EVANSTON — When it comes to tradition, the Evanston Invitational or “EI” has a storied history that will rival any wrestling tournament in the state or in the region, for that matter. And really, any athletic event.
The 2018 edition is set for this weekend, Dec. 7-8, at Red Devil Gym. The tournament has been around for almost as long as EHS has fielded a wrestling program, which dates back to 1957, when Evanston fielded a club team.
“I believe it began after the first year or two that we had a wrestling program,” head wrestling coach Larry Wagstaff told the Herald.
“I know it was well underway when I wrestled here, back when they had dirt for mats,” Wagstaff quipped.
The EI will feature teams from three states, including Bear River, Grantsville and Weber from the Beehive State, Spring Creek, Nevada, and Big Piney, Green River, Kemmerer, Lyman, Mountain View, Pinedale, Rawtlins, Rock Springs and the host school representing Wyoming. Varsity and JV tournaments will run simultaneously on six mats at Red Devil Gym.
A first of its kind addition to this EI edition, and perhaps in the state of Wyoming, will be showcased during the tourney — a girls’ bracket to allow girls to wrestle other girls, exclusively — will be a part of the EI this weekend. Girls are allowed to compete in high school wrestling in Wyoming, but ordinarily must wrestle against their male counterparts.
Weigh-ins will take place at 11 a.m. on Friday for the following weight classes by pound: 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285. Teams are allowed to enter multiple wrestlers in each weight division, so some brackets will be more plentiful than others. Wrestling action will begin at 1 p.m. on Friday and at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
One major blow to the team regards Saige Synan, a state champion for the Red Devils last season as a 152-pound junior. Synan suffered a broken neck during a wrestling camp this past summer and will be unable to compete for the Red Devils this season. The senior had a great shot at becoming a two-time state champion.
Fellow senior Rylie Griggs is still recovering from a football injury and will be unavailable for this weekend’s EI, but should be able to join the team later this month or in January.
A few wrestlers may be on the cusp at press time, regarding the weight class they will compete in this weekend. A few others may not have the required number of practices under their belt to be eligible to wrestle in the season-opening EI, as well.
The 2018-19 Red Devil wrestling roster includes seniors Saige Synan, Jose Sanchez, Isaac Saavedra, Angel Rodriguez, Ethan Moir, Clay Lester, Rylie Griggs, Pablo Escalante and Brendan Davenport; juniors Rigden Wagstaff, Jordan Schneider, Nena Sowers, Eric Orosco, Gabe Morris, Kasen Landry and Colby Fadden; sophomores Josiah Bingham, Brandon VanGeison, Sierra Dacey, Curtis Spellbring, Rowdy Saavedra, Tyler Jacobson, Mayson Erickson, Logan Elsen, Bryson Davis, Kendall Cummings, Nick Child, and Myles Carlson and freshmen Guillermo Trejo, Tyler Stokes, Hunter Sims, Jayden Schneider, Kody Rex, Brock Roberts, David Perez, Jaxin Moore, JD Martin, Keegan Lester, Carsen Knight, Rigan Hoggett, Logan Garfias, Payton Graham, Quinton Elmer, Brady Degraw, Juan Cerda, Payt Burton and Alex Aragon.
Wagstaff is assisted by Todd Nixon, Garth Wagstaff and Steve Moore, all of whom wrestled for the Red Devils and were coached by the head coach. Nixon, whose father, Chuck, was a fixture for Red Devil wrestling, as both a coach and one of EHS’s first wrestlers, has been an assistant coach since 1989. Garth Wagstaff has been on staff since 2000, and Moore since 2006, combining to bring a wealth of experience to the program.
While still a premier wrestling event, the EI is not what it once was. In the past few years, approximately 13-15 teams have taken part. In its heyday, 30-plus teams competed on a varsity, junior varsity and freshman level on eight mats, equating to 900 wrestlers participating. When the WHSAA rules changed the starting dates for when the winter sports season could begin to practice, many of the Utah and Idaho schools who took part in the past had to drop the Evanston Invitational because their season beginnings remained constant and the EI’s later date was no longer viable.
Still, the EI is wrestling excitement at its finest and the only opportunity to cheer on the wrestlers in the friendly confines of Red Devil Gym until a Jan. 30 home dual against Green River.
Coach Wagstaff again pointed out that while Red Devil wrestling will be competing on the road for the first couple of months, many of the venues are nearby and he is thankful for the support EHS wrestling receives.
“At many of these tournaments, we’ll have more fans in the stands than the school across the street,” he said.
Right before press time it was confirmed that Evanston will host a dual against Spring Creek, Nevada, as was the case last season. The Red Devils will dual the Spartans at 6 p.m. this Thursday, Dec. 6. The Herald published the wrestling schedule last week, but will do so again as a couple of additions have recently been included or were omitted.