by nathan oster
In sports, it’s not where you begin, but rather where you end, that counts.
Greybull-Riverside began last season with more question than answers, with just one returning state placer and uncertainty up and down the lineup. From a lemon, Coach Mark Sanford and his staff made lemonade, leading their team to a fifth-place finish in Casper.
As this season begins, the cupboard isn’t nearly as bare. With five returning state placers, G-R is expected to be one of the top teams in 2A. In fact, Sanford’s squad is third in the wyowrestling.com preseason poll, behind only Moorcroft, winner of the last three state titles, and Cokeville.
Sixteen kids are out for wrestling this year.
“Quite a few of them are seniors, so that’s good,” said Sanford. “We hope that as they mature, they have the attitude to not only push themselves to be the best that they can be, but also to help bring their younger teammates along.”
The five returning state placers include:
- Cole Hill, second at 152;
- Lane Nielsen, fourth at 170;
- Jorge Carmona, fifth at 120;
- Marshall Gibbs, sixth at 126;
- Luis Burgos, sixth at 113.
Sanford said it’s too soon to tell where these five are going to fit in the lineup.
One challenge that he faces is sorting out a logjam in upper weights. The roster stood at 16 as this week began, and while they are pretty well disbursed from top to bottom in weight, there is a grouping of kids in the 160 and 170 pound range.
To take the next step into the upper echelon of 2A teams, G-R needs not only those five to wrestle the way they are capable of wrestling, but also for several others with previous experience to step up.
Jose Carmona, for example, advanced within a round of placing at the state meet, while two other returnees, Anthony Eibert and Alex Schlattmann, were unable to compete in Casper due to injuries.
Dade Greene is perhaps the promising newcomer to the program. He brings considerable experience, both from the USA and middle school programs, but might be at a disadvantage wrestling at the upper weights where stronger and more seasoned wrestlers typically fill the brackets.
Several other newcomers also have the potential to contribute this season, said Sanford.
“To do much as a team this season, we have to have those guys, the five returning placers and the three others with extensive experience, moving up,” said Sanford. “They can’t be finishing fifth and sixth … we need them to be wrestling for third and fourth, and if they were wrestling for third and fourth last year, we need them wrestling for first and second this year.
“We’re going to need a few of our other kinds contributing too and hopefully scoring points for us.”
The preseason poll that appears on wyowrestling.com has Greybull-Riverside in the No. 3 position in 2A and seven of its wrestlers ranked among the top seven in their respective weight classes: Burgos, third at 120; Jorge Carmona, fourth at 126; Gibbs, seventh at 145; Schlattmann, seventh at 152; Hill, second at 160; Jose Carmona, sixth at 170, and Nielsen, second at 182.
Sanford said there’s no doubt Moorcroft is the team to beat, citing its numbers and quality returnees. The Wolves have blown away the 2A field in each of the past two state tournaments.
Cokeville should be strong again, too, he said.
Last year the best wrestling programs in the state, with the exception of Moorcroft, hailed from the west. Sanford said he expects that to be the case again this year. Besides Cokeville and his own squad, Lyman, Rocky Mountain and Shoshoni also have strong returning casts, he said.
G-R will open the season Friday and Saturday at the Powell Invitational, a meet that attracts some of the top teams in Wyoming — including many 4A and 3A squads (among them, the host Powell Panthers).
Sanford said he plans to enter half his team in the varsity, the other half in junior varsity.