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Panthers top Worland’s battle of the Big Horns

Andrews named outstanding wrestler

The Powell Panther wrestlers returned to the top in the annual Battle of the Big Horns last week in Worland.

The Panthers finished a perfect weekend by outpointing the host team 41-33 in the championship dual after earning their way into the championship with bracket wins over Rock Springs and Star Valley. Charles Wittick, Randy Andrews and Olie Olson were selected to wrestle in the Best of the Best round for the Panthers, and all three won to post perfect 7-0 records for the weekend. Andrews was honored as the outstanding upper-weight wrestler of the tournament.

Colbee Craig, Waylon Bays, Wittick, Andrews and Olson all posted pins in the final, but the Warriors matched them with five pins of their own. Worland forfeited at heavyweight though, and the dual was decided by three decisions. Zach Thiel and Kurt Bullinger won two of the three, with Bullinger’s win coming over the Warriors’ Bronson Hernandez, who had defeated him last week in Rapid City.

“Zach came up big in the Worland match,” said coach Nate Urbach. “Kurt had a good day and beat Hernandez.”

The Powell team began their trip to the finals by dominating four opponents in pool wrestling on Friday.  They opened by smothering Green River 70-12 and followed up with a 78-0 win over a Buffalo team that included wrestlers from several other schools filling in at open weights. Seven pins helped them take down a strong 2A contender, the Lovell Bulldogs, 57-22, and they closed out pool wrestling with a 45-24 win over 4A Lovell.

In bracket wrestling, the Panthers used two forfeits and pins by Wittick, Craig, Andrews, Olson and Bullingers to coast to a 54-22 win over Rock Springs. Clay Saldana added a major decision and Drew Feller eked out a 1-0 decision to add to the Panthers’ margin of victory.

Star Valley, who knocked off the Panthers in the tournament semi-finals last year, was unable to overcome four forfeits in the semi-finals, and the Panthers again won by a big margin, 54-24.  Wittick, Bays, Andrew, Olson and Tyler Patterson all recorded pins in the match.

It was a perfect weekend for Andrews, who pinned each of his opponents and spent less than six minutes total on the mat in his four Saturday bouts. His slowest pin was in the Best of the Best round where he pinned Payton Lint of Cody in 2:36.

Olson and Wittick also pinned their way through the pool and bracket wrestling, and both scored technical falls in the Best of the Best round.

Thiel, Bays and Bullinger finished the weekend with only one loss each, and Craig and Feller each finished with a 4-2 record.

Urbach also credited Tyler Patterson, who beat two Star Valley wrestlers, and Dylan Rood, who wrestled well against exceptionally tough competition.

“(Dylan) pinned the number-three ranked 3A wrestler, and he wrestled the number-one 3A , the number-one 4A and a returning state champion, all in one day,” Urbach said. “Tyler filled in for us and looked tough. He beat two Star Valley kids.”

Although the win was satisfying, Urbach said it doesn’t mean the rest of the season will be easy.

“We still have a long way to go to be ready for state,” Urbach said. “We’re going to be neck and neck with Worland all year.”

Star Valley was handicapped last weekend because of injuries and other factors that left gaps in their lineup, and Urbach said they will be a big factor later in the season. He also believes that Lander, which finished seventh after losing to Star Valley in the first round of bracket wrestling, will be part of the mix at state, and Douglas should also be in a position to challenge for the top spot.

“It’s going to be fun all year,” Urbach said.

The Panthers will take a break from competition, and will next compete in a big Montana tournament in Bozeman, Jan. 4 and 5.

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