With one individual champion, two runners-up and two third-place finishers, the Evanston High School wrestling team placed fourth at this weekend’s 4A West Regional at Natrona County High School in Casper.
Perennial wrestling powerhouse Green River finished in the top spot with 220 points, followed by Kelly Walsh with 213 points. Natrona County wrestled its way to third with 179.5 points, while Evanston and Rock Springs rounded out the top five with 139.5 and 136.5 points, respectively. A total of 16 Red Devils placed in the top eight of their respective classes, earning them a spot at next weekend’s 3A State Wrestling meet in Casper.
“We did pretty good, we had a good weekend,” said EHS head coach Larry Wagstaff. “We like the kids we have qualified, they’ve all worked really hard for this opportunity.”
Evanston senior Rigden Wagstaff, who finished fourth at regionals last year at 160 pounds, took the top spot this year at 170 pounds for his first 4A West title, pinning Natrona’s Brendyn Nelson at the 1:58 mark of the first round.
“Rigden had a great weekend — he just dominated that weight class at regionals,” Wagstaff said. “There are some good wrestlers at that weight on the other side of the state, but he wrestled well, so that was pretty fun.”
Red Devil sophomore Jaxin Moore at 120 pounds and senior Eric Orozco at 285 pounds advanced to the championship match in their respective weight classes. Moore lost to Green River’s Clayton Mele to finish second, while Orozco came up short against AJ Kelly of Rock Springs.
Finishing third for the Red Devils were Kendell Cummings at 138 pounds and Rigan Hoggat at 220 pounds. Brandon VanGieson finished fourth at 113 pounds, as did Rowdy Saavedra at 152 pounds and Mayson Erickson at 195 pounds.
After receiving a first-round bye, Wagstaff finished 3-0 at 170 pounds, including a pin of Rock Springs’ Lance Kettering in the semifinals and a 9-0 decision over Aragon Garro of Kelly Walsh in the quarterfinals.
Moore’s 3-1 record at 120 pounds included a first-round pin of Laramie’s John Deleon and a 3-1 decision over Tim Henry of Rock Springs. His loss to Mele in the championship came by a pin in the third round; Mele came into the tournament ranked first in the state in 4A.
“Jaxin wrestled that kid [Mele] super-tough,” Wagstaff said. “He was ahead at one time, but you make one mistake against that kid and he makes you pay for it.”
Orozco finished 2-1 at 285 pounds, with pins over Jaxson Tilghman of Laramie in the quarterfinals and Connor McBroom of Kelly Walsh in the semis.
“Eric [Orozco] wrestled a big strong kid,” Wagstaff said of Kelly, who is ranked No. 2 in the state in 4A. “Hopefully, he’ll get to wrestle him again this week.”
After pinning his first two opponents, Cummings lost by pin in the 138-pound semifinals to eventual runner-up Noah Hone of Kelly Walsh. Cummings rebounded by pinning Zach Weipert of Green River in the consolation semis and won a close 8-7 decision over Rock Springs’ Mason Yenney in the third-place match.
At 225 pounds, Riggan Hoggat finished 3-1 for the tournament, losing to Kelly Walsh’s Phoenix Buske before pinning Laramie’s Noah Gill in the consolation semifinals. In the third-place match, Hoggat pinned Dominic Dockery of Natrona County.
“Riggan had a great tournament — he turned it on and wrestled some good matches for us,” Wagstaff said. “Kendell [Cummings] wrestled pretty steady. Both those kids are in a pretty good place to be able to place at state.”
After splitting his first two matches at 113 pounds, VanGieson won by no contest over Red Devils’ teammate Luke Benton to advance to the third-place match; he lost by pin to Natrona’s Kael Johnson to finish fourth.
“Brandon [VanGieson] is one of those kids that other wrestlers need to watch out for,” Wagstaff said. “He’s capable of wrestling with anybody.”
After falling to Rock Springs’ Cash Christensen in his tournament-opening match at 152 pounds, Evanston’s Rowdy Saavedra rattled off four straight wins, including a 12-1 major decision over Kelly Walsh’s Cory Kaufman in the consolation semifinals. In the third-place match, Saavedra lost by pin to Kelly Walsh’s Sam Henderson to finish fourth.
Also placing in the top eight and earning a trip to state were: Q Saavedra at 106 pounds (fifth place); Walker Wilson at 106 pounds (eighth place, 1-2); Luke Benton at 113 pounds (seventh place, 1-2); Kody Rex at 132 pounds (seventh place, 2-2); Carsen Knight at 145 pounds (sixth place); Ryker Case at 145 pounds (seventh place, 2-2); Payt Burton at 220 pounds (sixth place) and Carson VanGeison at 285 pounds (seventh place).
“We had a bunch of young kids who wrestled close matches that could have gone either way,” Wagstaff said. “The best part of that is most of these kids will be back for us next season.”
The Red Devils will fine-tune a few things this week, then hit the road this weekend for the 4A State Tournament at the Casper Events Center. Coach Wagstaff said the team is ready to go; the trick will be to keep everyone relaxed until then.
“We’ll just keep fine-tuning things this week,” he said. “We’ll back them off a little bit, but there’s definitely some stuff to work on. We have a bunch of young kids going to state for the first time, so we’ll get them prepared for that first match.”