Wrestlers battling on a series of multi-colored padded mats covering nearly every square foot of the Douglas High School gymnasium floor never knew Shane Shatto - they likely weren’t even born yet.
Although they never met the man, they most definitely know who he was and what he stood for while on this earth. Shatto was tragically killed along with seven others by a drunk driver back in 2001. Leaders within the Douglas wrestling community stepped up, forging a tournament in his name.
And it’s grown. A lot.
Fast forward to 2020, and Shatto’s name has become synonymous with one of the premiere annual wrestling tournaments in all of Wyoming. At this point, it’s safe to say Shatto’s memory isn’t going anywhere.
Nowadays, teams travel from as far away as Colorado, Nebraska and far reaches of Wyoming to make Douglas a wrestling mecca for a couple days each January. Top wrestlers from some of the biggest schools around have started making the tournament a staple in their regular season schedules. Simply placing is a massive accomplishment wrestlers can tick off their wrestling career bucket list.
Reigning 220-pound 3A state champion Cody Pinkerton took second at last year’s Shane Shatto Memorial Tournament. He refused to allow nothing short of excellence in his final shot at the tournament. A stellar performance netted Pinkerton champion status at his hometown tournament. Head coach Bob Bath said the feat can bring a pretty special feeling.
“It was nice to see Cody win the tournament this year after second last year,” Bath said. “Some of the weight (classes) are extremely tough.”
Considering 4A powerhouse programs such as Kelly Walsh, Thunder Basin, Natrona County and Gering, Nebraska come to the tournament in full force, Bath had nothing but positive takeaways from this year’s two-day tourney.
“As a coach, I was pleased with how our kids performed,” he said. “I feel good that we’re on the right pace.”
Douglas ended up finishing third overall as a team, tying Natrona County with 178 points. Kelly Walsh won the tournament with a team score of 200.5, while Thunder Basin took second with 189 team points. It was the highest finish for Douglas since 2015 when they also finished third at the tournament.
Bath said his team competes against 4A all the time, but said 3A is just as tough. His team’s placing proved to him they are just as capable as any other program in Wyoming to see success.
Speaking of success, Bath couldn’t forget about senior newcomer Bradyn Matthews and what he was able to do at his first-ever Shatto tournament in the 285 weight bracket.
Matthews took third place overall, scoring 24 team points after making it to the third place match against Colter Rankin of Campbell County. His only loss came from Burns/Pine Bluffs grappler Lincoln Siebert in the semifinal round.
“He wrestled as a little kid, but not in high school,” Bath said. “For me, I’m very surprised he’s doing this well. He’s working hard at it and I am thrilled for him . . . he’s done a great job.”
The sky’s the limit, Bath said, if Matthews keeps doing what’s brought him early success this season.
“If he improves that much more, he’ll be right in the thick of things at regionals and state,” he said.
Other strong finishes came from Charlie Koss (126), who ended up earning fourth place overall.
In the 160 weight class, Kagan Lenzen finished third overall. He claimed the third place finish after winning by decision over Dawsen Hayden of Campbell County.
Douglas earned a pair of fifth place finishes in Keltan Ewing (138) and Rylan Wehr (120), with Lane Ewing rounding out the placers for Douglas with a sixth-place finish.
“We had a number of guys close to placing,” the coach added. “As a team, we wrestled better and harder.”
This group of grapplers has Bath excited for the remainder of the season, but noted they haven’t fully fleshed out their true potential just yet.
“We got a lot to still work on - we can get better - that’s exciting,” Bath said.
Everything’s easier when athletes are having fun with what they’re doing, and the coach says that is exactly the atmosphere he’s gathering from athletes this year.
“They are very excited,” he said. “They’re starting to believe they are one of the top teams. I’m excited for every weekend with these guys.”
It’s not all coming up roses looking forward, the coach warned, as there is still a lot of the season remaining and it will only get tougher each week from now.
Coming up this Friday, they head to a two-day tournament at Kelly Walsh. They will wrestle at 3:30/5/6:30 p.m. this Friday and 8:30/10/11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday.