Wrestlers rise to the occasion at Tournament of Champions

Sandy Wanfalt photo Freshman McKinzie Mortensen gets the upper hand on her opponent during the Tournament of Champions in Utah on Jan. 6-7. Mortensen won the championship in the 100-pound weight bracket.

VERNAL, UTAH – Grapplers from across Wyoming, Utah and Colorado converged at the 2023 Tournament of Champions in Vernal, Utah on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 6-7.

The boys’ tournament hosted 31 teams ranging in size from Pinedale to high schools in Grand Junction, Colo., and the Salt Lake City metro area. In the girls’ division, 18 programs vied for the championship.

The meet followed a bracket format for both girls and boys.

The Pinedale High School Lady Wrangler wrestling team tied with Moffat County, Colo., for fourth place overall. Seven out of the 12 Lady Wranglers participating at the meet earned a spot on the podium and scored 99 points for Pinedale.

The Wrangler boys placed 17th overall, matching Green River with 60.5 team points. Four Pinedale boys battled through their individual brackets to place in the finals.

Pinedale athletes put in strong performances during two long, intense days of competition, said Head Coach Kendall Horrocks. The team departed for the meet before 6 a.m. and finished around 8 p.m both days, he added.

“Overall, the weekend was successful and our athletes were given many opportunities to get some very good experience,” Horrocks said.

Girls tournament

Freshman McKinzie Mortensen won the championship in the 100-pound bracket. She pinned Kabree Duncan of Union High School, Utah, 1 minute, 14 seconds into the quarterfinal match.

Advancing to the semifinals, Mortensen took down Aspen Nielson from Juab High School in Nephi, Utah, in the second period.

Fighting Juab’s Emily Shoemaker through three neck-and-neck periods in the championship match, Mortensen came out on top by a 4-0 decision.

Senior Rhonda Auradou snagged silver in the 110-pound division. She pinned Emily Reed of North Fork High School in Colorado with 1:21 remaining in the first period of the quarterfinal round. Moving on to the semifinals, Auradou defeated Kenna McCauley of Uintah High School in Utah by fall at 4:57.

Junior Katyana Dexter captured second place in the 235-pound bracket. She made quick work of Kemmerer’s Jentrie Lacey in the quarterfinals, pinning her opponent 9 seconds into the match.

Dexter went on to take down Kilie Milberger of Juab with 1:30 to spare in the first period of the semifinal.

In the 115-pound division, sophomore Sarah Helm earned fourth place. She beat Uintah’s Beka Wagner by a 10-5 decision in the consolation semifinal.

Fellow sophomore Mya Swain secured fourth place in the 130-pound bracket, pinning Jennacee Harrison of Uintah in the consolation semifinal.

Senior Maddox Gehlhausen and freshman Kaylea Mortensen met the 5-match maximum per day rule and had to forfeit the final match, said Coach Horrocks. As a result, Gehlhausen and Mortensen placed sixth in their respective brackets.

“The girls are so fun to watch because they are improving at an incredible rate,” said Horrocks. “Of the 12 that competed, only four had prior wrestling experience. So to have Rhonda and Katyana in the finals and Sarah Helm finishing fourth at a large tournament with only a month of wrestling under their belts is impressive. We are super proud of the progress they are making.”

Boys tournament

Junior Jake Hammer bagged silver in the 132-pound bracket. He defeated Keyton Young from Palisade, Colo., by an 8-3 decision in the quarterfinal match.

The semifinals against Cooper Blackett of Juab came down to the wire, with Hammer winning by a 3-1 decision.

In the 113-pound division, sophomore Ryan Nutt found himself pitted against teammate and freshman Wylee Willson in the consolation semifinals. The two Wranglers grappled point-by-point through three periods with Willson taking the win by a 6-3 decision.

Willson secured bronze after pinning Jonah Shaw of Payson, Utah, in the third-place match.

Nutt finished fifth, beating Jake Wight of Farmington, Utah, 50 seconds into the fifth-place match.

Freshman Landon Fornstrom earned seventh place in the 150-pound division. He pinned Lyman’s Sam Gregory with 2 seconds remaining in the first period of the seventh-place match.

“All varsity (boy) wrestlers wrestled tough and we are very proud of them,” said Horrocks.

The Lady Wranglers compete at a girls’ only tournament in Evanston on Thursday, Jan. 12. Both boys’ and girls’ teams contend at the Green River Tournament on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 13-14.

 

 

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