In its first year of sanctioned action the Wyoming High School state wrestling tournament set a strong example for years to come on Thursday and Friday in Casper — with the two Powell High …
In its first year of sanctioned action the Wyoming High School state wrestling tournament set a strong example for years to come on Thursday and Friday in Casper — with the two Powell High School girls’ wrestlers Allison LeBlanc and Yessenia Teague at the forefront, bringing silverware home in the first all girl state tournament.
The pair started the season back in December, when they were the only two PHS students to join the team in its inaugural season.
Teague, a senior, had been used to the grind of high school wrestling having competed with the Panthers all four years.
“I wasn’t too sure about it at the beginning of the season,” Teague said. “I was really nervous because I have wrestled guys for the last four years, so this being the first year it was new and different so it took awhile to warm up to.”
LeBlanc came in with a clean slate, joining this year as a freshman.
“I am so glad that I had Yessenia to help me throughout,” LeBlanc said. “She pushed me to the limit where I kept telling myself ‘I can’t,’ she told me that she knows it’s hard and she kept telling me to keep pushing and that it will pay off.”
The pair spent long road trips throughout the season heading to the same tournaments as the boys’ teams but sometimes going to different meets if a girls tournament was not an option.
Teague started the year strong and battled strong after winning the Powell tournament the opening weekend, while LeBlanc finished fourth at that same tournament and continued to learn early in her freshman year.
“This has brought us together,” Teague said.
The pair continued to journey and eventually both took third at the Lyman Invitational the week before the state tournament, with their eyes set last Thursday and Friday in Casper.
“It’s really cool that Wyoming has adopted girls wrestling,” coach Nick Fulton said. “These girls came in every day and practiced with the boys, they are awfully special young ladies … I don’t think they missed practice throughout the year.”
Both girls’ came out strong in their early matches despite the tournament being delayed an hour due to inclement weather, both finishing with pins in their first matches.
LeBlanc (15-17) finished with another pin in her quarterfinal match after three minutes against Gilliam Holman (21-6) from Glenrock to advance to the semifinals at 110 pounds.
Teague (29-9) had to win two more matches to advance to the semifinals, finishing with a pin in 2:36 over Annika Klauenberg (8-14) from Glenrock and a pin of Jordan Nielson (27-16) from Lander in 5:56 to advance to the semifinals at 125 pounds.
Both girls went out and battled hard in their respective semifinals, with LeBlanc advancing to the final after a pin (3:39) of Keston Johnson (29-6) from Star Valley. Teague came up short in a difficult match against Andraya Canchola (25-4) from Natrona County and lost by pin at the 5:17 mark.
Teague drew a difficult matchup in the consolation semifinal, squaring off with the top seed Laynee Walker (39-8) from Kemmerer, who was upset in the first round.
Walker got the better of Teague and pinned her at the 4:39 mark, sending Teague to the fifth place match.
Teague rebounded with a pin (3:39) of Lily Harris (19-11) from Green River to finish fifth.
“I am not disappointed in how I wrestled at all,” Teague said. “I am really proud of how I wrestled — not the outcome I wanted but I am proud of myself and the effort that I put into this tournament.”
LeBlanc got time to rest before taking part in the championship match Friday night, wrestling against Rebekah Anderson (40-6) from Moorcroft.
Both athletes waited to take shots early on, before Anderson earned a takedown on LeBlanc 57 seconds in before settling in and finally pinning LeBlanc at the 1:50 mark.
“I had wrestled her before and I was like, ‘If I am going to leave it all out there I am going to set up my shot and take it,’” LeBlanc said. “That is something I have struggled with throughout the season, setting up my shot and taking it — I have been primarily on defense.”
Teague said that seeing LeBlanc taking shots in the state championship and finishing second made her tournament better, with the pair continually growing closer throughout the season.
“I knew that Yessenia would have my back,” LeBlanc said.
As a team, the two Panthers finished 17th out of 42 girls teams scoring the tournament.
Girls wrestling has had a strong tradition at Powell and throughout the state of Wyoming, but Teague and LeBlanc are hopeful that this first year of sanctioned girls wrestling will set a strong example for the future.
“I hope a lot of girls see this and will realize that it’s worth it in the end at the state tournament and that it is something they should consider getting into,” Teague said. “Not only is the sport physically challenging but the sport is also mentally challenging. It will make you a better person and will push you to your limits.”
She said this year has been a lot of trial and error throughout, not only for athletes but for tournament workers who helped make each event happen throughout the year.
“I feel as though wrestling is the toughest sport out there,” LeBlanc said. “To see girls coming in through USA Wrestling and I can see if they continue with the sport then they will be a beast in high school.”
Finishing out her freshman year LeBlanc has her sights set on a state title next season, and helping become a leader for any girls who decide to join the program next year.
“She came into the program, and talk about an upward trajectory,” Fulton said. “She was very competitive at the state tournament. When you have an All-State candidate as a freshman then the future is pretty bright. She is going to have to take on that leadership role in the program, we have some girls coming up and we are going to lean on Allison to fill Yessenia’s role.”
Teague said she plans to stay in Powell for college and come back to help the team continue to grow in the years to come.
“She is certainly going to be missed, but Yessenia is going to go on and do great things,” Fulton said.