PINEDALE – Athletes check in for one final round after a long, punishing day of competition at the 3A Wyoming High School Wrestling State Championships on Feb. 26. Only two wrestlers remain in each weight bracket as the first-place matches begin to determine the State Champion.
Senior Keegan Gehlhausen warms up in the 170-pound weight division.
“I do a lot of visualization about what I’m going to be doing during the match,” he said. “I tell myself that I’m just fine, because I get nervous a lot of times. I tell myself that I’ve worked hard, that I belong here – that sort of thing.”
Keegan Gehlhausen and Tray Hyatt of Riverton step onto the mat and shake hands. The referee raises his arm, blows the whistle and the battle is underway.
Hyatt defeated Keegan Gehlhausen at the regional tournament last year. Gehlhausen struck back this season and beat Hyatt twice in duels during the regular season.
“In the final match, my gameplan was just to play it safe, because I knew I could take (Hyatt) down however I wanted, and I could turn him,” Keegan Gehlhausen said. “So my thoughts were focused on taking points when they were there and not to get out of position.”
Gehlhausen and Hyatt fought through three periods. When the final buzzer sounded, Gehlhausen won by a 9-3 decision.
“After I won, it was an amazing feeling, looking up into the crowd,” he said. “This year was kind of bittersweet, because I know that this was my last (high school season). Hopefully I get the opportunity to compete at the next level.”
Junior Colton Gehlhausen squared off against Green River’s Conner Todd. The final match in the 132-pound division was the first time Gehlhausen wrestled Todd this season. The audience stared down from the stands, cameras clicked and lights flashed across the advertisement runner in the auditorium.
“You kind of just zone into the match,” Colton Gehlhausen said. “I just tell myself to always try to score points and not leave a match close. And then I basically just tell myself that I’ll be fine so I don’t get nervous.”
Colton Gehlhausen and Todd wrestled into the third period. When the dust settled, Gehlhausen won by a 9-5 decision.
“In the final round, I was looking to score points to get a bigger lead,” he said. “The first period didn’t turn out so well, and I ended up being behind. Then I started to come back. Once I threw (Todd), I knew I won. It was a really good feeling. Hopefully I can (take first) again next year.”
Cody Phelps, a junior, found himself on the mat against Tanner Collins of Mountain View in the 138-pound weight class championships. The opponents waited for the whistle to blow.
“I just imagine myself doing all my moves the best that I can do them and imagining what I’m going to do when a position opens up,” said Phelps.
Phelps’s strategy was to keep his opponent up on his feet in the neutral position and score points by takedown.
“My plan – I knew (Collins) was a lot stronger than me – was just to let him up and score a bunch of points on my feet. I think that happened, because the final score (after three periods) was 23-8. I knew that if I just went out there and wrestled how I usually wrestle, then I could do it. It felt really good to get first, and I’m just looking forward to next year when Colton can help me do it again.”
All three wrestlers finished the day with a State Championship title and 2021 All-State honors. Phelps and Colton Gehlhausen received All-State a third time and Keegan Gehlhausen made the list a second time.
Keegan Gehlhausen, Colton Gehlhausen and Phelps started wrestling when they were in elementary school. They credited Lance Gehlhausen for introducing them to the sport.
“When I started, I was like 5 or 6,” Keegan Gehlhausen said. “I was not all that great at first. You kind of just stick with it. A lot of it was my parents – they made sure that it was still fun and that built a love for the sport. From there, it just kept going.”
“My dad (Lance Gehlhausen) got me into wrestling,” Colton Gehlhausen stated. “I was about the same age as Keegan, maybe a year younger. Like him, I wasn’t very good, because when I was little, I didn’t really care. But now that I’m older, I care more about it. You just have to learn to have fun with it.”
“I did wrestling because Colton was doing it, and I thought it would be fun to mess around on a wrestling mat for a little bit,” added Phelps. “Then it turned into something serious.”
Wrestling takes strength, skill and perseverance.
“You definitely need to know technique,” said Keegan Gehlhausen. “With technique comes strength. Then you learn leverage and how to use your opponents' momentum to make yourself seem stronger. More than strength, a lot of wrestling is muscle endurance so you can wear your opponent down.”
“You need to know the moves and how to run the moves, but you also need to know when to use strength and use power with it,” Colton Gehlhausen said.
Phelps likened conditioning at practice to boot camp.
“We run a lot and we do a lot of pushups and jumping jacks,” he said. “We also wrestle really long matches in practice – we’ll wrestle matches that are 20 minutes long, and that helps to build your endurance up.”
The three All-Staters qualified to compete at the High School Nationals in Virginia Beach this spring along with two other Pinedale teammates. The wrestlers participated in the tournament two years ago.
“Nationals is really fun because it’s so much more technical and everybody is just so much better,” said Phelps.
“The brackets are ginormous,” Keegan Gehlhausen stated. “You’ll have 120-some people in a bracket. It’s a lot of matches if you have a goal to place. You’ll definitely be sore the next day.”
“It is a really good experience,” said Colton Gehlhausen. “It’s just insane – there’s like 30 mats instead of six (at Wyoming State).”
Keegan Gehlhausen enjoys riding snowmachines, dirt bikes, horses and going hunting and fishing when he has free time. The senior hopes to pursue wrestling in college and plans to study range management or wildlife science with the goal to becoming a game warden.
Colton Gehlhausen said his hobbies include dirt biking, horseback riding and hunting. Phelps enjoys snowmachines, hunting and dirt bikes.
Keegan Gehlhausen and Phelps gave a shout out to teammate and PHS senior Kaleb Bigelow for inspiration this year.
“He works really hard,” said Keegan Gehlhausen. “He came a long way through high school, and I’m very glad that I had him as a practice partner.”
Colton Gehlhausen thanked Clayton Foster, a former college wrestler, for helping the team out.
“He took time out to come and work with us on wrestling after practice,” he said.