of a shootout, with Grant winning this one, 14-10.
Villegas, who has a thumb injury, rolled to wins in his first three matches, including a victory over Eli Moody of Lovell. In the final, he had to deal with Cody Flynn of Dubois, an “athletic and stout kid” who had moved down from 220. It went down to the wire before Flynn emerged with the 60-5 win. “Barring anyone else moving around, I think those two are top two in the state at that weight,” Sanford said.
Edeler continued his emergence at 220, losing only to Nate Obray of Casper Kelly Walsh, on a second-period pin. Sanford said he was hoping that Edeler would get a shot at Logan Welch of Kemmerer, but their paths never crossed. Those two will likely be in the mix for the regional title, along when Lovell’s Grant when he returns from injury.
G-R’s other placers included Kyle Strasheim, who went 2-2 and placed fourth at 113; Chris Ogg, 2-3 and sixth at 126; and Nuttall, 3-1 and third at 170.
The G-R wrestlers who did not place included Levi Kelly (3-2), Stephen Kerr (1-2), Jesus Burgos (2-2), Spencer Redland (0-2), Dylan Brenner (2-2) and Trenton Kelly (285).
“We have to feel good about the win, but it was kind of bittersweet because we just didn’t finish as well as we need to,” reiterated Sanford.
The Buffs will host Powell, the top-ranked team in 3A, in a dual today (Thursday, Jan. 19) at Riverside High School. Start time is 6 p.m.
Then it’s on to Thermopolis for the Bobcat Invitational on Friday and Saturday.
DON RUNNER INVITATIONAL: Greybull-Riverside 179.5, Lovell 165.5, Casper Kelly Walsh 159, Cokeville 156, Wright 149.5, Thermopolis 126, Kemmerer 120.5, Rich County Utah 120, Saratoga 97, Hanna-Elk Mountain 87, Riverton JV 79, Jackson 55, Big Piney 54, Dubois 47, Rocky Mt. 40, Shoshoni 38, Wind River 23, Pinedale 3.
106 – 1, Colt Larson, Coke. 2, Vinchinzo Castle, Thermop. 3, Nathan Martinez, Wright. 4, Austin Carson, KW. 5, Justin Smith, Rocky. 6, Trey Smith, Lovell.
113 – 1, James Teichert, Coke. 2, Ryan Bradshaw, Thermop. 3, Preston Blankenship, Lovell. 4, Kyle Strasheim, G-R. 5, Kyle Bartlett, Sara.
120 – 1, Dyson Barker, Rich Co. 2, Matt Grovenstein, G-R. 3, Macen Peterson, Coke. 4, Choc Maddock, Thermop. 5, Zane Lewis, Wright. 6, Danny Huxtable, Sho.
126 – 1, Baily Hepp, Wright. 2, Garrett Julian, Kemm. 3, Carlos Salazar, KW. 4, Lionso Escobedo, Sara. 5, Alec Silva, Rich Co. 6, Chris Ogg, G-R.
132 – 1, Tanner Galey, KW. 2, Colter Brown, Thermop. 3, Colton Lantz, BP. 4, Justin Westwood, Kemm. 5, Rylie Richardson, HEM. 6, J.J. Martinez, Wright.
138 – 1, Anthony Samson, 4-0. 2, Zack Larson, Thermop. 3, Brock Teichert, Coke. 4, Jesse Bassett, Lovell. 5, Bonner Brown, BP. 6, Marty Thoman, Wind River.
145 – 1, Blake Mastrud, Kemm. 2, Jake Jones, Rocky Mt. 3, Corson Kerbs, Sara. 4, Kodi French, Wright. 5, Adam Beck, Lovell. 6, Forrest Hendry, KW.
152 – 1, Nathan Grant, Lovell. 2, Luke Zeller, G-R. 3, Colter Linford, Coke. 4, Daniel Magana, Wright. 5, Tyler Allen, Riverton JV. 6, Alex Collver, Wind River.
160 – 1, Nathan Hetzel, G-R. 2, Justin Rickert, Kemm. 3, Brigham Hopkin, Lovell. 4, Miles Galovich, Thermop. 5, Nate Wahlberg, Rich Co. 6, Bronson Teichert, Coke.
170 – 1, Jordan Johnson, Coke. 2, Preston Argyle, Rich Co. 3, Rob Nuttall, G-R. 4, Jonathan Tzompa, Jackson. 5, Talon Mayer, KW. 6, Bradley Hess, Wright.
182 – 1, Dino Collins, Lovell. 2, Sterling Baker, Dubois. 3, Kyle Benfield, HEM. 4, Ethan Archibald, Kemm. 5, Conner Hendry, KW. 6, Kyle Paige, Riverton JV.
195 – 1, Cody Flynn, Dubois. 2, Gabe Villegas, G-R. 3, Eli Moody, Lovell. 4, Jaspur Gurr, Riverton JV. 5, Charlie Flickinger, Jackson. 6, Josue Munoz, KW.
220 – 1, Nate Obray, KW. 2, Zane Edeler, G-R. 3, Waytt Houston, HEM. 4, Casey Savage, Riverton JV. Alex Pietzak, KW. 6, Logan Welch, Kemm.
285 – 1, Jakob Weyer, Wright. 2, Kade Earley, Rich Co. 3, Justin Irene, HEM. 4, Dalton Linnan, Shoshoni. 5, Jacob Wells, Sara. 6, Jacob Asay, Lovell.