What if you threw a regional wrestling tournament, and nobody came?
That was the situation the Evanston High School wrestling team faced last Friday, as they prepared for the start of the 4A Southwest Quadrant Qualifier at Red Devil Gymnasium. The regional tournament was scheduled to feature teams from Evanston, Rock Springs and Jackson, with the top four wrestlers in each weight class moving on to the 4A State Wrestling Championships Saturday in Casper.
Except Jackson didn’t get the memo.
“The qualifier was originally scheduled on a Saturday, but they started looking at it and realized every school had a basketball game scheduled for that day, so it got changed,” said EHS head coach Larry Wagstaff. “But that was way back in early fall, so I’m not sure why Jackson hadn’t changed it on their calendar.”
Once things got sorted out (and Jackson made it to Uinta County a day earlier than planned), the meet got underway, with wrestlers vying for a spot in Casper.
Evanston finished second as a team behind Rock Springs, with 11 Red Devils wrestling their way into the championship match of their respective weight classes. Five won quadrant titles, with 22 punching their ticket to state.
“It was kind of a different format than what we’re used to, with just three teams there,” Wagstaff said. “But I thought we wrestled fairly well — we ended up with five kids winning, and six taking second, qualified 22. All in all, it was a good weekend.”
The Red Devils qualified at least one wrestler in each weight class, save for the 182-pound division; regional winners included Ryder Wilson (113 pounds), Kendall Cummings (138), Ryker Case (145), Mayson Erickson (195) and Rigan Hoggatt (220).
Walker Wilson (106 pounds), Kyson Hamilton (120), Riley Kohler (126), Brady Roberts (132), Rowdy Saavedra (145) and Aiden Leichty (170) finished second in their classes.
“We qualified 22 kids, which is a good number,” Wagstaff said. “But I think most schools are sending similar numbers, right in that 20-24 range. Everyone will have about the same number of kids there, so it’s going to come down to who shows up and wrestles.”
At 113, Ryder Wilson went 2-0, pinning Jackson’s Jackariza Mach to win his weight class.
“Ryder’s weight class was a little light as far as competitors, but that’s not his fault,” Wagstaff said. “He ended up getting a pin in the finals, so he had a good tournament; he put himself in a good position for state.”
Kendall Cummings finished 3-0 at 138 pounds, pinning Rock Springs’ RJ Davidson in the third round to win the title.
“Kendell Cummings at 138, he pretty well dominated his weight class,” Wagstaff said. “He’s gonna have to wrestle well to get where he wants to be at state — that may be one of the better weight classes in the state, as far as good, balanced kids.”
The 145-pound championship match featured a pair of Red Devils, with EHS seniors Ryker Case and Rowdy Saavedra squaring off for the title. Case won the match in overtime.
“That match could go either way on a given day — those two are that evenly matched,” Wagstaff said of his two seniors. “When you can get two kids in the finals, that’s a good thing, especially when you move on to state. Both of them are capable of doing well.”
Fellow senior Mayson Erickson advanced to the 195-pound championship match on the strength of a pair of byes. But once he was able to wrestle an actual match, he made short work of Rock Springs’ Pablo Meza, pinning Meza in 17 seconds.
“That was another weight [class] that was light on wrestlers, but Mayson [Erickson] is wrestling pretty well right now,” Wagstaff said. “In the last month, he’s stepped it up quite a bit, and I expect him to have a good state tournament. If he goes, and scraps and wrestles to his ability, he’s gonna do well.”
Rigan Hoggatt went 3-0 at 220 pounds, winning a 6-2 decision over Jackson’s Colter Dawson in the title match.
“Rigan [Hoggatt] at 220 had a good battle in the finals against the kid from Jackson [Dawson],” Wagstaff said. “That was a good kid he had to get past, so he did well.”
Wagstaff said the competition for a 4A team title at state will be tight, with several teams in the hunt.
“There are some quality teams in 4A this year — I think Sheridan has as good a team as they’ve ever had, and Natrona has a good bunch,” he said. “Kelly Walsh, Rock Springs — all those teams have a good bunch of kids. We’re a little younger than I’d like to be, but it is what it is.”
Wagstaff’s youth movement — especially at the lower weights — features a ton of young talent, something that bodes well for the future of the program.
“The Wilson brothers — Walker [sophomore] and Ryder [freshman] — are both scrappers,” Wagstaff said. “I wouldn’t count them out of any match they’re in. They’ve got some good kids to get through, but I wouldn’t count them out.”
Wagstaff is also expecting good things from his two wrestlers at 120 pounds, as well as his one 126 pounder.
“Both of our 120 pounders [Jaxon Haider and Kyson Hamilton] are young kids, but they’re learning to scrap, learning to survive,” Wagstaff said. “At 126, the Kohler kid [Riley Kohler], if he gets on top of you, he might turn you and stick you. He’s come a long way.”
The 132 and 138-pound classes feature a pair of dynamic wrestlers in freshman Brady Roberts, and senior Kendell Cummings.
“At 132, Brady Roberts — it’s not over until it’s over whenever he wrestles,” Wagstaff said. “At 138, Kendall is very capable of winning the title, but he’s going to have to wrestle well.”
Junior Kody Rex has been solid this season at 152 pounds, while freshman Aiden Liechty has been a nice surprise at 170 pounds.
“Kody is a good, strong, physical kid,” Wagstaff said. “He can do some stuff there at state. At 170, Aiden Liechty is a freshman, but he’s as good a freshman as we’ve ever had. He’s been in some good battles this year, and survived them.”
The Red Devils have a pair of wrestlers qualified at 220 pounds, and one at heavyweight; all three should compete well, according to Wagstaff.
“I’m looking forward to Payt [Burton] and Riggan [Hoggatt] at 220,” Wagstaff said. “Riggan could win the dang thing — he’s only lost two matches this year, and I don’t think he should have lost either of those.Carson VanGieson should have a good chance at heavyweight.”
4A Southwest Quadrant Qualifier Results:
Q Saavedra (106): 0-2, fourth place
Walker Wilson (106): 1-1, second place
Ryder Wilson (113): 2-0, first place
Jaxon Haider (120): 3-1, third place
Kyson Hamilton (120): 2-1, second place
Gideon Stahl (126): 2-2, fourth place
Riley Kohler (126): 2-1, second place
Brady Roberts (132): 2-1, second place
Reece Overy (132): 2-2, fourth place
Kaden Cummings (138): 0-2, fourth place
Kendell Cummings (138): 2-0, first place
Rowdy Saavedra (145): 2-1, second place
Ryker Case (145): 3-0, first place
Kody Rex (152): 1-1, third place
Jaun Cerda (152): 0-2, fourth place
Hunter Sims (160): 2-2, fourth place
Carson Knight (160): 1-2
David Aros (170): 0-2, fourth place
Aiden Leichty (170): 1-1, second place
Mayson Erickson (195): 2-0, first place
Riggan Hoggatt (220): 3-0, first place
Payt Burton (220): 3-1, third place
Carson VanGieson (285): 3-1, third place
Guillermo Trejo (285): 1-2