by nathan oster
Greybull-Riverside begins the season in a similar position to the one it found itself in one year ago, with about a half dozen quality returning wrestlers setting the tone for what is otherwise an unproven squad.
Coach Mark Sanford, whose squad opens with a dual in Worland today, has a roster of approximately 23 wrestlers. For the first time in many years, the majority hails from Riverside High School.
The good news is there’s reason for optimism. The Buffs placed fourth in 2A last year, getting wins from 13 of their 15 wrestlers on the floor of the Casper Events Center in February.
Five of the eight G-R wrestlers who placed last year return, including Cole Hill, who was third at 145; Spencer Redland, third at 195; Jesus Burgos, fifth at 138; Zane Edeler, fifth at 220; and Tanner Bernstein, fifth at 285.
Hill capped his freshman season in impressive fashion, earning third in a competitive weight class. “He needs to continue to open it up this year,” said Sanford of his sophomore standout.
Redland “should have been in the state finals last year,” Sanford said. “Him being afraid to make a mistake at state cost us a match. He should have won his semifinal match. Hopefully the senior mentality, of putting it all out there and going for it, will help him this year.”
Edeler is a two-time state placer, having earned a second in his weight class as a freshman. Sanford is equally high on him, but the challenge right now is finding a weight class that works for him, as he and Redland are close in terms of their current weights.
Burgos wrestled at 140 last year, but will begin the year either one or two weight classes above that, said Sanford.
Bernstein “will probably go at heavyweight,” a division in which he excelled last season, according to Sanford. The challenge for Bernstein will be staying on the mat, as he’s currently nursing an injury.
“We’re about where we were last year at this time, in that we have some returning guys who have done fairly well and a lot of inexperienced guys,” said Sanford. “It’ll be a process of learning and making progress as we go.”
Sanford reeled off the names of a number of promising newcomers and returnees, including Chris Ogg, who is “looking good” in his return to the team after missing all of last season with a knee injury; Marshall Gibbs, who gained valuable experience last year; as well as Luke Young, the Carmonas (Jose and Jorge), the Peoples (Ryan and Chase) and the Wollams (Tyler and Ashton).
The Buffs accomplished their goal of earning a trophy at last year’s state tournament.
For them to do it again, they’ll need their youngsters to grow up in a hurry — and their proven commodities to deliver the goods. If they want to make a run at the title, the road will likely go through Moorcroft-Hulett.
The Wolves set a 2A record for points scored at a state tournament last year and didn’t lose much to graduation. “They’re the team to beat, for sure,” said Sanford. “Plus, they’ve got a loaded eighth-grade class moving in. So they’ll be tough.”
On the western half of the state, Cokeville “will be tough as nails again,” with several state finalists returning. Of the top four, Lovell probably lost the most to graduation. “But they still have a good core of kids returning,” said Sanford. And then there’s Shoshoni, which he called the “team most likely to surprise” this season.
“As always, we want to be vying for the title,” said Sanford, when asked where he feels his team fits in the 2A mix. “That’s always our goal. But we have a lot of work to do.”
Task number one will be getting the kids spread out weight-wise and all the weight classes filled. First up is a dual with a stout Worland team today (Thursday, Dec. 5) in Worland. Matches begin at 6 p.m.
“It’ll be a tough one for us because Worland is a solid 3A program and has some good kids coming back — some at the lighter weights, some at the middle weights and some in the heavier weights,” said Sanford.
From there, the Buffs will turn their attention to their annual trip to Powell for what is typically one of the most competitive meets of the season, with wrestling from all four Wyoming weight classes in attendance. From the Buffs perspective, Sanford likes the tournament because everyone gets a lot of mat time in the pool portion of the tournament.