After a full 10-hour day of dozens of hard-won matches, the top honors just barely eluded the Bearcats, who placed second at the 3A state wrestling championship at Casper Feb. 26.
With 202 points, Douglas fell only to Star Valley, who placed first with 228 points, for the sixth year in a row. It was Douglas’ third year in a row winning second place.
The team, however, still garnered plenty of medals, earned by the heroic exploits of individual wrestlers, who competed against a range of tough competitors including Worland, Powell, Star Valley, Newcastle/Upton, Cody and Lander Valley.
Of the 21 wrestlers who competed at state, 10 advanced through sweat and brute strength to the finals round.
Leading the pack was sophomore Lane Ewing, who ultimately placed first in the 145-pound class, defeating two-time state champion Kale Corley of Newcastle/Upton.
Meanwhile, Luke Ewing (126), Rylan Wehr (132), Keltan Ewing (138), Kagan Lenzen (170) and Kyle Logar (285) all placed third in their respective weight categories.
Placing fifth were Nycholas Melchor (113) and Kolby Parker (220), while Christian Johnson (120) and Kael Matthews (160) placed sixth.
It was a rousing end to a strong and unique season for the Bearcats, who were forced to grapple with changing guidelines due to the pandemic. Some of their last meets in February before regionals were cancelled after some members of the team tested positive for the coronavirus.
“I’m pleased with how we did. The kids fought hard,” said head coach Bob Bath.
Throughout the season, Bath reminded fans that wrestling is both an individual and a team sport. Comments from the Bearcats throughout the day in Casper substantiated that thinking.
The Douglas wrestlers spoke proudly of their teammates, suggesting that they derived just as much strength from each other as from themselves.
“The day is going great. They’re all amazing brothers,” sophomore Gage Iberlin said of his teammates following his win by fall against Carter White of Star Valley in the consolation round.
“I feel great. It’s my first win of the day. I just used my momentum,” said Iberlin, who wrestled in the 285-pound class.
Sophomore Christian Johnson also defeated Thomas Dalton of Green River, another defending state champion, early in the quarter-finals, “which got us rolling,” Bath said.
The team struggled, however, through the semi-finals, losing six of their seven matches.
It was those losses that helped Star Valley get away from Douglas.
But the Cats found a way to bounce back.
“The semis killed us, but this round we’re picking it up,” junior Keltan Ewing said during the consolation round after his win against Gabe Harris of Lander Valley.
“I used the anger from my last match,” Ewing said, referring to his loss to Tanner Collins of Mountain View.
Once the finals round arrived, the Bearcats were ready to pounce.
Lane Ewing won his championship match against Corley by 5-0 decision.
Ewing, along with other members of the team, used the occasion following their finals victories to reflect back on the year.
“Though there were a few disappointments, it’s been a good season,” Ewing said. “I love this sport. It forces me to push myself. I’ll definitely be wrestling again next year.”
Freshman Luke Ewing, his younger brother, echoed that sentiment after his win against Kal Burk of Star Valley, a win that earned him third place.
“We’ve had a good team this year,” he said. And the best part about the season, he noted, “was how hard the coaches pushed us. It was tough at first, but it worked out.”
Junior Rylan Wehr, who also placed third after defeating Kaleb Fila of Star Valley, put it more bluntly: “It was a pretty (darn) good year.”
For more photographs, please see this week's print issue of The Budget.