The Lovell Bulldog wrestlers can hold their heads high this week after a strong showing at the all-class Ron Thon Memorial wrestling tournament in Riverton over the weekend.
The Bulldogs tied for 11th place out of 43 teams and saw two wrestlers crowned champion and another place third. Coach Daniel Robertson said the Bulldogs were not intimidated by the competition at Wyoming’s largest tournament.
“Our stud guys don’t have that problem,” he said. “Our top end kids know, and they don’t care where you’re from. With some of the young kids like Jaccob Mickelson, it stems from USA wrestling (wrestling kids from all over the state). The guys we put in varsity did wrestle without fear. They did a very good job.”
Asked about how competing with “the big boys” helps his program, Robertson noted, “It helps a ton going to big meets. Wrestling has a pretty long memory, and they know Lovell is always in the hunt. People remember that Lovell is good.”
Senior Dino Collins was named the outstanding wrestler in the upper weight classes after he won the title at 182 pounds, and fellow senior Jacob Beck tore through the competition at 170.
Senior Nathan Grant placed third at 160, beating rival Luke Zeller of Greybull/Riverside in the finale.
Collins wrestled Tevis Bartlett of Cheyenne East for the title at 182 after beating Bartlett a year ago in the semifinals. Since then, Robertson said, Bartlett has been lying in wait for Collins, so much so, he said, that Bartlett, the state’s top-ranked 195-pounder, moved down a weight class to get another shot at Collins. Collins, the top-ranked 182-pound wrestler in the state, came into the title match 29-0 and Bartlett was 39-0.
“He (Bartlett) really wanted this match,” Robertson said. “He’s 6-4 and he’s fast. He’s a man. He’s been a national champion and he led Class 4A in all-purpose yardage as a quarterback. He goes to a lot of places and wins a lot of stuff. I don’t think he’s lost since Dino last year.”
Bartlett won the 4A 182-pound state title in 2012.
“He’s legit. He’s a very, very good wrestler,” Robertson said.
So good was Bartlett that the sophomore led Collins 9-3 after two periods, having earned a takedown and a three-point near fall in the first period to take a 5-0 lead. In the third, however, Bartlett chose “down” and Collins put him in a cradle and pinned him at the 4:51 mark as the crowd roared.
“It was very definite,” Robertson said. “Dino had had enough.”
One of the interesting aspects of the match was the crowd reaction, Robertson said, noting that the large schools were rooting for Bartlett but the smaller school were cheering for Collins.
Robertson said Collins wrestled well off his back when Bartlett had him down, noting, “His body did all of the right things, and he doesn’t have a lot of experience on his back.”
One of the keys, he said, is the workout he gets daily from junior Dillon Pickett in the wrestling room every day.
“He owes a lot to Dillon,” Robertson said. “He really profits from having Pickett in the room with him.”
Earlier in the tournament Collins pinned Kevin Grimes of Wheatland in 36 seconds, pinned Garrett Boner of Douglas in 2:21 and crushed Thomas Myler of Casper Natrona – the top-ranked 182-pounder in Class 4A – 10-0.
Jacob Beck mowed down the competition at 170 pounds to win the title, Robertson said. Beck pinned Kirby Cagle of Wheatland in 4:14, beat Hayden Rawlings of Gillette 11-5, defeated TJ Galey of Riverton 4-2 and beat Colter Linford of Cokeville 7-1 for the title.
Beck had lost to Galey and Linford earlier in the season, but Beck was in charge this weekend.
“He just wrestled within himself,” Robertson said. “He did what he knew he had to do. He got caught in analysis paralysis his last two matches, but he was in complete control this weekend. He absolutely took it to everybody, and they were supremely talented kids.
“Rawlins is ranked number one in 4A, Galey is number four in 4A and Linford is number one in 2A. It was a real murderer’s row.”
Also having an outstanding meet was Nathan Grant, who went 7-1 at 160 pounds to place third.
Grant beat Andrew Javis of Torrington 11-4, fell to Brayton Sanders of Evanston 9-5, then won six straight: a pin in 2:54 over Grady Austin of Star Valley, a 3-2 decision over Kris Beech of Star Valley, an injury default over teammate Zeke Collins, a pin in 3:47 over Ivan Varela of Rawlins, a 6-4 win over Sanders in overtime and a 7-2 win over Luke Zeller of G/R.
“Nathan had an incredibly impressive tournament,” Robertson said. “He beat the Evanston kid and came back and beat him in the consolation semifinals. He had to go through the number one and number two kids from Star Valley, and the Evanston kid is number two in 4A. Zeller is the number one kid in 2A.
“He just bullied him (Zeller). That’s his key to success. He just tries to be stronger.”
In other varsity results, sophomore Jaccob Mickelson went 2-2 at 120 pounds. He fell to Ryan Bradshaw of Thermopolis on a pin in 3:43, received a bye, pinned Kyle Strasheim of Worland in 3:54 and fell 12-11 to Colton Parham of Powell.
Hyrum Hopkin went 0-2 at 145.
Sophomore Zeke Collins was 2-2 at 160. He pinned Chris Spain of Newcastle in 4:42 and won by injury default over Alex Smiley of Sheridan before dropping two matches by injury default.
Heavyweight Jacob Asay finished 3-2, including a bye. He beat Kaleb Clark of Casper Kelly Walsh 13-2, received a bye, lost by pin to eventual champion Colter Bentley of Natrona County in 24 seconds, pinned Wyatt Gardner of Cheyenne Central in 2:32, then was pinned by Tanner Allison of Moorcroft in 51 seconds.
“Jacob wrestled the meet of his life,” Robertson said. “I’ve never seen him move like that. He was confident and decisive.”
Gillette won the team title in Riverton with 264.5 points. Lovell tied for 11th with Cokeville with 87 points, just five points behind 10th-place Moorcroft with 92.
JVs win matches
Lovell’s wrestlers who competed in the junior varsity division also found success in Riverton. Though none placed, all won at least one match, Robertson said.
Freshman Joey Bassett went 1-2 at 126 pounds, pinning Justin Smith of Rocky Mountain in 1:23. Freshman Merrill Beck went 2-2 at 132, pinning David VanMatre of Rawlins in 1:21 and Colt Connelly of Riverton in 2:48.
Richard Walker went 2-2 at 138. The sophomore pinned Pax Mitchell of Powell in 42 seconds and John Gallegos of Laramie in 22 seconds before dropping a pair.
Freshman Jacob Winterholler went 3-2 at 153, including a bye. He pinned Aaron Brown of Worland in 49 seconds and beat Brett Slagowski of Green River 9-3.
Sophomore Nash Jolley went 3-2 including a bye, beating Gabe Baldwin of Kelly Walsh 8-2 and pinning Sean Larson of Cokeville in 1:01.
Trey Smith and Britton Woody stayed home with injuries.
The Bulldogs will wrap up the regular season tonight (Thursday) when they travel to Thermopolis to wrestle a dual with the Bobcats at 6 p.m. They are gearing up for the 2A West Regional Tournament Feb. 15-16 at Hanna-Elk Mountain High School.
By David Peck