Panthers take top spot

Posted 12/8/09

Jessee Craig, Olie Olson, Colt Nix and Monte Nickles all battled to big wins in the final round with each match coming down to the final seconds.

For Nix, the win came in his third straight championship matchup with Worland's Jorden Osbon. Osbon …

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Panthers take top spot


{gallery}12_08_09/phswrestling{/gallery} Jessee Craig faces off with Rocky Mountain High School's Jake Jones during the semifinals of the Powell Invitational Saturday. Craig scored a 9-3 win and went on to win the championship with a 6-4 decision over Shawn Zavala of Wheatland. Tribune photo by Don Amend PHS wrestlers post strong win in Powell InviteThe Powell Panthers took the first step toward defending their 3A state wrestling championship last week, and it was a big one.The Panthers outpointed 20 other teams to win their own invitational tournament, placing six wrestlers in the finals and battling to four individual championships. Casper Natrona finished second followed by 2A Greybull/Riverside and 3A teams Worland and Wheatland.

Jessee Craig, Olie Olson, Colt Nix and Monte Nickles all battled to big wins in the final round with each match coming down to the final seconds.

For Nix, the win came in his third straight championship matchup with Worland's Jorden Osbon. Osbon defeated Nix for the 125-pound championship last year after Nix had won the matchup in the regional finals. This time Nix managed to build a three-point lead in the third period, and come away with a 12-11 win despite a late reversal by Osbon.

“It was a big one for Colt,” said coach Nate Urbach. “He was kind of mad about losing in the finals last year and he wanted to prove he could beat him.”

Nix was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler for his performance.

Olson scored his win by coming from behind in the last 10 seconds of a battle between state champions. Olson, who won last year at 112, made the jump to 130 this year and took on Brode Bullington of Lander, the defending 3A champion. Olson trailed 4-2 in the final seconds, but executed a roll that scored a reversal and put Bullington on his back for the winning points.

A late reversal scored the winning points for Craig in his 6-4 win over Wheatland's Shawn Zavala at 112. It was Craig's first tournament since last year's Powell Invitational, when an injury suffered in the finals ended his season.

Nickles led Natrona County's Ab Brown through most of their 171-pound match, but Brown scored a reversal late in the third period to tie the score. Nickles responded with an escape just before the buzzer to take the match 9-8.

Randy Andrews nearly earned a fifth championship for the Panthers with an impressive performance at 140. Andrews wrestled his way into the 140-pound finals by pinning Trevor Goss of Sheridan, last year's 4A champion at 135, in the third period. In the finals, he faced J.R. Vezain of Rocky Mountain, last year's 2A champ at 130, and took the match into overtime before Vezain scored a takedown to win in sudden death.

“Vezain is probably the number one wrestler in all classes in Wyoming at 140,” Urbach said. “Randy wrestled well.”

Charles Wittick earned Powell's other silver medal, defeating wrestlers from Gillette and Rawlins before falling to Josh Mann of Colstrip, Mont. in the finals.

Luke Wozney finished third at 112, losing to tournament champion Jay Stine of Worland by a single point in the semi-finals and coming back to beat Greybull's Matt Grovenstein for his medal.

Other medalists for the Panthers were fourth place finishers Luke Cannon, one of three Panthers who reached bracket competition at 160 on Saturday, and Devin Jordan at 189. Trent Gillette at 152 and Jimmy Seckman at 160 both finished fifth.

Joe Lujan also reached bracket wrestling at 215, as did Cole Kary at 160 and Waylon Bays at 145, but did not place. Urbach said all three wrestled well.

“Joe lost in overtime his first match (in bracket wrestling),” Urbach said. “Waylon beat some tough kids on Friday to get into the bracket.”

Kary had the misfortune of being matched with teammate Cannon in the first round of bracket wrestling, Urbach said.

In the JV division, Dylan Rood took the 103-pound championship for the Panthers. Robert Friday and Danny Harris finished second, and Drew Feller and Mike Mundy finished fourth. As a team the JVs finished fifth behind Lander, Lovell, Gillette and Natrona County.

Urbach said he was very happy with the win, which broke a string of Natrona County wins at the Powell Invitational, and said it was a good beginning for the team, but he said there's still a long way to go. He noted that Worland was competing without some of their wrestlers last week, and he expects tough competition from the Warriors down the road.

This week the Panther varsity will travel to Rapid City, S.D. for a big tournament which will include Sturgis, S.D., which Urbach said is one of the best teams in the nation.

“This is the toughest tournament we have,” Urbach said. “Sturgis is easily in the top 20 nationally. They won this tournament last year and they lost nobody from that team.”

The JVs will compete in a tournament at Forsyth, Mont. Both tournaments take place Friday and Saturday.