Illness, last minute schedule shifts and nocturnal travel in wooly Wyoming winter weather threw the Saratoga Panthers wrestling program into a loop-de-loop over the weekend. “In the end, it was crazy. I’ll just put it that way,” said coach Zach Schmidt of the draining but encouraging weekend wrestling in Rawlins Thursday and then in Big Piney Friday.
Though only five of Saratoga’s nine wrestlers were healthy enough to compete (both basketball teams canceled games due to a flu outbreak), Schmidt reported good results from the contests. “I was pretty pleased with our intensity we came out with. We wrestled with attitude,” the coach said of the team’s results.
Up first was a duel in Rawlins Thursday. Thomas Ingraham, Trezdon Martinez and Tristan Grey all earned hard-fought w’s in Rawlins, with Gray pinning his junior varsity opponent in 14-seconds flat.
Unsatisfied, Gray asked Schmidt if he could go head-to-head with a varsity grappler outweighing him by 20 pounds.
“I love the fact that we showed up with those kind of guts,” Schmidt said. After consulting Grey’s parents, Schmidt hastily arranged an impromptu bout with the Rawlins athlete. Gray lost that match in the second round, but Schmidt walked away impressed with the youth’s chutzpah: “(Gray) came to work that night.”
In Rawlins, Martinez “came out with a lot of attitude (and) beat Dakota Bennett, whom he hasn’t beaten all year,” Schmidt added.
After the duel, the team re-boarded the bus, but instead of heading back east to go home, the Panthers trekked west to Rock Springs, arriving at their hotel at 11:30 p.m. The next morning the team was back on the bus by 5 a.m., on their way to 8 a.m. weigh-ins at the Big Piney Invitational.
“(Friday) we were tired. I was really pleased with how we wrestled in the morning,” Schmidt said. Four of the five Panther grapplers managed to notch wins against Big Piney in the morning, and Gray’s weekend continued to be a success.
Gray is ranked fifth in the state in his weight class, and he managed to score 4-2 win against an opponent ranked sixth in Wyoming. “We talked a lot about that match and said, ‘You need to show up for that,’” Schmidt recalled.
Saratoga also got to see Joe Maskell, a new addition to the team, in action for the first time over the weekend. A Ukrainian-American new to the sport, Maskell managed to take his match against a well-regarded opponent from Kemmerer into overtime Saturday, ultimately losing a nailbiter 18-16.
“A lot of crazy things happened, which tends to happen when you have someone who’s new to the sport but has the athletic ability (Maskell) does. A lot of scramble situatuions,” Schmidt said with a chuckle.
As he has all year, Ingraham dominated over the weekend, winning all five of his matches, including an 11-1 victory on points Saturday. Schmidt called that score “even more lopsided than it looks. (Ingraham) was just solid front to back.”
The final sprint to State begins this week, and Schmidt said the team is concentrating on honing existing skills rather than trying to learn new ones.
This weekend, Saratoga will be competing at the Ron Thon Invitational in Rawlins Friday and Saturday. The Panthers will wrestle Jaxon King, Ingraham, Martinez and Gray at the varsity level at Ron Thon. “The motto of Ron Thon is: ‘Win with humility, lose with grace,’” Schmidt said. “You’ve got to put the downs behind you and ride the ups,” he expanded. “I would love to put two on the podium at Ron Thon. I think we have the ability to do that.”