Evanston’s Will Kishpaugh wrestling at a recent meet. Kishpaugh has been out with an injury in recent weeks. Photo by Judd Kishpaugh
GREEN RIVER — The Evanston Red Devils wrestling team narrowly lost a dual to the Rock Springs Tigers, 36-39 on Wednesday, Jan. 16, in Rock Springs, where they were to return this Saturday, Jan. 26, for the 4A West Conference duals.
But hold the phones. The Red Devils host the Green River Wolves on Wednesday, Jan. 30, in their final home appearance. That means the Red Devils will have three individual duals beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday against the Kelly Walsh Trojans, the Riverton Wolverines at 11 a.m., and the Natrona County Mustangs at 1 p.m.
The team will depart from Evanston on Friday afternoon and stay the night in Casper, according to head coach Larry Wagstaff. Yes, Casper. Originally on the schedule for Rock Springs to host, the Red Devils will travel to the Oil City instead.
Red Devils wrestling, in the past couple of weeks, returned to a place they had not been since the preseason — among the top-six ranked teams in Class 4A, according to WyoWrestling.com — Evanston is currently ranked sixth, while reentering the top six at number five in the previous ranking.
Of the team’s Evanston will face on Saturday, the Trojans have made a top six appearance, while Riverton and Natrona County have been fixtures in the top six, exchanging third and fourth place, behind Gillette and Cheyenne East, No. 1 and 2 all season long.
The Red Devils have not been a team intact, due to illness and injuries. The returning state champion at 152 pounds — Brayton Sanders — competing this season at 160 pounds, has fallen victim to illness.
Zack Guild, at 126 pounds, has been out of the lineup with illness, as well, and Will Kishpaugh, a top seven-ranked wrestler, has been out with a back injury. The Red Devils have not been fielding a 220-pound wrestler, as of late, and have missed a wrestler at 106 pounds at different times. In head-to-head duals, not having a wrestler at a particular weight is a forfeit, awarding the opposing team six points.
Taking a look at Evanston’s adjusted line-up, as far as ranked wrestlers go for the Red Devils, and the teams they will face in the Trojans, Wolverines and Mustangs at Kelly Walsh High School, it shakes out like this:
• There are no top seven-ranked wrestlers from Kelly Walsh, Riverton or Natrona County at 106 pounds, the class where Evanston will again have Lane Barker in the lineup.
• Korbin Wagstaff, ranked sixth at 113 pounds, is ranked above any of the competition he will see this weekend.
• Gavin Wilson of Riverton is ranked third at 120 pounds, where Red Devil Tucker Leland will compete.
• Neither Evanston, nor any of the three teams they will compete against, have a ranked wrestler at 126 pounds, where Zack Guild held the varsity spot for the Red Devils. Guild’s return is questionable at press time, from what Wagstaff shared. Even if Guild is over the illness, he may have lost too much strength and endurance while ill to compete to his potential, and it may take a while longer for the young wrestler to return to form.
• Bruce Lester is ranked fourth at 132 pounds for Evanston, with Carlos Salazar ranked third for the Kelly Walsh Trojans, and Arhen Wempen of Riverton ranked number two. Lester could make up some ground and score points for his team, if he wrestles well.
• Robby Roundy wrestles at 138 for the Red Devils, with the state’s top-ranked wrestler in Kelly Walsh’s Tannar Galey the wrestler to beat at 138.
• Batista Covolo is ranked fourth, at 145 pounds, for Evanston. Riverton’s Tyler Allen and Kelly Walsh’s Bryson Peel are ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, so Covolo will be challenged.
• Kyler Wagstaff has steadily climbed to take over the number-two spot at 152 pounds, behind Jordan Fischer of Campbell County. According to the rankings, Wagstaff will face a loaded field that includes Beau Batista of Riverton, ranked right behind him in third place, along with Forrest Hendry of Kelly Walsh and Matt Bernardis of NC, rated sixth and seventh, respectively. Wagstaff could definitely be a factor in scoring points for the Red Devils this Saturday.
• Evanston’s Sanders, at 160 pounds, is ranked second behind Lukas Poloncic of Campbell County. Riverton’s Rudy Batista is ranked fourth, and he and Sanders have had some classic battles. Casey Brown of Natrona County is seventh at 160. Sanders has been out of the lineup for upwards of two weeks. He’ll go if he’s able.
As tough a competitor as the senior leader is, his conditioning may simply not be up to par to achieve the kind of success he expects of himself and the team has come to know. But he will likely give everything he has, despite being nowhere close to 100 percent, health-wise.
• At 170 pounds, Brecken Biggs, the quarterback of the state championship Mustangs team, is ranked second for NC, with Riverton’s T.J. Galey in third place, ahead of Evanston’s Will Kishpaugh in fifth. Kishpaugh, according to Wagstaff, has started to work out again, but is not full-scale from the back injury he suffered in the Vernal Tournament of Champions, and will not be available for the conference duals. Connor Martin will wrestle in his stead at the duals in Casper.
Kyle Page of Riverton is the seventh-ranked wrestler at 182 pounds, where Kaycee Miles has been the varsity wrestler for the Red Devils.
• At 195 pounds, Conner Hendry of Kelly Walsh, ranked fourth, and Natrona County’s Lance Ferguson, ranked seventh, will be among the major obstacles for Sean Sowers of Evanston to overcome.
• The Red Devils will not likely field a wrestler at 220 pounds, a stacked division, with Greg Lensert of NC ranked number one in the state, Riverton’s Jacob Flesher ranked fifth, and Nate Obray of Kelly Walsh, seventh.
• Red Devils heavyweight Carlos Heredia will attempt to up his stock, currently ranked sixth at 285. Riverton’s Dawson Steeds and Kelly Walshs’ Kaleb Clark are ranked fourth and fifth, and David Souders of Natrona County rounds out the top-seven.
Three duals in one day. It’s tough, but the other teams in the 4A West will face the same challenges. However, Kelly Walsh, Riverton and Natrona County, along with Rock Springs and Green River, will likely not have as many holes in their line-ups as Evanston will. The Red Devils are wrestling many freshmen and a number of sophomores against more seasoned wrestlers and more depth from larger squads, but that has been the case all season long.
Evanston will have their final home appearance next Wednesday, Jan. 30, in a dual with Green River, to complete the dual competition against the conference foes. Following Green River, Evanston will travel to Riverton for the Ron Thon Memorial on Feb. 1 and 2, and compete against the Star Valley Braves in a dual in Afton on Feb. 7, as the final tune-ups before the regional tournament, back in Riverton, Feb. 15 and 16, and the state wrestling tournament in Casper on Feb. 22 and 23.