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December 04, 2008 4:23 am

Panthers take aim at repeat state title

Written by Tribune Staff

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Powell High School junior Auston Carter (top) goes through practice drills with teammate Cody Kalberer earlier this week. Carter will attempt to become a three-time state champion this season. Kalberer, a senior, will be gunning for his second state title during the 2008-09 slate. Tribune photo by David Dickey

Encore performance

It happens without fail when a team wins a state championship. Inevitably, whether it's within minutes of a team's title-clinching performance or during the days after it, someone always poses the question, “So are you guys going to repeat?”

That question has been presented to Powell High School head wrestling coach Nate Urbach and his team members plenty since their title effort during the 2007-08 school year, and considering the number of returning individual title winners and state placers, it's understandable why wrestling fans from Powell eagerly lob that question at Urbach and his Panthers.

Urbach, the Wyoming Coaches Association's 3A Wrestling Coach of the Year for 2007-08, is the first to admit that winning back-to-back titles is a daunting task. However, he believes this year's version of the Panthers can attain that lofty goal if they continue to build on the hard work and dedication that is a staple of PHS's wrestling program.

“We want to earn another one,” Urbach said. “The goals we have are high, both individually and team-wise.

Some people believe there is added pressure when it comes to repeating as a state champion. The way I look at it, if you're feeling pressure, you're probably feeling it because you haven't paid the price. I want these guys to feel like they deserve to win every time they step on the mat. These guys know what it takes to do well, and they're willing to work hard and pay the price. This is a good group. We've got good senior leadership, and we've got a hard-working team. These guys are fun to be around, and I can tell you they are looking forward to the challenge.”

Urbach added that the Panthers must overcome a lack of experience at some of the upper weight classes. He also noted that the Panthers will be without a heavyweight entry this season.

Leading the charge for the Panthers will be a host of returning state champions and seven returning medalists. The returning state champions are seniors Trevor Donarski, Cody Kalberer and Ren Utter and junior Auston Carter.

Donarski finished first in the 130-pound weight class in 2008 and is a three-time medalist. Kalberer was the state champion at 145 last season and is a two-time medalist. As for Utter, he was the first-place finisher at 103.

Also back this season is Carter, who has accomplished a great deal at every level of wrestling he's been a part of during his career. He was the state champion at 140 last season. The year before, Carter took the title at 130.

With two state titles to his credit, Carter is among an elite group of PHS wrestlers. Since 1949, the Panthers have had 11 two-time state champions. Of those, only three went on to earn the distinction of being three-time title winners. According to Urbach, no PHS wrestler has accomplished four individual championships. However, he believes Carter has a chance to pull off that feat.

Urbach's strong senior class also is made up of Cory Eden, Dalton Harris, Tyler Showalter, Jim Schroeder and CJ Simon. Eden is a two-time state medalist and finished third at 135 last season. Showalter is a 2007-08 letter winner.

In addition to Carter, the junior class also boasts a number of talented performers, including Cole Kary, Monte Nickles and Trent Gillett. Kary placed fifth at 152 last season, and Nickles is a returning letter winner. Gillett, who finished fourth at 130 in last season's state tournament, currently is on the disabled list.

The Panthers' sophomore class consists of seven wrestlers, including 2007-08 letter winners Colt Nix, Luke Wozney, Jessee Craig, Jimmy Seckman and Luke Cannon, who currently is on the disabled list. Other sophomores on this year's team are Danny Harris and Trevor Griffith.

The freshman class is composed Zach Thiel, Olie Olson, Marco Borja, Waylon Bays, Randy Andrews, Clay Saldana, Kurt Bullinger and Charles Wittick.

The varsity and junior varsity Panthers will open their season with the annual Powell Invitational at PHS. That two-day event is slated to begin at 1 p.m. Friday. Saturday's start time is slate for 9 a.m. Urbach said more than 20 teams are scheduled to compete in the tournament.

“It's going to be a big tournament,” Urbach said. “I know the guys are looking forward to it because they're ready to wrestle someone else other than themselves.”