Blood, sweat and tears

Spiering takes first at state, Bifano gets second


Madeline Weiss

Bradley Bifano is worked into an untenable position in the championship match Saturday.

Thatcher Spiering's championship match was interrupted several times to wipe blood from the mat and the wrestlers' skin. Greybull's Cole Hill, the competitor, was bleeding.

It was tight-the score was low. Saratoga Wrestling Head Coach Jared Mason said the boys were more than capable of getting points, but the high skill levels required positioning and handfighting to get a score on one another. Spiering and Greybull are players from the same mold. They work hard and put in extra hours all year. "It was a battle between two warriors," Mason said.

Spiering won, though. It was double overtime, and the final takedown brought the score 2-1, securing Saratoga's first individual state championship in several years. Spiering must have spent this past year thinking about wrestling from the moment he wakes up, training both before and after school. He stays in shape all year, watches what he eats and does more than the lip service that Mason says many other high school wrestlers give. While he deserved his first place medal, Hill would have been deserving as well, Mason said, describing the Greybull grappler as the same wrestler from a different school. The only person Hill lost to all season was Spiering.

The match was emotional for Panther fans and supporters in the stands and on the floor, considering the other Panther vying for first place had just suffered a heartbreaking loss. Bradley Bifano, wrestling in the 145 pound weight class, had a slim lead for a good portion of his match against defending state champion Taylor Chapin, of Kemmerer. Things were tied up, 7-7. It went bad. Chapin is a capable wrestler and Bifano ended up in a difficult situation. A tight hold led to a pin, and the match was over. Bifano got second place, which is certainly nothing to hang his head about. He had never placed at state before this year, and going out as a second place, all-state wrestler is a feat that many at the tournament wish they could tie to their name.

While wrestling is an individual sport, the teams support each other in practice, especially Bifano and Spiering. One weight class apart, Mason said they mix it up at practice and push one another to succeed. "You need a partner of that caliber to make you better," Mason said of Spiering and Bifano.

The final Panther senior wrestler, Daynon Mowry, had disappointing loss in semifinals on Friday. He was in the lead, 10-4, and then got pinned. That was it. It's hard to bring it back on Saturday, Mason said, but feels proud of the three-time state placer's career. Daynon walked away with fourth place in the 126 pound weight class. "It's one of those matches I keep tearing myself up over," Mason said, wondering what would have happened if they would have chosen a different strategy.

Saratoga held up well this year, and Mason is almost prouder of who the wrestlers are as young men. The website keeps track of the high school competitors, and has an academic all-state group, where one state placer is selected from all divisions for their success in school. Of the 14 students selected state-wide, four were from Saratoga. Spiering, Bifano, Thomas Ingraham and Jaxon King were all listed. "As a coach that makes you proud too because these kids aren't going to make a living as wrestlers," Mason said, proud that the hard work they learn in wrestling boils over into their academic lives as well.

Ingraham took fourth in the 138 pound group and Mason added that he wrestled well and has shown commitment over the season as a wrestler, and seeing Spiering take home a first place slot may help him believe that he can do it next year, too. For Ingraham, it came down to a semifinals match on Friday that was tight 1-1, and if he would have gotten a takedown, the Saratoga junior could have advanced further. Unfortunately, the other grappler did.

King, a sophomore, was one match away from medals at Ron Thon this season, which proves his talents as a wrestler. Mason said he's a fast, explosive wrestler who fell ill a few weeks back and hasn't been the same since. He's weaker and slower, but still has two years to make it up to the first place slot where he could be. King took sixth in the 120 pound weight class.

With the season's finish, Mason reflects on a great group of seniors whom he reveres as people. He comments on their good behavior-they always thank bus drivers and hospitality workers that host them during their tournaments-and feels that they have led the team and represented Saratoga well this year.

"Overall, it was a season with many great memories and a bunch of kids I'll never forget," Mason said.

Madeline Weiss

Bradley Bifano, left, and Thatcher Spiering during the face-off before the final round.


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