Ingraham takes first, King third, Martinez fifth in invitational meet in Saratoga
The Carbon County Invite rolled into the Valley over the weekend, drawing high school wrestlers and crowds to the Saratoga High School gym. Dozens of wrestlers, coaches and staff made treks from across the state to attend the invitational that marked the end of the regular season.
Over the weekend, an estimated 200-250 wrestlers representing 17 teams from across the state made the home of the Panthers their arena. In the end, three grapplers from the home team placed, and as a team, Saratoga ended the invite with an 11th place finish, a strong finish given the fierce competition.
Individually, Thomas Ingraham placed first in the 152-pound weight class. Jaxon King earned a third place finish in the 126-pound class, and Trezdon Martinez brought home fifth place in the 120-pound category.
The team got off to a bit of a rocky start, according to coach Zach Schmidt. "I think as a team, Friday night was difficult," he said. "We would have liked to put a few more guys into Saturday to place, but those three guys who wrestled Saturday -they really wrestled well the whole tournament."
Martinez bested an opponent the team had not yet beaten this year, Schmidt said. "It's nice to see that progress out of him and see him show up and be as intense as he was for that match."
The tournament also saw the return of Jaxon King to the mat after a month of suffering illness. "I don't think we're necessarily at full strength yet, but now that he's healthy we can work on that this week going into regionals," Schmidt said. "A third place finish out of him, having not have competed much in the last month, was very positive to see."
First place winner Ingraham, a senior, saw the match as his senior tribute, Schmidt said, saying that Ingraham was well motivated to defend his gym and his mat, and his results were excellent.
"He (Ingraham) will probably tell you that he didn't feel like he wrestled them well, but we were pretty impressed with what we saw," Schmidt said. "His championship match was probably one of his top five most impressive matches of this year."
Ingraham's opponent in that match was a wrestler familiar to the Saratoga team, and one they have beaten in the past. Schmidt says they expect to see him at regionals and state, that he is a strong contender for placement and that Ingraham's win was a good portent of the future at regionals this weekend in Dubois.
"It was very inspiring as a coach to see him (Ingraham) go out and wrestle to the caliber that he did," Schmidt said.
Looking ahead to regionals and State, Schmidt said he thought the team was in good position for the upcoming postseason. Mostly, he is relieved that the wave of illness that recently flooded the Valley causing massive absenteeism at Saratoga schools is a thing of the past, and that the team has good health to look forward to for the rest of the season. While the flu outbreak took its toll on the team, Schmidt said, it is good that it happened when it did rather than now, since becoming ill or injured at this point in the season makes it highly unlikely a wrestler will compete in regionals or at state.
Jaxon King, out for a month, is rebounding in anticipation of the post season and working on recovering strength. But, the grapplers have to be careful with conditioning and training this close to postseason Schmidt said. The team is training hard in preparation for the postseason, but the athletes are being careful to not put themselves into situations where injury is a significant risk.
Defensive training and finishing are top on Schmidt's list of training that must be done. "Our defense has kind of lacked the last couple of weeks so we're going back to work defensively," he said. "We're putting kids in a situation to have them finish our pins."
SHS wrestler Trezdon Martinez wrestles Kyle Laird of Wind River. Martinez cinched a fifth place win in the 120-pound class.
"We're really going to be working on defenses and finishes, and obviously keeping them healthy," Schmidt said.
Regionals will be the proving ground for the team and their training up to this point. The entire team will be attending regionals in Dubois, Schmidt said. "The top four kids will be seeded based on how they've done during the year." He said. "At the current time, of our eight kids, I think four of them will get a pretty decent seed."
To proceed from regionals to state, a wrestler must be in the top eight at regionals.
"It's going to be a big weekend for a lot of guys who are right on the bubble," Schmidt said.
Regionals will be held Friday and Saturday in Dubois, with the state finals a week after at the Casper Events Center. "We encourage anyone in the Valley who wants to come watch our wrestlers," Schmidt said. "We'll take the extra support."