Four swift pins were all that stood between Alex Schlattmann and dreams of a state title last Saturday.
Last February, an elbow injury brought his year to a crashing halt and cost him appearances at both Regionals and State. For the Basin junior, this season offered a chance at redemption — a chance at claiming his first title, something that was stolen from within his grasp last season.
“Last year, he was in a position where he was not too far from being in that finals match,” Coach Mark Sanford said. “I thought he could have been anywhere from fourth to first, but it was good to finally get him there.”
Although challenging, Schlattmann did everything he could to ensure an easy path to victory. A regional champion and Ron Thon placer, the grappler emerged dominant in the 145 pound weight toward the end of the season.
Schlattmann entered his first two matches against Kemmerer’s Lowell Ellis and Big Piney’s Calder Taylor relatively confident. Schlattmann cruised to an easy victory, retaining control throughout the duration of both matches and pinning his opponents within the first period.
For Sanford and Schlattmann, his dual against Cokeville’s Antheny Petersen — what would become his longest match of the tournament at 3:05 — was the make or break point.
An upset by Big Piney during the regional tournament spared Schlattmann (for better or worse) a rematch against Petersen. Schlattmann was beat by Petersen before and had yet to face off against the grappler again, a point of minor concern. Yet after observing Petersen at Ron Thon and regionals, Schlattmann grew increasingly confident that he could beat his Cokeville counterpart.
“‘I think I just got caught with Petersen’,” Sanford recalls Schlattmann telling him in the lead up to State.
Schlattmann moved quickly in his match with Petersen to secure the first takedown, scoring two points. After a bit of a struggle, Petersen escaped from his grasp and took to his feet, cutting Schlattmann’s lead to one.
“He’s hard to hold down,” Sanford said. “Alex usually rides on top, but Petersen’s an athletic kid and got away from us.”
Hoping to expand his lead, Schlattmann took Petersen down a second time, scoring two points, and attempted to run him out of bounds. A high-risk move, Schlattmann opened himself up to a switch, effectively nullifying the points from the takedown.
“It was probably the only mistake we made all tournament,” Sanford said. “We were still up going into the second period, but it should have been 4–2 if we had stood on him.”
Schlattmann exhibited greater control during the second period, working Petersen mostly from the top position. A close call by Petersen allowed Schlattmann to strike and score the pin.
“We got in a bit of a scramble but ended up in the right position and put him right on his back,” Sanford said. “We were in a good position with nowhere for him to go and he knew it. He just gave [the pin] up.”
Schlattmann’s victory over Petersen secured him a spot in the finals, facing off against either Southeast’s Chase Lovercheck or Big Piney’s Kaden Kranendonk.
“I didn’t think it would be the [Kranendonk,]” Sanford said, “I thought it was probably going to be [Lovercheck.]”
Due to his height and ability on his feet, Sanford cautioned Schlattmann against taking a more aggressive approach. Instead, Schlattmann opted to work a majority of the match from the mat.
“We took him down, put him on the mat and went to work on him,” Sanford said. “You don’t have to rush or hurry — just take your shots and finish hard.”
Against Kranendonk, Schlattmann wrestled a very tight match on the mat. In under two minutes, Schlattmann was able to subdue his opponent and secure his first state championship.
“He did a great job and finished it out,” Sanford said.
“His dad said it was a little anticlimactic actually — he just walked out there and took care of his business. To be honest, I’ll take those victories any day as opposed to anything else.”