The moment was one that Cody Pinkerton had been working for tirelessly since the summer after eighth grade.
From the 14-day J Robinson intensive camp at Eastern Oregon University, to the National Wrestling Championships in Virginia Beach, it was all in preparation for the top prize at the Wyoming State Wrestling Championships.
“I spent about 12 days at home and the rest were at camps,” Pinkerton said. “I’ve spent a lot of my summers wrestling.”
All of the countless hours of working to become the top wrestler in the state came to fruition for the Douglas junior last Saturday at the Casper Events Center.
As Pinkerton’s opponent in the 220-pound state title match – Brennan Harris of Star Valley – attempted to kick out his leg to send him flying to the mat early in the second period, Pinkerton instead tightly wrapped his arms around Harris and slammed him onto the mat in a hurry. No more than three seconds later, the referee smacked his hand loudly on the mat, indicating a victory for the Bearcat.
He quickly rose to his feet and held up each of his index fingers at his coaches across the mat, signifying that he had made it to the top. The state championship that had eluded him for two long years, was finally his.
“It felt good to finally get it,” Pinkerton said humbly. “I’ve always worked pretty hard but this year I really had the mentality of needing to go out and get a state championship. I just busted my butt all year. It was that ‘go and get it’ type of deal.”
After shaking the hands of Star Valley’s coaches, Pinkerton rushed over to enjoy the moment with the coaches that have been there with him every step of the way. He raised coach Brady Shatto high into the air and received the gratification that he had been hoping for since he first took the mat in the state title match as a freshman.
“(That) was really good to see,” head coach Bob Bath said. “It’s something he’s been working really hard for over the last three years.”
The state champion celebrated later that night in proper fashion at Texas Roadhouse with “probably the biggest steak ever,” he said.
GRAPPLERS FALL SHORT
Sophomore Nycholas Melchor, a first-year Bearcat, made it clear in early January at the Shane Shatto Memorial that his mission was to make it to the finals and finish the season on top at 106 pounds. He wanted nothing less for himself.
So when he suffered an early defeat to Sefton Douglass of Lyman in the state title match, he couldn’t help but place his hands over his face in frustration. He fell just short. But in that loss, he found many reasons to stay positive.
“I’m really proud of it,” Melchor said of finishing runner-up. “Coming from being a freshman last year at state and going 1-2 and not even placing, to being a sophomore and finishing runner-up to a really good kid . . . I’m really happy about that.”
At the very least, Melchor is now familiar with the experience of competing in a state title match. It’s something he will now take with him as he looks to his junior and senior years in hopes of earning another shot at a championship.
“I know how those tough matches feel and I know some tricks now to be a better wrestler,” he said. “I’m just going to use all of that stuff and keep on learning next year and the year after that.”
Melchor’s teammate at 195 pounds, Dylon Case, also advanced to the championship round, but fell just short of the ultimate goal.
He knew he faced a tall order in reigning state champion Charlie Beaudrie of Cody, and saw a clear path to victory, but the opportunities were few and far between.
“He’s just really strong,” Case said of Beaudrie. “The game plan was to go in and wait for the right opportunity and a couple of times I got a little excited, but didn’t have the strength. If I didn’t roll over on my back I would’ve been right in there.
“It really sucks.”
THE SILVER CATS
Anyone who knows this year’s Bearcat wrestlers best will tell you that they were truly a family from beginning to end.
“I’ve coached for a number of years and you don’t ever see a state championship caliber team that doesn’t have that cohesiveness and support for one another,” Bath said. “When you have that in a team it’s special. For us the next few years will be good because we have that brotherhood. They wrestle for each other. They worked hard and always expected that from one another.”
As a family the Bearcats finished second overall as a team with 193.5 points, behind only Star Valley, who finished with 296.5 points.
Along with top-finishers Pinkerton, Melchor and Case, Douglas sent seven other wrestlers to the podium. Freshman Jayden Archuleta and senior Dax Read each finished third, Christian Coffman took fourth, Rylan Wehr and Keltan Ewing finished fifth and both Kagan Lenzen and Edel Diaz-Jaime placed sixth.
“Overall I couldn’t be more pleased with their efforts,” Bath said. “We peaked at the right time and the kids wrestled their hearts out. We turned a number of matches that we had lost before during the season, and even the kids that didn’t place were just a match or two out of placing.
“We were at our best.”
As a coach, Bath has much to be proud of and even more to look forward to with this group. Of the 10 wrestlers that placed in Casper, seven will be returning next year, ready to make another run at a title.
There may be nearly 10 months left until the start of the next wrestling season, but after one of their best in recent years, Bath is ready to keep going.
“Give me a couple of weeks and I’ll be ready to go again,” he said with a laugh. “I’m looking forward to next year already.”