Jan 25, 2013 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorCrunch time is here for the Wyoming high school wrestling season.
That means the annual Ron Thon Invitational is right around the corner.
The biggest and best regular season tournament in the state starts next Friday, Feb. 1, and finishes Saturday, Feb.2, at Wolverine Gym.
The tournament features two straight days of pins, takedowns and escapes on the mats.
It's time to free up your schedule and go watch a mat and take in the atmosphere.
Riverton will be one crowded place with buses and athletes all over the place.
The top wrestling teams from the Class 4-A, 3-A and 2-A will be at RHS. Gillette, Cheyenne East, Powell, Douglas, Lovell are expected to be in Fremont County next weekend.
The Gillette Camels have been a powerhouse program for a long time, but I'm hoping Riverton High School will be near the top of the varsity standings this year in its home tournament.
The Riverton Wolverines are currently ranked third in the state in Class 4-A. Gillette is No. 1 and Cheyenne East is No. 2.
The Wolverines are loaded with talent in their lineup from top to bottom.
Gavin Wilson, Ahren Wempen, Rudy and Beau Batista, T.J. Galey, Casey Savage and Dawson Steeds are some of the best wrestlers I have seen in my 10 years of covering wrestling for the Wolverines.
Wempen and Galey finished second last year at the Class 4-A state tournament and haven't let down this year.
The Batista twins have focused their high school athletic careers on wrestling, and both are having outstanding seasons.
Wilson is a force in his 120-pound class. He is a fierce competitor each time he gets on the mat.
Savage has to be the best surprise for the Wolverines. The young sophomore is hanging with the best in Class 4-A in the 195-pound class. Steeds has the potential to be a state title contender in the heavyweight division.
The coaches moved Steeds to 220 pounds briefly. I was surprised at the decision, but I'm glad is back in his heavyweight position now.
The Wolverines will use the Ron Thon as a springboard for the rest of the season.
RHS isn't the only talented wrestling team in Fremont County. Shoshoni wrestling coach Tony Truempler has an up and coming team in the Class 2-A division.
SHS wrestlers Danny Huxtable and Connor Wilkinson are fresh off winning their first individual varsity titles last week in Fort Laramie.
They push each other every day in the wrestling room as practice partners. They are only going to get better for the Shoshoni Wranglers. Truempler doesn't have any seniors on the roster this year. SHS should be a good team in the Class 2-A division for the next two or three years.
The Dubois Rams are small in numbers, but they aren't short on talent. Sterling Baker and Cody Flynn are two of the better wrestlers in 2-A. Baker is in the 195-pound division and Flynn wrestles at 220 pounds.
Teammate John Bartlett is one of the top wrestlers in his weight class.
Wind River wrestling James Cunningham has a young squad, but the Cougars put together a good showing last weekend at the Thermopolis Invitational.
Lander Valley High School wrestling coach Nick Fulton always has the Tigers prepared for the Ron Thon and seems to get one or two into the finals. The best wrestlers this year for the Tigers are Ty Alexander (120 pounds), Andrew Von Rein (126 pounds), Jacob Miller (152) and Jason Hanson (182).
Alexander and Von Rein won titles at the Lander Invitational, but that tournament isn't close to the level of the Ron Thon.
It takes a special and dedicated wrestler to win the Ron Thon.
The tournament is less than a week away, but the preparation by the wrestlers have been going on for months. The wrestlers deserve attention next week, and they are going to get it.
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