by nathan oster
Greybull-Riverside didn’t make much noise in the varsity division at the Ron Thon Memorial, producing only a fourth-place finish by 160-pounder Nathan Hetzel and 22 team points in what is widely considered to be the most competitive prep tournament of the season in Wyoming.
Held in Riverton, the Ron Thon attracted 706 wrestlers from 41 Wyoming teams.
Gillette won the team title with 217 points, followed by Cheyenne East (194) and Douglas (159.5). Lovell was tops among the 2A West teams in the field, taking ninth with 99 points. Cokeville, with 50 points, ranked 17th. G-R landed in 25th, getting points not only from Hetzel but also Stephen Kerr in the 138-pound division.
“It was a very tough tournament, but I thought the way we were wrestling was good,” said Coach Mark Sanford, who actually entered the majority of his kids in the junior varsity division. “The thing is, at that level, you cannot make big mistakes. Sometimes, you can’t even make little mistakes. And you have to wrestle the full six minutes…you can’t let up.”
Sanford said the effort was there, and were it not for an injury to Gabe Villegas, it would have gone down as a positive, learning experience for the Buffs.
If there was a downer, it was the Villegas injury. After an opening-round bye, he was engaged with his first opponent, and wrestling well, when he suffered what appeared to be a dislocated elbow. He was taken to a hospital and checked out. His status moving forward is uncertain, Sanford said.
Hetzel was the team’s top finisher. The No. 4 seed going in, he opened with a pin of a Star Valley opponent, then needed to face his old nemesis, Jacob Beck of Lovell. As he did at the Greybull tourney, Hetzel came out on top — although this time it was much closer, with Hetzel surviving 7-5 in overtime.
In the semifinals, he ran into Tanner Olson of Gillette. Olson came out on top 7-1 and went on to win the title. Hetzel, though, came back nicely, defeating Tyler Patterson of Powell 6-4 to earn a spot in the third-place match. In it, he got pinned by Lane Reed of Douglas in 3:57.
“He hit the No. 1 and the No. 3 seeds — those are the only two kids who beat him,” said Sanford. “I was pleased with Nate, especially since he really wasn’t feeling all that well going in.”
Sanford also had high praise for Kerr, who went 2-2 at 138 pounds and just missed earning a spot in the place matches. “He went on a nice little run on the backside” after losing to the No. 4 seed,” Sanford said. His victories came over wrestlers from Rawlins and Worland.
“Not a bad showing for Stephen, although it would have been great if he could have gotten one or two more wins,” Sanford said.
G-R’s other varsity wrestlers went two and out.
Matt Grovenstein, the team’s 120-pounder, lost to the No. 1 seed, then fell victim to “walking into a nice headlock” in a match-up with a wrestler from Green River.
At 132, Levi Kelly drew an opponent from Evanston, and although he jumped out to an early lead, he couldn’t hold it and lost 17-4. Kelly — and other Buffs — learned the hard way that Evanston kids wrestle very well from the bottom position, Sanford said. Kelly also lost his second match, falling to a Glenrock wrestler.
Luke Zeller found himself in “probably the tournament’s toughest weight class,” with “a lot of quality kids in the mix there, ” according to Sanford. The No. 3 seed going in, Zeller lost to a kid from Evanston 10-6. The match was tied 6-6 when Zeller went for the win, but got taken down and gave up a two-point nearfall. Zeller then lost to “a quality kid” from Riverton.
Zeller wasn’t the only 2A wrestler to struggle in Riverton. Nathan Grant of Lovell did not place either. Jake Jones of Rocky Mountain, finished behind both Grant and Zeller in Greybull, was the only one of the elite 2A 152-pounders who placed, and he finished sixth.
Several Buffs had standout performances in the junior varsity division.
At 112, Kyle Strasheim went 2-2 and came within a one round of placing.
Chris Ogg “wrestled really well,” winning six of his eight matches to finish fourth at 120. He opened with a pin, lost 6-5 to a Sheridan kid who had beaten him earlier in Powell, then rallied “on the backside” to win five straight before dropping his finale in the third-place match.
Jesus Burgos went 3-2 at 138 pounds but did not place.
Spencer Redland won four of his five matches at 170 pounds and placed third. The only one he lost, though, was a big one. That’s because his opponent was a kid from Dubois, Jesse Hawk, who he had split with earlier in the season. With the win, Hawk has now won two of the three matches and will likely get a higher seed at regionals. That said, the loss should not overshadow what was otherwise a very good effort by Redland, according to Sanford.
Zane Edeler was a real force at 220 pounds. By weekend’s end, he was kicking himself for his only loss. After beating kids from Kemmerer and Cheyenne East, Edeler found himself up against a Powell kid in the semifinals — and was winning the match 10-3 when he got put on his back and pinned. The Powell kid went on to win the JV title, while Edeler wiped the mat with his next opponent, needing less than a minute to register the pin and earn the third-place finish.
Trenton Kelly, the team’s heavyweight, went two and out and did not place.
G-R closes out the regular season with a 6 p.m. dual today (Thursday, Feb. 9) in Cody.