The Panthers travel to Star Valley today (Thursday) and begin the two-day West Regionals at noon on Friday. The competition continues at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
PHS head coach Nate Urbach said this weekend and next (when the state tournament will be held in Casper) is what the Panthers have been working toward all season.
“We have high goals, but those haven’t changed since the beginning of the year,” Urbach said, adding that the team is more than ready to hit the mat and defend its title.
“I want to be in Casper right now, but there’s a process involved and you got to take it one day at a time,” he said.
A successful showing at regionals (Urbach said he aims to get as many Panthers as possible into the semifinals) would set the Panthers up nicely in the brackets at state, though Urbach doesn’t place an enormous emphasis on seeding, noting that Powell was second at regionals last year and still emerged as the state champion.
“It’s (seeding) important but I’ve had trouble sometimes with kids who’ve overlooked people so it’s kind of a double-edged sword as far as that goes,” the coach said. “You have to approach it right mentally in order to make it (an easier bracket) work for you.”
Powell is entering regionals two weeks after an historic win at the Ron Thon Memorial Tournament in Riverton Feb. 7-8 and a 53-24 dual win over Cody Feb. 11. But now is the time for the Panthers to be at their best.
“You want to be on top of your game for four days of the year,” Urbach said, referring to the two-day regional and state tournaments.
The Panthers are at the top of the current 3A rankings, with three wrestlers ranked No. 1 in their class.
Nic Urbach (126 pounds), Zach Thompson (195) and Riley Stringer (220) are each the man to beat at their level, while Chance Karst (120), Kye Catlin (145) and Jacob Davis (160) each sit at No. 2 in their weight class and Noah Wozney (106) and Rowdy Gard (heavyweight) are ranked third.
Colton Parham (fourth at 132), Matt Widdicombe (fourth at 152), Colbee Craig (fifth at 138) and Grant Nickles (sixth at 170) give the Panthers 12 wrestlers ranked in the top seven of the 14 classes.
Third-ranked Star Valley has 10 wrestlers ranked in the top seven across 10 weight classes.
The Braves have six wrestlers ranked in the top three, and two ranked No. 1. The Panthers have eight guys in the top three with three ranked No. 1.
“They’ve got a pretty full team and have a strong tradition,” Urbach said of the Braves.
The coach said he expects especially tough battles in the 106- and 120-pound brackets. Five of the top seven wrestlers in the 106, and four of the top seven of 120, hail from the West.
The Panthers were slated to depart for Star Valley at 11 a.m. today (Thursday), with a scheduled stop in Riverton for a team workout.
“We’re used to traveling, so that’s an advantage,” Urbach said.
The coach said practices leading up to regionals have been a little shorter and have featured more live wrestling.
“You want them to start adding to what they have,” Urbach said. “You want them to start to peak a little bit.”