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Wrestlers close season on a positive note

The Powell Panthers didn’t win the state wrestling championship, but their coach said they had a good season, and their performance at the state was positive despite a third-place finish.

“I had a fun year,” Nate Urbach said. “We had ups and downs, but overall it was a good season.”

Of the state tournament, Urbach said his team had a rough first day, but wrestled well the second day, and there were many bright spots for the team.

At the top of the list of positives are the three individual championships brought home by Jessee Craig, Jim Seckman and Olie Olson along with Charles Wittick’s strong performance in the finals despite his loss.

“Having three champions is always nice,” Urbach said. “We won three of the four finals we were in and Charles wrestled well enough to win against a good wrestler.”

Urbach said all three titlists wrestled very well against some tough competitors

“Jessee dominated all his matches,” Urbach said. “His closest match was 12-1 in the finals against a former state champion.”

Seckman and Olson also were dominating, taking on and defeating several strong wrestlers, Urbach said.

Urbach also had praise for the other eight medalists, as well as the non-placers. Randy Andrew came back from misfortune in the first round and wrestled through five rounds of wrestlebacks, four of them on Saturday, to finish third with an overtime win.

“That takes guts to come back like that,” Urbach said.

Colt Nix also came back from an upset in the semifinals to take third, and semifinalist Robert Friday finished third in a very tough bracket.

“Robert had a heck of a tournament,” Urbach said. “He was wrestling a full weight class up and he beat some tough kids.”

Fourth-place finisher Waylon Bays was disappointed with his finish, but Urbach said Bays had done well considering that an ankle injury kept him off the mat for several weeks, and he had only returned to action the previous week.

“He missed six weeks at the worst time of the season. That’s a killer,” Urbach said.

Urbach also praised the performance of fifth-place finishers Kurt Bullinger, Clay Saldana and Trevor Griffeth for coming back from early losses to earn medals, as well as sixth-place finisher Tyler Patterson, who “had a great tournament.”

Urbach was equally positive about his non-placers, several of whom came within a win of medaling.

“Drew (Feller) wrestled tough,” Urbach said. “He got on the wrong side of the bracket and had some tough guys to wrestle. If he had been on the other side of the bracket, he would probably have placed.”

“Luke (Wozney) got a terrible draw, the worst possible draw,” Urbach said. “He wrestled as hard as he possibly could.”

The bracket also worked against Zac Thompson and Colbee Craig, who might have placed but were eliminated by fellow Panthers. Craig lost to Dylan Rood, who missed the medal matches by one win, and Thompson fell to Andrews.

Danny Harris “wrestled his heart out,” but also fell one win short of a medal, Urbach said, and freshmen Brendan Phister and Anthony Lujan gained valuable experience despite being eliminated early.

The Panthers lose six wrestlers, Craig, Seckman, Griffeth, Harris, Nix and Wozney, to graduation, and Urbach said he will miss them.

“I had a real good time with the seniors this year,” he said.

But Urbach said the team’s performance in Casper indicates that he will have a good base for next year, when the 3A schools will again have to contend with Star Valley, who will drop down a class after finishing second in 4A this year.

“We’ll have eight medalists back next year, and one returning champion,” Urbach said. “Star Valley comes down, but I think we’ll be all right. I’m looking forward to next year.”

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