Season of growth ends on high note for G-R

by nathan oster

Greybull-Riverside didn’t contend for a title or even a trophy last weekend in Casper, but its six wrestlers who competed at the State 2A Wrestling Championships were still able to walk away feeling good about themselves.

“We wrestled hard and did a lot of good things,” said Coach Mark Sanford. “A couple times, we did things that cost us, but we were definitely in matches that I didn’t know if we would be and we beat some kids who had beaten us before, so I thought it was a good showing for us.”

G-R finished the two days of wrestling with 28 team points, good for 17th in a 2A field dominated, once again, by Moorcroft.

Felipe Gaytan was the team’s only placer, taking fifth at 138 pounds.

“I thought we could maybe place three guys … that would have been good for us,” said Sanford. “We only placed one, but had three other guys who were one round short of placing —and two of them were in the match late, either winning or tied, but we just did things that cost us.”

Gaytan was credited with 11 of G-R’s 28 team points, winning four and losing two. He made quick work of his first opponent, pinning him in the first period, but lost in the quarters to Brysen Collier of Glenrock, 15-5. “I don’t think we wrestled our match; we wrestled his match and he kind of put it to us,” said Sanford.

The best was yet to come, though, for Gaytan. He rallied late in his next match against Ethan Long of Big Piney, recording a pair of third-period takedowns to tie the match, then winning it in the first overtime with yet another takedown.

Gaytan then beat Brendan Miller of Kemmerer, 6-1, to reach the consolation semifinals. A 7-4 loss to Zane Rising of Lingle dropped him into the fifth-place match, where Wes Teichert of Cokeville awaited. Teichert had beaten Gaytan three times, but at state, the Greybull sophomore got the better of him, winning 10-8 in overtime.

“Phil made a promise last year that he’d make the podium this year,” said Sanford. “I kept reminding him of that all year, and in the end, I was proud of him and how he finished it out. He gutted out a couple of tough matches.”

Caleb Bottom, who went 2-2 at 145, was one of the wrestlers who just missed, according to Sanford. In the quarters, he lost to the eventual state champ, Moorcroft’s Cole Cook. But Bottom’s two wins were good ones, as he pinned his first opponent, then scored a dramatic 10-8 overtime win over Wyatt Awtrey of Cokeville in the first round of wrestlebacks. Bottom was battling with Garrett Strohschein of Wright in his next match when, while in the course of going for a takedown, he got rolled up and pinned in the second period. “Caleb really started out doing good things,” said Sanford. “It was disappointing, but overall a good effort.”

At 152, Jovani Garay, a senior, didn’t wrestle. Carlos Garay did, going 0-2, although Sanford said he liked the fight shown by the GHS sophomore in his loss to Cayson Smith of Kemmerer, which ended late in the second period.

Ask Sanford who his most improved wrestler was this season and he might say Shawn Erhart. The 160-pounder, who moved in from Laurel, Mont., had never wrestled before, but dedicated himself to the sport and in particular, to getting stronger “He worked hard all summer and fall in the weight room and it helped him a lot.”

Erhart didn’t draw in well, with an opening round test against Antheny Peterson of Cokeville, a No. 2 seed. It ended in a first-period pin. But he then put together two straight wins, pinning Corden Phillips of Glenrock and Hayden Julander of Kemmerer. Julander had pinned Erhart at regionals, so turning the tables on him just days later was an “awesome” achievement, according to Sanford. Unfortunately for him, his ride ended in the next round when he lost to Justin Marden of Moorcroft.

“His improvement from the first days to last weekend was just immense,” said Sanford. “I was very pleased with him. The effort was always there; it was just a case of lacking the knowledge that comes with experience.”

Bryant Davis went 0-2 at 182 pounds, but wrestled very tough, according to Sanford. He took the eventual state champ, Tucker Allison of Moorcroft, into the second period before losing via the pin, then lost to Hunter Worman of Wright.

“I think Bryant realized things at the end of the season that will be very important going forward,” said Sanford. “That is, when he really tries and goes hard, he’s a much better wrestler than he is when he wrestles passively, and lets his opponent do what he wants to do.”

Tate Clutter, who also competed at 182, finished 2-2, but still “wrestled a very good tournament,” said Sanford. After a nice effort in his opening match, Clutter had to face Allison in the quarters. “He did a heck of a job with him,” said Sanford. Clutter was down 5-1 in the third when, in the course of trying to make something happen, he got in trouble and was pinned with less than a minute to go. Clutter, just a freshman, followed that up with a pin of Colton Befus of Wind River, but was then eliminated with a 9-6 loss to Justin Seeman of Big Piney.

Sanford felt his team “definitely improved. I feel good about that and the fact that at state, they wrestled way better than they had all year, as far as being aggressive and going after people. Even though they made some mistakes, they wrestled pretty smart. I was proud of them.”

While it was G-R’s lowest finish at state in quite some time, Sanford said, “The bottom line every year is to move kids forward. And this year, I feel like that happened. We saw a lot of improvement.”