Saturday’s 4A State Wrestling Tournament in Casper was unprecedented in terms of its execution; what was once a three-day grind was consolidated into one whirlwind session, where — depending on his or her bracket — wrestlers could have up to six matches under their belt by the end of the day.
A handful of Evanston wrestlers flirted with that number — four Red Devils reached the championship semifinals, with one advancing to the title match in his weight class. Evanston came up just short in its quest for an individual title, but finished seventh as a team, returning home with four medals and an All-State honoree.
“I thought we ended up about where I thought we would,” said EHS head coach Larry Wagstaff. “I thought our kids wrestled well, we were competitive. Quite a few of our kids won matches, which says a lot about those kids.”
Red Devil junior Rigan Hoggatt finished second at 220 pounds, earning All-State honors for his efforts.
Senior Kendell Cummings capped off his high school career with a third-place finish at 138 pounds; sophomore Walker Wilson also finished third at 106 pounds. Senior Mayson Erickson rounded out the medalists, placing fourth at 195 pounds.
Natrona County took the top spot in a wild finish, winning the team title on the final match of the day with 247.5 points. Sheridan was second with 243.5 points, followed by Thunder Basin with 224.
“Coming down to the end there, where you have your last two 285-pounders from football schools out there wrestling — and it’s tied going in — that’s pretty exciting,” Wagstaff said. “That was nice to see.”
Cheyenne East was fourth with 188 points, while Kelly Walsh (160), Rock Springs (114) and Evanston (98.5) rounded out the top seven.
Hoggatt faced off with Thunder Basin’s Lane Catlin in the 220-pound championship final, losing by pin in the first round. Hoggatt pinned Natrona’s Dominic Dockery, decisioned Sheridan’s Quinton Mangus and pinned Kelly Walsh’s Dom Gray to advance to the title match.
“I thought coming into the tournament that Rigan would do well, and he did,” Wagstaff said. “He wrestled some great matches. That kid he had in the finals is a pretty awesome kid, but that being said, Rigan had to earn his way into that match. He had a good tournament, and a good year.”
Though it didn’t go the way he wanted in the title match, Hoggatt said he was pleased with his overall performance.
“I feel like I could have done better in my finals match,” he said. “But the rest of the day, I felt I did really well...Making All-State means a lot, because it means my hard work this season paid off. My favorite moment was winning in the semifinals, and earning my spot in the finals.”
After pins over Rylie Nelson (Rock Springs) and Braxden Stewart (Cheyenne East) to open the tournament, Cummings squared off against Sheridan’s Reese Osborne in the semifinals, losing to the eventual 138-pound champion by a 14-3 major decision.
Cummings rebounded with an 8-7 decision over Natrona’s Billy Brenton, then won by technical fall over Campbell County’s Blake Harding to claim third place.
“Kendell battled that kid [Reese Osborne] pretty good,” Wagstaff said. “If you look at that match, we got behind early — Kendell actually won the last two periods, he just couldn’t make up the difference. But Kendell knew a long time ago he’d have to deal with that kid, and he never changed his course. He could have changed weight classes, but he didn’t — he decided that’s where he wanted to win it at.”
At 106 pounds, Wilson recorded pins over Logan Mansur-Holaday (Cheyenne East) and Cole Riesen (Sheridan), before losing a 2-1 decision to eventual state runner-up Kaden Orr (Natrona) in the semifinals. Wilson won a 4-3 decision over Cody Dunham (Sheridan) in the consolation semis; he pinned Cole Riesen (Sheridan) to close out his day in third place.
“Walker had an extremely good tournament,” Wagstaff said. “He had to wrestle some pretty tough kids. He was in all of his matches, and he wrestled well. He’ll be a contender.”
Mayson Erickson got off to a strong start in his final state tournament, winning a 7-4 decision over Aiden Selcher (Sheridan), and pinning Jackson’s Ryan Ranson in under a minute to advance to the semifinals.
After falling to Aragon Garro (Kelly Walsh) in the semis, Erickson battled back with a pin over Trevor Eldridge (Cheyenne East) to earn a spot in the third-place match. The senior came up short against Natrona’s Davis Knight, finishing in fourth place.
“Mayson made a big jump the last couple of months — I think he finally decided that he enjoys this sport a little more than he let on,” Wagstaff said. “His wrestling down the stretch definitely reflected that. He worked harder in practice, and became more focused. I think he’ll look back and think, ‘Man, I really did enjoy my football and wrestling careers.’”
Red Devil senior Ryker Case just missed qualifying for the medal rounds with a 2-2 record; he pinned Jackson’s James Thomas May to open the tournament, but lost in the quarterfinals to Sheridan’s Dane Steel.
In a rematch of the Southwest Quadrant title match, Case squared off against teammate and fellow senior Rowdy Saavedra (1-2 for the tournament) in the consolation quarterfinals. Like the first match between the two, it was a battle to the end, with Case winning a 3-2 decision. In the consolation semifinals, Case fell to Cade Pugh (Cheyenne East), ending his season.
“Ryker had a solid tournament,” Wagstaff said. “145 was a tough weight class. He came up short in that match to place — a point here or there, and he would definitely have medaled.”
Other Red Devil wrestlers who scored points at state included Ryder Wilson at 113 pounds (1-2, 4 points), Riley Kohler at 126 pounds (1-2, 4 points), Reese Overy at 132 pounds (1-2, 3 points), Kody Rex at 152 pounds (1-2, 1 point), Aiden Leichty at 170 pounds (1-2, 2 points) and Carson VanGieson at heavyweight (1-2, 2 points).
“Ryder Wilson was close to being in the semis, and the Kohler kid [Riley] got better with every match he wrestled this season,” Wagstaff said. “Reese Overy is another young kid with a lot of potential; Kody Rex is a junior, so he’ll be back — he came on strong the last month, and had a good state tournament.”
Red Devil wrestlers Q Saavedra (106 pounds), Kyson Hamilton (120 pounds), Jaxon Haider (120 pounds), Gideon Stahl (126 pounds), Brady Roberts (132 pounds), Kaden Cummings (138 pounds), Juan Cerda (152 pounds), Hunter Sims (160 pounds), David Aros (170 pounds) and Payt Burton (220 pounds) also represented Evanston with pride and heart.
“Brady Roberts is a kid I’ll never count out of a match — I think his state tournament woke him up to how competitive these kids are,” Wagstaff said. “He’s a competitor, and I think a year from now, you’ll see great things out of him. Kaden [Cummings] has come a long way the last two years, and Payt [Burton] and Carson [VanGieson] just need to keep working, and improve their skills, and they’ll be fine. And they’re both just great kids.”
Q Saavedra finished her final state tournament with an 0-2 record, though Wagstaff said that’s not a reflection of the kind of competitor she’s been on the mat over the years.
“Q wrestled tough — she just doesn’t have the size and the length to wrestle some of these guys,” he said. “But I’ll tell you what — I’d put her against any girl, anywhere, anytime. I’d take my chances with her. She’s an extremely hard worker, and a good technician. She’s been fun to be around. Hopefully, Wyoming gets it figured out, and gets a state tournament going for those girls.”
Despite the tournament’s streamlined format, Wagstaff said he was impressed with how it all came together; he wouldn’t be surprised if the Wyoming High School Activities Association decided to stick with that format for future events.
“I thought the WHSAA did a great job of taking care of us, and making sure we could wrestle,” he said. “They controlled the floor really well, and it made for a great day of wrestling.”