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February 03, 2009 4:21 am

Panthers defeat another top-five squad

Written by Tribune Staff

Lander the latest to fall against PHS

In sports, team rankings are often hotly debated. Thanks to the Powell High School Panthers' performance over a week-long time span, they left no doubt who is Class 3A's top team at this point in the season.

Last Thursday, the top-ranked Panthers defeated No. 4 Lander 42-27 in a dual meet at LHS. The victory came on the heels of a stellar showing in the Buffalo Bison Duals Jan. 23-24, where the Panthers' wins included decisions over No. 2 Douglas, No. 3 Wheatland and No. 5 Torrington. But don't expect the Panthers to rest on their success in recent duals.

“It's pretty easy to stay humble,” said PHS head coach Nate Urbach. “We don't have anybody who is undefeated, so that lets the guys know there are still things they can do to get better. We're still working on consistency, and we're still trying to improve. We've had some good wins lately, but like I told our guys, when it really matters is at the end of the season.”

Against Lander, the Panthers won eight of the 13 matches that were settled on the mat. One forfeit victory was claimed, and it went in Lander's favor in the heavyweight division.

Panthers emerging victorious against the Tigers were Randy Andrews (No. 3 at 130), Cory Eden (No. 3 at 135), Auston Carter (No. 1 at 140), Cole Kary (No. 2 at 145), Trevor Donarski (No. 1 at 152), Monte Nickles (No. 5 at 189), Tyler Showalter (No. 6 at 215) and Olie Olson (No. 2 at 112).

Of PHS's victories, three came against ranked wrestlers. Andrews, a freshman, defeated second-ranked Brodie Bullington 5-4, and Eden claimed a 9-5 decision over fourth-ranked Chris Pitt. At 112, Olson pinned fifth-ranked Dillon Von Rein.

Urbach also noted that Carter, Kary, Donarski, Nickles and Showalter all won by pinning their opponents.

At 119, PHS's Jessee Craig returned to the mat after having been sidelined with a broken collarbone since the Powell Invite in early December. Craig's return resulted in a close matchup, but the Panther sophomore came out on the short end of a 2-1 outcome.

“Jessee lost to a tough kid,” Urbach said. “He's been out of the lineup for about two months, so he was a little rusty. But I was very pleased that he was able to return to the mat. He fills a big spot for us (at 119), and I think we've got enough time to get him to peak form.”

Third-ranked Colt Nix, wrestling at 125 for the Panthers, also sustained a loss in his bout. Nix was outscored 7-1 by fourth-ranked Jake Budd.

In a matchup of top-ranked wrestlers at 160, No. 2 Cody Kalberer was pinned by Lander's Brett Klopp, who currently holds Class 3A's No. 1 spot.

At 171, Panther wrestler Joe Lujan suffered a 9-5 setback to fifth-ranked Colton Marrow. Though his bout went into the scorebook as a loss, Lujan's performance drew high praise from his coach. For Lujan, his matchup was another step forward in his battle to overcome a major knee injury which sidelined him from multiple sports last year.

“Joe's coming back from an injury, so he's been a little rusty, too,” Urbach said. “We just got him back recently, and I've been really happy with the progress he's shown. It means a lot to have a kid like that. He was dealing with an injury, but he came to me and said he wanted to wrestle once he was able. What he has done shows a lot of dedication.”

The 103-pound bout boasted the No. 1 and No. 2 wrestlers in the standings. In that matchup, Lander's Alex Klopp overcame Powell's Ren Utter and topped the Panther senior by registering a pin.

• Up next: The Panthers' next action is scheduled to take place Friday and Saturday when they take part in the Pepsi Invitational in Riverton. Wrestling is slated to begin at 10 a.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday.