CASPER – Evanston’s Saige Synan stepped onto the mat for the 152-pound state wrestling finals against an opponent he knew well on Saturday night. Synan squared off with Kelly Walsh’s Javen Palmer for the third time this season. After losing to Palmer the two previous times, however, Synan spent the prior week making adjustments specifically to beat Palmer.
“After the match at regionals he was pretty heartbroken,” Evanston head coach Larry Wagstaff said. “He doesn’t really like to lose, but I told him that it’s going to be OK. The future is ahead of us and we’ll prepare.”
Synan worked with his coaches, and Joseph Platt, on riding from the top position. He also widened his stance because he knew Palmer likes to shoot his single leg to the opposite side.
Both of the adjustments worked.
After a scoreless first period, Palmer chose down to start the second. Synan, however, rode him for the entire two minutes to keep the match tied.
In the third, Synan started down and escaped right away to take a 1-0 lead. After Palmer had to stop the injury-clock twice, Synan chose to start down and escaped again to go up, 2-0. With both wrestlers on their feet, Synan defended a barrage of shots in the last minute of the match. He gave Palmer one point for stalling, but he stayed on his feet to win the championship match, 2-1.
“I stalled,” Synan said. “I wrestled smart and rode it out.”
“It was good to wrestle somebody of that caliber in the finals and find a way to win,” Wagstaff said.
To reach the finals, Synan won his semifinal in similar fashion, defending late shots to beat Green River’s Chance Anderson, 5-3. He also pinned one opponent and beat another by a major decision.
“It took a lot of work to get here, but it all paid off,” Synan said. “I want to thank my coaches and all of the people who helped me get this far.”
Synan was one of six wrestlers who placed at the Class 4A state championships for Evanston.
At 113 pounds, Logan Elsen responded to a first-round loss with a pin, a 14-7 decision and a 9-0 major decision to secure a spot on the podium. Elsen ended up placing sixth.
“He wrestled hard to get himself in there,” Wagstaff said.
Kendell Cummings placed fifth at 126 pounds, tilting Jackson’s Rylee McCollum several times to get a technical fall in his final match, 15-0.
“He dominated the kid in the fifth-place match,” Wagstaff said. “He’s been a solid performer all year.”
Pablo Escalante placed fourth at 182 pounds, pinning two opponents and scoring two decisions. In the third-place match, Escalante escaped with 30 seconds left to get within two points of Cheyenne Central’s Decker Mattimore, but he could not get a takedown to tie the match and fell, 7-5.
“That was probably his best tournament of the year,” Wagstaff said.
Gavin Simmons finished fourth at 195 pounds, pinning his first two opponents to reach the semis. After getting pinned, Simmons scored a tight, 3-2, victory in the consolation semis. In the third-place match, Simmons fell behind early and ended up getting pinned by Cheyenne East’s Jacob Fogg.
“He wasn’t pleased with that last match, but he had good tournament,” Wagstaff said. “He’s been a solid leader for us.”
Blake Overy was the team’s other place winner, taking fourth at 220 pounds. Overy missed the first part of the wrestling season, recovering from a knee injury he suffered playing football, but he managed to make it on the podium at state. He went 3-2 at the championships, pinning three opponents but coming up short in two decisions, including an 8-4 loss in the third-place match.
In the team race, Cheyenne East won its first title since 1965 with 216.5 points. Kelly Walsh finished second with 205, followed by Thunder Basin (204.5), Rock Springs (195), Green River (188), Natrona County (145.5), Sheridan (120), Evanston (106.5), Cheyenne Central (106), Laramie (67), Cheyenne South (36), Campbell County (28) and Jackson (23).
“As a team we did all right,” Synan said. “I think we achieved more individual goals than scoring on the (team) board.”
Several other Red Devils won some matches, but just missed earning a spot on the podium.
“We had a good day today,” Wagstaff said. “Even the kids that didn’t place wrestled well.”
Brandin VanGieson went 1-2 at 106 pounds.
Nena Sowers went 1-2 at 113 pounds.
Isaac Saavadra went 1-2 at 120 pounds.
Stetson Roundy lost both of his matches by points at 138.
Gabe Morris went 1-2 at 160.
Rylie Griggs went 1-2 at 170, scoring one pin.
Clay Lester went 0-2 at 170.
Mayson Erickson went 0-2 at 182.
Joeseph Williams went 0-2 at 195.
Eric Orozco went 0-2 at 285.
“I’m really happy with how our young kids wrestled today,” Wagstaff said. “They were mostly within a point or two. It was a good year.”