For six seniors on the team, the tournament will also be their last chance to wrestle in their home gym, and they want it to be a success, not only individually but as a team.
“I just want to finish it out the right way,” said Jim Seckman, “by winning it myself and the team winning it.”
Seckman’s sentiment was shared by his teammates. While they didn’t say so directly, last week’s disappointing dual meet loss to Worland was providing motivation to wrestle harder this weekend.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Jessee Craig. “Everybody’s ready to go.”
“My definite goal is to win,” defending state champion Colt Nix said. “I just want the team to be ready.”
Nix said he knows he faces a big challenge in his final matches if he wants to repeat as a champion.
“Going back to back will be tough because you have a target on your back, ” Nix said. “But I’m ready.”
While Seckman and Craig joined Nix in the finals last year at state and are going into this weekend as favorites, the other three have never reached the medal rounds at state, and Luke Wozney said he is determined to change that. Still, his first thought about his final weeks as a Panther wrestler was, “how bad I want to win it as a team.”
“I’ve never won a medal, and I want to be a medalist,” Wozney said, “I really want the team to be the champions.”
Trevor Griffeth said the team is ready to go, but he and his teammates have to focus on wrestling well.
“We’ve got to do what we know,” Griffeth said, but he added, “We can’t let (the pressure) get to our heads.”
Danny Harris has competed in the regionals before, but this year it’s a little different for him. In past years, he has gone into the tournament as a non-scoring wrestler. This year, he’s the varsity entry, and will be counted on to score team points in the competition, a situation he is happy about.
“It feels pretty good (to be the varsity wrestler). It’s better than going in as the second string,” Harris said.
All six say they are happy they joined the wrestling program and say the experience was good for them.
“Honestly, it helped me a lot,” said Griffeth. “It made me more prepared for what comes my way. It was fun and I’m glad I did it.”
Harris called his wrestling career a good experience and said, “I learned a lot about myself” during four years on the team.
Wrestling has helped him develop his work ethic, Wozney said, and that has benefitted him outside of the sport.
“I learned to work hard, and I’ve been able to apply it to other things,” Wozney said.
Both Seckman and Craig are entering this week’s competition determined to reach the top at state after finishing second last year, and both said wrestling has been a positive experience for them.
Seckman, who struggled with injuries his freshman year, said wrestling is a “love-hate relationship,” but said there was never any doubt that he would be a wrestler and overall, it has been good for him.
Craig, who also had injury problems and lost most of his sophomore season to a broken collar bone, called wrestling, “The best thing I’ve done.”
Like Seckman, Nix said wrestling was a love-hate relationship, but a good learning experience.
“It’s up and down,” Nix said. “But I learned stuff in wrestling that you can’t learn anywhere else. Overall, it’s been good.”
The six seniors will lead their team onto the mat at noon Friday (tomorrow) to begin the Panthers journey to another championship.