The Saratoga High School Wrestling team performed well enough at regionals over the weekend in Dubois to send seven of eight wrestlers to State Finals in Casper this weekend.
After what coach Zach Schmidt called a “flat start” Friday, team members regained the edge and went on to fight back and finish strong. But it wasn’t all good news for the team; two SHS wrestlers in the 160-pound class had to face off against one another. One wrestler went on to state, the other will stay home.
“We ran into a little bit of back luck with some bracketing,” Schmidt said. “There were a lot of tears after that round; it’s hard to see a brother go home and not be able to compete at state.”
The seven wrestlers for SHS going to State will be: Andrew Everett, wrestling in the 113-pound class; Jaxon King and Trezdon Martinez will wrestle in the 120-pound category, with King being the no.1 seed after winning a regional title; Thomas Ingraham will wrestle in the 152-pound class and is also no.1 seed after winning regional champion; Tristan Gray will compete as the 4th seed 160-pounder; Torin Hedley will take on grapplers in the 170-pound category and C.J. Boswell will round out the SHS contingent in the 220-pound class.
As a team, SHS placed seventh in regionals after the flat start Schmidt spoke of. “That’s kind of been the theme all year; These Friday night starts have rendered some flat starts,” he said.
“Jaxon wrestled well out of the gates but our other guys who wrestled Friday evening were flat,” Schmidt said. “Whether they were flat or nervous, I was kind of concerned at one point Friday night that we were only going to qualify four.”
But, the team rallied in the second round, Schmidt said, and wrestled hard for their well-earned wins. And, the second round is what determines who is going to state, he said.
Particularly impressive was Tristan Gray’s performance Friday and Saturday. After losing his initial outing to the no. 1-ranked wrestler in the state on Friday, Gray fought back through five more rounds Friday and Saturday to eventually take fourth seed in the consolation round Saturday.
“The three kids that placed ahead of him are ranked 1, 2 and 3 in the state right now,” Schmidt said. “So that’s an impressive feat for him.”
But team dynamics are as important as individual accomplishments, and Schmidt is looking forward to state with a few reservations about the team’s ability in defense. “I was pretty happy with our offense,” he said. “Our defensive wrestling still has to improve this week, so we’re going to be doing a lot of defensive scenarios.”
The team, he said, did well on taking pins and takedowns, but they also gave up a few takedowns, and Schmidt would like to correct that before state. “We’re really kind of close in our decisions right now and we want to spread those out from 1 or 2 point decisions to the 7 or 8 point range, because those are extra points for the team at state,” he said.
This week, the teams’ focus will be on defensive scenarios, especially mat awareness and fending off takedowns at the edge of the mat. Because State is just a few days away, the exercises the wrestlers will be doing will be geared toward thinking and strategy, and will be minimal impact to ensure none of the athletes are injured and have to sit out competition.
Schmidt says he has high hopes for the team this weekend at State. He would like to see at least four wrestlers place, and would like the team to finish top ten, saying a top ten win for the team would be an accomplishment.
For younger wrestlers, the matches Friday and Saturday will mean a lot for their wrestling careers going forward. “For our younger kids, we’re still trying to make gains for next year,” Schmidt said. “Placing at state is huge for what they’ll do as juniors and seniors.”
For juniors and especially seniors on the team, now is the time for them to leave everything on the mat, Schmidt says. This weekend will be the final competitive match for Ingraham as a high school student, so naturally the team hopes he will place as high as possible.
For the rest of the SHS grapplers, this is the opportunity to wrestle hard, possibly place at state, and to enter the off season with better ideas of the skills that will need to be developed over the summer and fall in preparation for next year.
“I want kids to come off the mat Saturday saying ‘I wrestled as best I possibly could,’ and give us a clear idea where it is we can work in the off season,” Schmidt said.
For Saratoga, there are a couple of secret weapons, Schmidt said. “Tresden and Tristian are sleepers here,” He said. “Those are two dangerous kids to overlook.”
“We’re hoping to go out and stun some people right away in the opening rounds with those two,” Schmidt said. “I would love to put four in the semis, that would be great for us.”
State finals will be held Friday and Saturday at the Casper Events Center.