Wempen, Briggs, Schafer win wrestling titles

Feb 26, 2017 By Scott Akanewich, Sports Editor

A pair of Riverton Wolverines and a Lander Tiger claimed gold at the tournament in Casper, with Riverton finishing third in the team standings.

Riverton's wrestlers arrived in Casper for the Class 3-A state tournament with high hopes, and those hopes were fulfilled by a trio of Big Red grapplers who made the finals in their respective weight divisions.

As a team, the Wolverines finished third in Class 3-A, with 146.5 points behind winner Star Valley, which repeated as champion with 266.5 points.

Hayden Wempen (182 pounds), Koa Rodriguez (160) and Ridge Briggs (113) all advanced to the championship matches of their classes.

Wempen (45-3) entered the event as the No. 2 seed in the 182-pound bracket behind only Douglas's Cody Pinkerton (44-19), whom he met in the final on Saturday.

However, on Friday, Wempen first had to dispose of three opponents before the showdown with the No. 1 seed.

First up was No.15 Ethan Fenus (15-9) of Mountain View. Wempen made quick work of him with a fall at 1:43.

In the second round of competition, the opposition was provided by No. 7 Wyatt Crane (18-24) of Wheatland, whom Wempen pinned at 3:58.

On to the evening's semifinals, in which the Wolverine faced No. 3 Tiegan Marchant (29-12) of Newcastle/Upton.

What should have been Wempen's most difficult match to that point -- at least on paper -- ended up being his easiest, winning by a technical fall with a score of 18-3.

Only Pinkerton, a freshman, remained in the final, standing between Wempen and the state championship which eluded him in last season's semifinals during a 3-1 decision to Cheyenne Central's Bryce Lundberg, who was the No. 2 seed in last year's tourney to Wempen's No 1.

However, this time around, the script was flipped, with Wempen having the upper hand and the higher seed.

All that was left was for the battle to be joined.

It wasn't much of one.

Wempen took control from the opening whistle, scoring a pair of quick takedowns for a 4-0 lead, then added another three takedowns and a near fall to lead 13-0 after one period.

It wasn't long after until the match was over, with Wempen winning a technical fall by a 16-0 final and claiming the championship he came so close to last season.

Riverton entered a pair of wrestlers in the 160-pound division, with Koa Rodriguez (32-7) and Dino Baldes (35-7) both having qualified at the Class 3-A West regional event the previous week.

Rodriguez entered as the No. 2 seed, while Baldes was No. 6. Both did well in their opening two matches.

In the opening round, Rodriguez won by forfeit 15th-seeded Brandon Kunz (10-11) of Star Valley, then defeated No. 7 Chase Dominguez (17-28) of Torrington.

On the same side of the 160 bracket, Baldes began his quest with an opening-round defeat of Lyman's Colton VanGiesen (19-24), the No. 11 seed, with a fall at 4:27, then followed up with another victory against No. 3 Cullen Becher (27-8) of Thermopolis with a 7-2 decision.

This set up up meeting of Wolverines in the semifinals on Friday night, as Rodriguez and Baldes faced each other with a berth in Saturday's final at stake.

In the end, it was senior Rodriguez who was victorious over junior Baldes by a 4-2 decision, which advanced Rodriguez to the title bout against No. 4 Bridger Vandeberg (31-9) of Star Valley.

However, Baldes bounced right back with a pair of wins, the first against Newcastle/Upton's James Moberly in the consolation semifinals with a 16-0 technical fall, the second in the third-place match over Lander's DeAundre Velarde, with a fall at 2:34.

In the 160 final, Rodriguez wrestled a hard-fought match against Vandeberg, scoring a takedown in the first round for a 2-0 lead, one he would maintain through a scoreless second period and into the third.

However, Vandeberg produced a pair of escapes in the final period, sending the match into overtime deadlocked at 2-2.

Only 38 seconds into the sudden-death period, Vandeberg managed a takedown and took the match and the state title by a 4-2 decision.

The other Riverton wrestler making final was 113-pounder Ridge Briggs (46-7), a freshman who entered as the No. 2 seed.

First up for Briggs was an opening-round victory against No. 15 Ethan Thomasson of Cody, a match in which Briggs prevailed with a quick fall at only 0:42.

Next was a match against Pinedale's Victor Vejar (11-14), the No. 10 seed, which Briggs also won with a fall at 3:40.

In the semifinals, Briggs faced Douglas's Kaden Matthews (31-23), the No. 3 seed, and pinned him at 3:45.

Star Valley's Spencer Angell (30-13), the No. 4 seed, would provide the opposition in the final.

In a match which saw the two combatants spend much of the time grappling on their feet, fighting for position, and looking for an opening in each other's defenses, Briggs was victorious by the slimmest of margins, with a 2-1 decision.

The opening round was scoreless. Briggs was credited with an escape in the second for a 1-0 advantage over Angell entering the third round.

Briggs managed another escape, which was answered by one from Angell, and that's how it ended, with the freshman being crowned state champion.

Riverton's Zach McIntosh finished fourth in the 220-pound bracket, going 3-2 for the weekend.

McIntosh defeated Douglas's Reid Foster (2-30) with a fall at 0:43 and Buffalo's Hunter Poppe (7-18) with another fall at 5:59 in the first two rounds, moving on to face Morgan Turner (37-10) of Worland in the semifinals, losing a 9-2 decision.

McIntosh moved on to beat Cutter Foster of Rawlins (31-13) in the consolation semifinals, then lost to Cody's Eric Flores (27-12) in the third-place match.

A pair of Wolverines finished fifth, Justyn Corbett (25-10, 120 pounds) and Wayne Steeds (9-6, 152).

Corbett went 4-2 for the tourney, highlighted by a victory over Buffalo's Dallas Lopez (24-12) in the fifth-place match with a fall at 4:52.

Steeds also was 4-2, with a win over Lander's Nathan Motherway (16-2), by a 7-1 decision.

Chris McIntosh (15-14) was the other Riverton wrestler who placed in Casper, bringing home sixth in the 195-pound division, going 3-3, with a loss to Lander's Austin Bennett (25-24) in the fifth-place match.

Other Wolverines scoring team points were Jaydan Ladd (126 pounds, six points), Peyton Rees (132, five) and Wyatt Wichelhaus (285, four).


The Tigers had a pair of wrestlers qualify for championship finals in Palmer Schafer (52-2) in the Class 3-A 138-pound division and William Atnip (37-8) in the 145-pound class.

In the opening round, the fourth-seeded Schafer defeated No. 13 Zach Schuessler (16-21) with a fall at 1:34, then followed that win up with a victory over Torrington's Jacob Polkowske (21-18), the No. 5 seed, with a fall at only 0:28.

In the semifinals, Schafer battled Cody's No. 8 David Plummer (34-16) and pinned the Bronc at 3:05.

Schafer then moved on the face Ben Elmlinger (27-6) of Buffalo, the No. 3 seed.

The bout was deadlocked at 2-2 after the first round, only for Schafer to go ahead 5-2 after two rounds.

In the third round, both wrestlers fought furiously for their title hopes, but it was Schafer who emerged victorious by a 8-4 decision, winning a state crown for the Tigers.

Atnip entered the event as the No. 2 seed at 145 pounds with a 37-7 record and opened against No. 15 Swade Bindl (13-15) with a fall at 2:49, then defeated Thermopolis's Koy Myers (22-14), the No. 7 seed, with a fall at 2:55.

Next was a semifinal victory against No. 3 Jake Waterson (34-16) of Buffalo, a match which Atnip won by fall at 3:07.

Atnip would next match up against No. 1 Dylan Sandstedt (60-2) of Douglas.

After trailing by a 2-0 margin after the opening period, Sandstedt prevailed with a fall at 2:48, handing Atnip a runner-up finish.

A pair of Tigers finished fourth, DeAundre Velarde in the 160-pound bracket and Nathan Redman at 120.

Velarde (24-25), the No. 8 seed, beat Powell's No. 9 Cameron Schmidt (8-21) with a fall at 1:00, then defeated No. 1 Chance Dutcher (40-18) of Douglas with a fall at 1:19.

In the semifinals, Velarde took on Vandeberg and was pinned at 3:27, which sent him to the consolation bracket, where he defeated Becher, 4-2, before losing to Baldes in the third-place match, by fall at 2:34.

Redman (39-20) was the No. 6 seed in the 120 class and opened against Powell's Stephen Preator (22-14), the No. 11 wrestler. Redman defeated the Panther with a 13-4 decision before beating Lopez in a 1-0 decision to reach the semifinals against No. 2 Hagen Lamureaux (25-10), where he lost by a 9-2 decision.

However, Redman rebounded with a victory over Corbett in the consolation semifinals, by a 6-2 decision before bowing out to Star Valley's Grayson Hicks (27-20) in the third-place match.

Brady Carey (32-14) finished fifth in the 106-pound class for Lander with a 3-3 record for the weekend, including a defeat of Worland's Dominic Hartley (23-14) in the fifth-place match, 11-9.

Bennett also finished fifth with his victory over Chris McIntosh in the fifth-place match of the 195 class, while fellow Tigers Nathan Motherway (16-23, 152 pounds) and Brody Dempster (23-26, 170) both finished sixth.

Lander finished seventh as a team in Class 3-A, with 126 points.


For the Wranglers, James Knigge (23-12) was the only wrestler who finished on the podium, claiming fifth place in the Class 2-A 113-pound class.

Knigge was 4-2 for the weekend, including a victory by default over Kemmerer's Colter Julian (31-13) in the fifth-place match.

Also scoring team points for Shoshoni was Kaden DeWitt (15-17), who went 1-2 with a victory over Hulett's Dawson Butler (9-16) with a fall at 1:52.

The Wranglers were 20th in Class 2-A with 16 points.

Moorcroft won the team championship for the fifth consecutive season with 271 points.

Wind River

The Cougars of Wind River placed three wrestlers on the podium in the Class 2-A field.

Owen McAdams (23-11) was fourth in the 220-pound division, going 3-2 with a defeat to Glenrock's Cooper Fargen (45-8) in the fifth-place match by fall at 2:32.

At 138, John Thoman (29-11) was fifth, with a 4-2 record, including a victory over Dubois' Klayton Rose (36-13) in the fifth-place match with a 6-0 decision.

Kaiden Burk (26-13) finished sixth in the 195 division, going 3-3, losing to Glenrock's John Burris (23-15) in the fifth-place match with a fall at 2:11.

Wind River finished 14th in Class 2-A with 44.5 points.


For the Rams, all three participating wrestlers scored points, with Rose finishing sixth, along with teammates Wyatt Gleim (132 pounds, seven points) and Cadence Sparks (160, three points).

Dubois finished 19th in Class 2-A with 23 points.

Wyoming Indian

The Chiefs of Wyoming Indian had three wrestlers score points, as Kobe Tillman (13-20, 120 pounds, three), Monaire Guina (11-21, 152, three) and Hiissiis Goodnight (9-21, 126, one) all won matches.

Wyoming Indian was 21st in Class 2-A with seven points.

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Riverton's Wayne Steeds celebrated victory over Lander's Nathan Motherway in the fifth-place match of the Class 3-A 152-pound division at the state wrestling championships in Casper on Saturday. Photo by Thorn Compton/Rawlins Daily Times

Riverton's Wayne Steeds celebrated victory over Lander's Nathan Motherway in the fifth-place match of the Class 3-A 152-pound division at the state wrestling championships in Casper on Saturday. Photo by Thorn Compton/Rawlins Daily Times

Riverton's Wayne Steeds celebrated victory over Lander's Nathan Motherway in the fifth-place match of the Class 3-A 152-pound division at the state wrestling championships in Casper on Saturday. Photo by Thorn Compton/Rawlins Daily Times

Riverton's Wayne Steeds celebrated victory over Lander's Nathan Motherway in the fifth-place match of the Class 3-A 152-pound division at the state wrestling championships in Casper on Saturday. Photo by Thorn Compton/Rawlins Daily Times

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