Donny Proffit, Dawson Schramm and Hayden Walker (pictured with coaches Darrell Bullington and Cody Hartung) all earned state titles last season. Bullington said his team is ready for another successful season.
The first test for the Kemmerer Ranger wrestlers may be this weekend, but the team is already preparing to succeed at regionals and state. The Rangers are coached by Darrell Bullington, who has coached wrestling for 28 years. Cody Hartung is the assistant coach for the wrestling team.
“We want to repeat as regional champs, but we’re really shooting for the whole thing,” Bullington said, referring to the state title. “We’re returning seven state placers and three state champions on this team. It’s there for our taking.”
The Ranger wrestlers will compete at the Evanston Invitational on Friday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 8.
Besides earning last season’s 2A West Regional title, the Rangers are hoping to repeat their success at the state meet. Last year the Rangers earned fourth place at state, and were only one point behind third-place Cokeville.
Dawson Schramm (120), Donny Proffit (138) and Hayden Walker (170) all won state titles last season. Proffit went undefeated all year to earn his third state championship. Carson Carlson (132) came in second place at state last season, Josh Thatcher and Colter Julian both finished third, and Lowell Ellis came in sixth place. Schramm, Proffit, Walker and Carlson earned All-State honors.
“It’s unique to have those back-to-back championships that we have,” Bullington said. “We want to place more kids at state this year, and I think we can do that. Our numbers are up.”
The Rangers now have 21 wrestlers who will compete, including a strong roster of upperclassmen.
“These boys have been in the room a long time,” Bullington said. “Donny started wrestling when he was four years old, and Hayden not too long after that. Dawson is only a junior, but he has that natural talent. We’ve also got younger wrestlers — even freshmen — that could really contribute this season.”
Bullington and his wrestlers know that the sport takes daily dedication, especially if the Rangers want a chance at that state championship.
“With wrestling, you’re the only one out there, and it’s not like you have any help,” Bullington said. “You’ve got to have discipline, whether it’s cutting weight or pushing to the limit every day.”
Bullington said although wrestling matches are individual, it’s also important as a team sport.
“The boys are also out there for the team, because every wrestler scores points for the team,” Bullington said. “Every match matters.”
The Rangers will have a few chances to wrestle before the Christmas break, but January is when things will really heat up.
“January is loaded with big tournaments,” Bullington said. “We’ve got the Ron Thon (Riverton) and the Rumble in Heber, with 80 teams from around 13 different states. If you win there, you’re really good, and we have kids that can be in the top four there.”
Bullington said the team’s progress this season will depend on dedication in practice every day.
“This is a fun group to coach,” Bullington said. “We teach them that the way you’ll wrestle here in practice is the way you’ll wrestle out there on the mat. It’s an everyday grind with lots of reps, but if these boys can do it 500 times and get better every single time, then they’ll be ready when they get to a match where they don’t have time to think.”
The Ranger wrestling coach said he enjoys working with the wrestlers in practice and at tournaments.
“Our goal is to get each kid into the best possible condition and for them to be successful, and that’s different for each wrestler,” Bullington said. “These are good kids who push each other and are ready to battle.”
This weekend the Rangers begin their season at the Evanston Invitational, where they will face off against wrestlers from Evanston, Rock Springs, Green River, Rawlins, Pinedale, Lyman, Mountain View and Big Piney.
Next week, the Rangers travel to Pinedale on Dec. 13, and then host the Aimone Invitational in Kemmerer on Saturday, Dec. 15.