Riverton's Wempen wins Thon mat titleFeb 5, 2017 By Scott Akanewich, Sports Editor
The Wolverine sophomore was victorious in the 182-pound division with a dramatic 5-3 decision.
Hayden Wempen was left doubled over in the middle of the mat, gasping and wheezing for air.
The Riverton sophomore wrestler had just been slammed to the floor by his opponent in the championship match of the 182-pound division, Laramie's Carless Looney, at the Ron Thon Memorial Invitational on Saturday.
The bout as stopped as Wempen was given time to recover from what was ruled an illegal move by Looney.
After a scoreless first round, Wempen found himself trailing, 2-1, after the second, with everything to fight for in the third and final period.
The match was deadlocked at 3-3 when Looney lifted Wempen off his feet and let gravity do the rest, as the Wolverine was planted on the mat, leaving him in obvious discomfort.
Following a conference among the officials, Looney was given a two-point penalty, which provided the margin of victory for Wempen.
As the clock hit 0:00, Wempen released a primal scream as he lifted his arms triumphantly and did a quick victory lap around the mat, before having his arm lifted by the referee. Then Wempen made a beeline to the locker room.
According to Wempen, the uncharacteristic display of emotion in the aftermath of the match was fueled by something which had been building up inside him for weeks, following a pair of losses to Looney earlier this season.
"I lost to him 2-1 in Douglas and 6-5 in Lander," said Wempen. "Ever since, I've been holding a grudge and even getting into fights at practice over it."
In fact, Wempen only had three defeats on the current campaign entering the Ron Thon, with two of them having been at the hands of Looney, who has accepted a scholarship to the University of Wyoming and was the division's No. 1 seed.
That made it that much sweeter for Wempen to beat his newfound nemesis this time around.
"Coming into this one, I was just thinking, 'Let it all go,'" said Wempen, now 39-3 on the season. "My guts are killing me right now."
After all was said and done, the hometown hero was thankful for his opportunity to shine.
"It feels great to be able to come in here from my old farmhouse and have everyone pulling for the local kid," said Wempen. "But, it's not over."
In the championship match of the 160-pound class, Riverton's Koa Rodriguez faced off against Cheyenne East's Seth Green and lost a difficult 2-0 decision in what was a hard-fought battle of wills from beginning to end.
Rodriguez (22-6) had defeated Evanston's Griffin Mitchell in the quarterfinals by a 6-4 decision, before beating Kemmerer's Gavin Julander by the same score in the semifinals.
The other placer for the Wolverines was Dino Baldes, who finished fifth in the 160-pound division with a victory over Julander by a 7-4 decision.
As a team, Riverton finished 16th in the 43-squad field, with 79 points, behind winner Star Valley, which won with 169.5 over second-place Green River (139).
For the Tigers, 138-pounder Palmer Schafer, who entered the tournament with a perfect 41-0 mark on the season, was the lone Lander wrestler to make a final, matched up with Gillette's Trevor Jeffries and coming away with a 10-0 defeat.
Schafer, now 44-1, had beaten two of his first three opponents by fall before defeating Star Valley's Brandon Claye in the semifinals, when an injury to his counterpart brought the bout to an abrupt end.
Nathan Redman (32-16) finished fifth in the 120-pound division after a victory against Riverton's Justyn Corbett by a 7-2 decision.
Pat Cornell was the only Wrangler wrestler in the varsity tournament, going 1-2, including a win over Hulett's Morgan Hummel by fall at 1:49.
For the Rams, Wyatt Gleim competed in the 132-pound bracket, going 0-2 for the weekend.
Kyle Laird was the only Cougar representative in the competition, finishing 1-2 for the event at 120 pounds.
Ron Thon Memorial Invitational
Championship round results
106 - Jace Palmer (Kelly Walsh) def. Lane Jackson (Kelly Walsh), major decision, 14-3
113 - Tate Stoddard (Glenrock) def. Brian Crawford, Rocky Mountain, 3-1.
120 - Caleb Nathan, Kelly Walsh def. Dylan Humes, Moorcroft, fall 2:39
126 - Gage Byers, Green River def. Ashton Dupape, Rock Springs, fall 1:37
132 - Donny Profitt, Kemmerer def. Trenten Heil, Sheridan, major decision, 11-2.
138 - Trevor Jeffries, Gillette def. Palmer Schafer, Lander, major decision, 10-0
145 - Dyaln Sandsteldt, Douglas def. Trevor Clark, Star Valley, fall 5:59
152 - Travis Tatkenhorst, Worland def. Brett Brenton, Natrona, forfeit.
160 - Seth Green, Cheyenne East def. Koa Rodriguez, Riverton, 2-0
170 - Hayden Hastings, Sheridan def. Hayden Walker, Kemmerer, major decision, 10-2
182 - Hayden Wempen, Riverton def. Carless Looney, Laramie, 5-3.
195 - Dryden Menck, Lyman def. Zach Easom, Powell, fall 2:49.
220 - Josh Dawson, Star Valeey def. McCabe Smith, Star Valley, major decision, 11-3.
285 - Cody Cagle, Wheatland def. Nathan Kern, Worland, 3-1