Korbin Wagstaff wrestles a Gillette opponent during a recent meet. Photo by Judd Kishpaugh
RIVERTON — “Don’t count the Red Devils out,” was the most resounding and memorable quote Red Devils wrestling head coach Larry Wagstaff passed along to the Herald, when speaking of his team as it prepared to travel to Riverton for the 4A West Conference regional tournament today and tomorrow, Feb. 15 and 16. The team was scheduled to have a short practice after school on Thursday, then board the bus to head to Riverton, a site familiar to the Red Devils and their competition, which attended the Ron Thon Memorial Invitational a couple of weeks back, on Feb. 1 and 2.
The seeding process does not take long, according to the head coach. Each conference team can enter two wrestlers in each weight division. Head-to-head results matter most in terms of seeding, and all teams have wrestled the others in conference duals.
“If you’ve beaten a kid who’s defeated another kid, that plays into it some,” Wagstaff explained, “but with the conference duals and the recent Ron Thon, it’s pretty clear cut when you walk into that room, and seedings won’t take long at all.”
The official criteria, in descending order, as set by the Wyoming High School Activities Association, breaks the seeding down as follows:
1. Head to head competition
2. Record against common opponents
3. Returning state placers at same weight (order of place)
4. Returning state placers at any weight (order of place)
5. Best overall record (minimum of ten varsity matches)
6. Coin flip
7. Wrestlers who are not seeded will be randomly drawn into the bracket.
8. Once seeding begins for each weight class, a wrestler may not be taken off the board for consideration.
Evanston had one final tune-up in a non-conference dual last week in Star Valley against the Braves last Thursday, Feb. 7, wrestling without Bruce Lester and Zack Guild in the line-up, and fell by nine points. The Braves defeated the Red Devils 49-21 in the Braves’ Brawl back on Dec. 7 and 8. That’s marked improvement.
“I think if we’d had those two wrestlers, we may have gotten them,” Wagstaff said of his team.
Korbin Wagstaff and Tucker Leland won in the lighter weights, at 113 and 120 pounds, and Evanston picked up victories through the middle weights with Batista Covolo, Kyler Wagstaff, Brayton Sanders, and William Kishpaugh in the 145- through 170-pound classifications.
The top four in each weight class from the regional tournament will move on to the state tournament, to face the top four from the other side of the state. The 4A East Conference regional tournament will be held in Laramie.
Wagstaff gives a bit of an edge to Natrona County, just because the Mustangs sport a roster large enough to enter two athletes at every weight. While only one can score points, “the other can go through and knock other wrestlers out of contention, and they will just have more opportunity to do that,” Wagstaff explained.
“We’re just excited to be there,” the head coach continued. “And it should be a very good tournament. We’ve all got some outstanding wrestlers in certain weights, and kids we’d like to see do a little better. Our kids are just looking forward to getting after it.”
In the most recent rankings from WyoWrestling.com, the Red Devils had fallen out of the top six, where they had been for the past three ranking periods, re-entering at number five. The 10-time state champion Gillette Camels and Cheyenne East Thunderbirds have been one and two all season long, with Natrona County, Riverton and other schools jockeying for positions three through six. Going into the regional tournament weekends for both the east and west conferences, Campbell County is number one, followed by Cheyenne East, Natrona County, Cheyenne Central, Riverton and Green River.
Individual wrestlers are ranked seven deep.
• 106: Lane Barker has been the Red Devils’ 106-pounder. Five of the seven ranked wrestlers at 106 pounds are from the 4A East Conference, with Cole Verner of Green River ranked second, and Marcos Chavez of Rock Springs ranked fifth, for Barker to contend with.
• 113: The Red Devils’ 113-pounder, Korbin Wagstaff, has been top-seven ranked at both 113 and 120 pounds, but is not listed at 113 in the most recent rankings, in a classification, like 106 pounds, dominated by wrestlers from the east side of the state. Shandon Welsh of Green River and Jeff Johnson of Rock Springs are ranked fifth and seventh, respectively.
• 120: Just two wrestlers from the 4A West Conference are ranked among the top seven at 120 pounds, where Tucker Leland has battled for the Red Devils. Gavin Wilson of Riverton is ranked fourth, and Ben Nathan of Green River is sixth.
• 126: Evanston’s Zack Guild has moved into seventh place at 126 pounds. Guild’s toughest competition at the regional tournament may be top-ranked Zeke Mamalis of Green River and fourth-ranked Adrian Sisneros of Kelly Walsh.
• 132: Red Devil Bruce Lester has been a mainstay in the top seven at 132 pounds. Lester is ranked sixth, with Arhen Wempen of Riverton, ranked second, and Carlos Salazar of Kelly Walsh, fourth, two wrestlers Lester may have to rise above. Jaime Flores of Green River is seventh, right behind Lester.
• 138: At 138 pounds, Tannar Galey of Kelly Walsh had been top-ranked all year, but dropped to second after the Ron Thon Invitational, with Cody Fredricks of Rock Springs fifth, T.J. Turner of Riverton, sixth and Matt Bernardis of Natrona County rounding out the top seven, representing the favorites Red Devil Robby Roundy may have to overcome at the regional tournament.
Update: The Red Devils will have swapped positions with their 132- and 138-pound and wrestlers — Roundy will drop to 132 and Lester will jump up to 138. Toby DeGraw will also wrestle at 138 for the Red Devils.
• 145: Red Devil Batista Covolo, ranked third at 145 pounds, has been a fixture in the top seven all season long. Covolo is the top-ranked wrestler in the west, with only three-time state champion Danni Fischer of Campbell County and Hayes Stone of Cheyenne East ranked higher, although Tyler Allen of Riverton is fourth, Justin Verner of Green River is fifth, Josh Palomo of Natrona County is sixth, and another Green River Wolf, Austin Waters, is seventh. Shawn Fraughton will also wrestle at 145 for the Red Devils.
• 152: Kyler Wagstaff is Evanston’s highest ranked wrestler, second in the 152-pound classification — remarkable, since he was unranked for the first half of the year — with most of the top-seven ranked wrestlers hailing from the west conference. Wagstaff is ranked above any wrestler he will face at the regional tournament. Beau Batista of Riverton is third, Shay McCurdy of Green River is fourth, with Bryson Peel and Forrest Hendry of Kelly Walsh ranked fifth and sixth, respectively. Peel may drop back to 145 pounds, where he was ranked sixth in the last batch of rankings.
• 160: At 160 pounds, Brayton Sanders, coming off a sternum injury and bronchitis, is ranked third. Sanders was the state champion at 152 pounds last year, in his junior season. Lukas Poloncic of Campbell County has been the top-ranked wrestler at 160, with Sanders second most of the season. Brecken Biggs of Natrona County, who dropped down from 170 pounds, is now ranked second, and the top-ranked competitor in the west conference. Rudy Batista of Riverton is fourth, with Casey Brown of Natrona County at number six.
• 170: At 170 pounds, William Kishpaugh is ranked fifth. Kishpaugh missed some late season competition due to a back injury, but returned to the lineup for Evanston’s last two duals and the Ron Thon Memorial Invitational. Of the four wrestlers ranked above him, only top-ranked T.J. Galey of Riverton will be present, although Jordan Kraft of Natrona County is seventh-ranked. Connor Martin will also wrestle at 170 for Evanston.
• 182: In the 182 pound class, Myler Thomas of Natrona County is ranked second, with Reece Prosser of Riverton rounding out the top seven, with the other five ranked wrestlers at 182 pounds members of 4A East Conference teams. Kaycee Miles will battle for Evanston.
• 195: Sean Sowers will compete for Evanston at 195 pounds. Four of the seven ranked wrestlers will be battling in the regional tournament in Riverton, including Casey Savage at number three, fourth-ranked James Sedey of Rock Springs, with Josue Munoz of Kelly Walsh, and Bridger Berry of Natrona County ranked sixth and seventh, respectively.
• 220: Eric Sowers is Evanston’s 220-pounder, a weight class, according to the rankings, dominated by wrestlers from the east side of the state. Greg Lensert of Natrona County had been number one all season, but has slipped to second. He and Jacob Flesher of Riverton, who is ranked seventh, will be among the toughest competition for Sowers.
• 285: At 285, Natrona’s Coulter Bentley is tops among the heavyweights. Riverton’s Dawson Steeds and Kelly Walsh’s Caleb Clark our ranked fourth and fifth, directly above of Evanston’s Carlos Heredia, ranked sixth.
Update: This may be a weigh-in type of last-minute decision, but Evanston could very well move the wrestlers in the last three weight classes — 285, 220, and 195 — back a classification, as all could likely be eligible, meaning Sean Sowers would join Kaycee Miles at 182, Eric Sowers would drop back to replace Sean at 195, and Heredia would wrestle at 220, with Evanston competing without a 285/heavyweight.
Weigh-ins will be at 10 a.m. Friday morning, followed by the seeding meeting at 10:30 a.m., with first round championship matches taking place between noon and 2 p.m. Championship quarterfinals will run from 2 to 4 p.m., second round wrestle-backs will be 4 to 6 p.m., and third round wrestle-backs from 6 to 7:30 p.m., with championship semifinals from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
On Saturday, weigh-ins take place at 8 a.m., with consolation semifinals running between 10 and 11:30 a.m., and the consolation and championship finals from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., all taking place on two mats at Riverton High School.
3A West wrestling regional in Mountain View
In Class 3A, the top three teams all season long have been Star Valley, Douglas and Powell. The most recent rankings have the Panthers out on top, followed by the Star Valley Braves and the Douglas Bearcats, with the next three — Worland, Lander and Torrington — completing the top six teams in 3A Wrestling, according to WyoWrestling.com.
Top-seven ranked wrestlers from Lyman and Mountain View include Douglass Brodie, second at 106 pounds; Jake Hicks, fifth at 132 pounds for Lyman; and Drake Menck, first at 182 pounds for Mountain View.
Mountain View will host the 3A West regional tourney on Feb. 15 and 16, with Buffalo the host school for the 3A East. The 3A West Conference includes Cody, Jackson Hole, Lander, Lyman, Mountain View, Pinedale, Powell and Star Valley.