But head coach Nate Urbach, always with an eye for the present, refuses to look past the task at hand.
“This will be a great test for us as a team, and hopefully, if things work out, we’ll be in the team race there,” Urbach said. “We’re doing the right things, but we’ll find out.”
The Panthers did little wrong in their last two duals, each of which resulted in lopsided Powell victories.
Urbach said despite the team’s success this season, the Panthers cannot afford to feel satisfied until the state tournament is done and they’ve accomplished their goals.
“You never stop having to prove yourself until it’s March and the season’s over,” Urbach said.
Powell bested longtime rival Worland on the road on Jan. 31.
“Anytime you dual Worland it’s a tight, hard-fought match,” Urbach said. “Throughout the history of Powell, they’ve had some crazy matches.”
Eight of the 14 bouts against Worland ended in a pin, with Powell coming out on top in five of those matches.
“They (the Warriors) shuffled their lineup around and were able to close a little bit of a gap that we had, so we knew we had to win the tough matches,” Urbach said.
The Panthers added two tech falls, a major decision and a decision to go 9-5 against the Warriors and win by a score of 47-24.
The dual began at 160 pounds, where PHS junior Jacob Davis spurred Powell to a 6-0 lead with a pin over Lane Nielsen.
Senior Grant Nickles dropped an 8-4 decision at 170 pounds, and 182-pound senior Danial Wheeler was pinned to drop Powell back 9-6.
But the Panthers rallied off four straight bout victories, including three pins, that distanced themselves from the Warriors.
Senior Zach Thompson pinned Oscar Diaz at 2:36 of the 195-pound match to regain Powell’s lead.
Junior Riley Stringer followed with a 3-1 decision victory over No. 1 Casey Hernandez at 220 pounds.
Heavyweight Rowdy Gard pinned Nathan Kern in 1:57 before the lineups rolled over, and 106-pound junior Noah Wozney won by fall over Levi Casdorph at 4:04.
Freshman Marshall Wittick was pinned in 1:11 of the 113-pound match and Worland stayed in the dual, down 27-15.
But 120-pound sophomore Chance Karst would pin Eric Osbon at 2:30, and sophomore Nic Urbach won by tech fall over DeLancey Hodges to make a Worland comeback improbable.
The Warriors needed pins in the dual’s final four bouts to sneak past Powell for a one-point victory, or three pins and a tech fall to tie.
The Panthers clinched the match when PHS junior Colton Parham lost the 132-pound bout by a 6-1 decision, giving Worland only three points.
Senior Colbee Craig was pinned at 4:19 at 138 pounds. That would be Powell’s last defeat of the evening.
Kye Catlin, a sophomore, won by an 11-2 major decision in the 145-pound bout and senior Matt Widdicombe won by an 18-1 tech fall to close out the match.
The Panthers had far less trouble with the Lander Tigers at home on Jan. 30.
Powell dropped the first two bouts against Lander before winning the final 12 to post a 63-9 victory.
Wozney dropped a tight 8-6 decision to open the dual, and Wittick followed with a loss by fall at 5:22 to put Powell in an early 9-0 hole.
The Panthers were quick to turn the tables, however.
Karst won an 8-2 decision over Kyle Carey, and Nic Urbach pinned Ben McKinney at the 1:01 mark to tie the match.
Parham wrestled what was the most entertaining match of the night. Down 0-1 late in the third period, Parham scored an escape and a takedown to beat Dillon Weil (who was ranked No. 1 at the time) 3-1 and rile the Panther crowd into a frenzy.
Urbach said Parham pulled out the victory despite wrestling ill.
“Colton wasn’t feeling great,” Urbach said. “To be honest, he really didn’t wrestle how he’s capable of.
“He went out there and took care of business as much as he can and got that last-minute takedown, which took a lot of guts and heart.”
Craig followed that bout with a pin, and Catlin scored a 7-1 decision over former state champion Andrew Von Rein.
From there, Powell notched six points in every bout.
Widdicombe pinned Dennis Meeker at 3:05. Davis pinned Talon Connell at 2:54. Stringer took down Garrett Coffman in 1:29, and Gard finished things off with a pin against Kegan Wells in 2:43.
Nickles, Wheeler and Thompson all won by forfeit.
The Panthers will be without Anthony Lujan, their presumptive starter at 182 pounds, for the rest of the season. Lujan sustained a back injury during the football season and has not received medical clearance to wrestle.
“It’s part of the sport,” Urbach said. “We’re going to have to march on without him.”
Wheeler has wrestled at 182 in Lujan’s absence.