KEMMERER – Big Piney’s wrestling team had its first dual of the season Thursday and then squared off with some of the top 2A teams Saturday at the Joe Aimone Invite in Kemmerer.
Several Big Piney wrestlers got their first wins of the season while two Punchers, Adam Willoughby and T.J. Frazier, won every time they stepped on the mat.
“Overall, I’m excited with all of our wrestling,” Big Piney head coach Cole Clifford said.
In the dual, Big Piney beat Rich County, Utah, 52-27.
Arie Kranendonk started the dual by pinning his opponent for Big Piney at 106 pounds. “Kranendonk had a great dual in Rich,” Clifford said, “He was confident and exploded into his wrestler. I love how strong he is on top and he did a great job of starting off the varsity dual for us.”
Rich came back with a late win at 113 pounds and then scored four straight pins to take the lead, 27-6.
Big Piney, however, used three pins, a major decision and three forfeits to rally back and win the dual.
“I was pleased how well we bounced back after early setbacks,” Clifford said. “Our seniors did a great job of helping turn the tide in the matches.”
One of those seniors, Frazier, beat a Rich County wrestler that Big Piney had never beat before, and he beat him by a major decision.
Tanner Hansen also had a big win in the dual. Hansen rallied from a 13-0 deficit, never giving up and reversing his opponent to his back and then pinning him. “Tanner Hansen had the victory of the week,” Clifford said. “Tanner is never out of any match because he has the uncanny ability to do what he did in Rich.”
Saturday, Big Piney wrestled in Kemmerer’s round-robin tournament, which enabled the Punchers to get a lot of matches in.
“It’s a lot of wrestling in a short day; we don’t have to travel so far and it’s good competition,” Clifford said about the inaugural tournament.
Cokeville and Kemmerer, two of the top 2A squads, also competed in the tournament. “I thought we wrestled against both those schools really well,” Clifford said. “Our younger guys came out on top in a lot of those matches.”
Lyman, Mountain View, Jackson, Wind River and Dubois also competed in the tournament, but team scores weren’t calculated.
Willoughby and Frazier both won the tournament for Big Piney.
“(Frazier) looks very strong on his feet, hit some great takedowns and was dominant in all of his matches,” Clifford said. “Adam had some tough competition again this week. I was happy to see us earn some close wins, but I love the start to each of our matches. We always got the first takedown and built up a lead in the first.”
Also at the tournament, Braxton Smith won two matches in overtime.
Tanner Vogel pinned two of his opponents.
Braxton Varela beat two conference foes.
Mario Vejar picked up his first win of the season. “He is one who is excited to be on the team, is willing to try and learn anything he can from day to day,” Clifford said.
Nick Garcia also picked up his first win of the season. “This young man will never quit and has such a positive attitude,” Clifford said.
Billy Hefter won three matches. He also hit a big hip toss in his last match, but landed out of bounds.
Taytan Wing got his first victory while Ryan Keiter beat two conference wrestlers.
Skyler Hargrove also had a big weekend. “Hargrove probably was one of our outstanding wresters this week,” Clifford said. “He looked so good on his feet in each and every match. It is hard to believe that he missed all of last year from injury.”
The coach also said he pleased with progress of Blake Bruce, Mason Schell, Creeden Schell, Joe Hajba, Jasper Sims, Hayden Bruce, Ethan Long, Brady Johnson, Garret Peden, Calder Taylor, Tyler Long and Justin Seeman.
The Punchers won’t compete again until Jan. 5 in Shoshoni, giving the team a chance to step back and have a little fun. This week, for instance, Big Piney will turn bowling into a pushup workout.
“It’s time to relax and have some fun,” Clifford said. “We’ll come back the first of January and work on our set ups and the bottom position.”
The Punchers also get a 2-pound growth allowance when they return to action, helping the team start to finalize its lineup.