Lovell has always been known as a basketball town, and for good reason, given the high school’s success on the hardwood over the years.
But during the late 1990s, Lovell was a wrestling town, too, as coach Tony Mullins led the Bulldogs to four consecutive state titles from 1995-98.
So dominant were the Bulldogs that they crushed the opposition in 1998, beating second-place Lusk 262-180 at State. They also finished second to Lusk in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Since then, the Bulldogs have had mixed success, some fifth- or sixth-place finishes, second-place finishes in 2004 and 2005, a third-place finish in 2006 and struggles in Class 3A in 2008-09.
Last season, the Bulldogs climbed back to third place at State, and this year, under new head coach Daniel Robertson, the Bulldogs are back at the top of Class 2A — filling weight classes and getting plenty of in-the-room competition with a 20-man roster that includes leadership from eight seniors: Preston Blankenship, Jesse Bassett, Adam Beck, Dimas Patina, Brigham Hopkin, Tony Rodriguez, Mark Grant and Eli Moody.
So successful are the Bulldogs on the mat that Lovell can rightly be called both a basketball and a wrestling town once again. The Bulldogs are ranked number one in the state by wyowrestling.com, and they have four top-ranked wrestlers: Mark Grant at 220 pounds, Brigham Hopkin at 195, Dino Collins at 182 and Nathan Grant at 152. Collins was named the outstanding wrestler for the upper weights at the best-of-the-best, all-class Ron Thon Memorial Invitational in Riverton last weekend.
Tony Rodriguez is ranked second at 170 pounds, Adam Beck third at 145 pounds, Jacob Beck third at 145, Eli Moody third at 195, Jesse Bassett fourth at 132 and Preston Blankenship fourth at 113.
In other words, the Bulldogs are tough as nails.
The eight seniors will be honored tonight (Thursday) at the final competition for the wrestling team before next week’s Regional Tournament and the following week’s State Tournament as the Bulldogs take on the Thermopolis Bobcats at 6 p.m. at Winterholler Gym.
The evening will also feature the unveiling of the championship banner and a brief ceremony honoring last fall’s Class 2A championship football team, which was loaded with wrestlers.
This is a chance for folks in town to give some props to the Bulldogs and honor eight seniors who have paved the way for this team’s resurgence. Coach Robertson said there won’t be competition at every weight class tonight, but Thermop is very tough where they have wrestlers in place. It should be a lot of fun. Hope Lovell sports fans will turn out.
We don’t want to jinx the Bulldogs as they prepare for the postseason, but this team will be challenging for both a regional title in Shoshoni next week and a state title the following week in Casper. Win or lose, the Bulldogs are back and it’s great to see for wrestling fans, high school fans in general and especially for the young men themselves.
Hard work does pay off. Here’s hoping for a great turnout tonight and a winning postseason for the grapplers.