Ranger grapplers repeat as 2A State Champs!!
Proffit, Haslem, Walker win titles; Lady Rangers 5th
Going into last weekend’s 2A State Wrestling Tournament, Kemmerer head coach Darrell Bullington knew the Rangers faced a tough task in defending last year’s state title, the first in program history.
After all, the Rangers would be without point scorers in three weight classes, and Moorcroft was once again a strong contender for the crown. In an interview with the Gazette last week, Bullington said, “We only have 11 point scorers; Moorcroft will be scoring in 13, so we’ll have our work cut out for us.”
He needn’t have worried. When the dust settled Saturday evening at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper, the Rangers were once again 2A State Champions, complete with three individual champions – Roany Proffit, Karl Haslem and Riggen Walker – two runners-up and 10 overall trips to the podium.
On the girls’ side, the history-making Lady Rangers finished fifth in the inaugural WHSAA Girls State Wrestling Championships, with all five wrestlers – Laynee Walker, Kaylie Julander, Lynsie Julander, Kylee Batista and Nadia Runnion – earning a spot on the podium.
It was a weekend Bullington said he won’t soon forget, and one he hopes the community of Kemmerer will take pride in.
“For the boys, I felt like we had it won Friday night,” Bullington said. “We won our head-to-head matches with Moorcroft, so that’s when I started feeling a little bit better about things. The girls did outstanding – we took five, and placed all five. We’re just really excited about their performance.”
Ten Rangers total earned a trip to the podium, with five advancing to the championship match in their respective weight classes. When it was all said and done, Roany Proffit (126 pounds), Karl Haslem (132 pounds) and Riggen Walker (152 pounds) were crowned champions, while Gabe Emery (145 pounds) and Landon Heaps (182 pounds) finished as runners-up.
It was the second state title each for Proffit and Walker, while Haslem finished his high school career as a three-time champion.
“It feels great,” Haslem said. “My coaches over the years have helped to make it possible. I am glad that I was able to finish my career as a 3-time state champ, and be part of the Kemmerer teams that have won back-to-back titles.”
Other Rangers that made the podium included Ayden Kelley (3rd, 138 pounds), Tanner Schramm (3rd, 170 pounds), Dylan Hagler (3rd, 195 pounds), Grason Kelley (4th, 160 pounds) and Austin Christen (6th, 113 pounds).
“Ayden and Tanner both wrestled tough,” Bullington said. “Tanner, that was probably the best he’s wrestled all year. He beat some kids that had beat him before, so that was good to see. And Grason Kelley – he knocked the No. 1 kid off from Moorcroft [Braizyn Humpal]. And that was a huge 14-point swing. I was just really pleased, overall.”
As a team, Kemmerer took the top spot with a score of 218, comfortably outdistancing runner-up Moorcroft at 171. Big Piney was third with 150 points, while Lovell (123.5) and Cokeville (103 points) rounded out the top five.
Proffit faced off with Thermopolis’ Will Ward in the 126-pound championship final, pinning Ward in the first round to claim his second consecutive state title.
“I had just recently wrestled Will at regionals,” Proffit explained. “I could tell he’s been working and watching me, so I just had to keep gassing throughout my match to keep him from scoring.”
Proffit posted pins over Connor Morris (Tongue River) and Jayden Keller (Sundance) and won a 16-6 major decision over Braydnn Terry (Moorcroft) to advance to the 126-pound title match.
“It makes me feel like I’m moving in the right direction and I am part of something special,” he said. “It’s the true feeling of hard work paying off.”
At 132 pounds, Haslem posted a 4-0 record en route to his third consecutive state title, winning all four of his matches by pin; he wrestled a combined total of 6:26 for the tournament. His longest match was the championship final against Niobrara County’s Colton Coffman, a pin at the 2:55 mark.
“I was familiar with my opponent, but I hadn’t wrestled him since my freshman year in the state semifinals,” Haslem said. “The key to my win was to wrestle my match and be offensive. Wrestling in the off season and competing at various tournaments has helped me get more practice time and gain more technique.”
Ranger senior Riggen Walker also pinned all four of his opponents, beginning with an 18-second pin of Hulett’s Brighton Thibault. First-round pins of Glenrock’s JD Holman and Rocky Mountain’s Jackson Hanusa set up a showdown with Thermopolis’ Brody Sorensen in the 152-pound championship final; Walker ended his high school career with a second-round pin, and his second consecutive 2A State Championship.
“The tournament went well – I pinned all the way through, and I was hoping to do that for team points,” Walker said. “My finals match, I wasn’t expecting it to go as well as it did, but I had great coaches in the corner, and it went even better than planned, pinning him early in the second period.”
Other Ranger wrestlers who competed at state included Bryce Brown (126 pounds), Michael Banta (132 pounds), Bridger Anderson (145 pounds), Braxton Pope (160 pounds) and Derek Hagler (170 pounds).
It was a historical season for girls’ wrestling in the state of Wyoming, culminating in the inaugural Girls State Wrestling Championships, held Thursday and Friday at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper.
Much like the Ron Thon Tournament last month, the state tournament featured an all-class bracket, featuring 48 teams from around the state. The Kemmerer High School girls’ wrestling team had an outstanding tournament, placing fifth overall as a team, with all five wrestlers earning a spot on the podium.
“It was a great experience,” said KHS sophomore Laynee Walker, who finished third at 125 pounds. “Our coaches prepared us super well. It meant a lot to us to be the first ones. We are proud to be making history for future women wrestlers in Wyoming, and that’s awesome to know we were a part of the opportunity. Placing all of our girls was also special, considering that it is all of our first years [wrestling].”
Star Valley won the team title with 184 points, followed by Pinedale with 129 points and Sheridan with 102 points. Kelly Walsh was fourth with 97 points, while Kemmerer rounded out the Top 5 with 88 points.
Also finishing third for the Lady Rangers were sisters Kaylie Julander at 145 pounds and Lynsie Julander at 155 pounds. Kylee Batista was sixth at 130 pounds, as was Nadia Runnion at 190 pounds.
Walker posted a 7-1 record at 125 pounds, eventually pinning Lander’s Jordan Nielsen in the third-place match for the bronze.
“I had a 32-man bracket, which meant I needed to win four blood-round matches to even get into placing rounds,” Walker said.” I then needed to win two more to get to third. I knew after the first one that I needed to keep my head right. It was a hard loss, and the pressure was on, but with the help of my dad I kept the mindset that I belong at the state tournament, and that I needed to just focus on working my way up the backside one match at a time.”
After receiving a bye in the first round at 145 pounds, Kaylie Julander pinned her next two opponents before losing in the semifinals against Central’s Meadow King. Undeterred, Kaylie battled back in the consolation rounds, eventually pinning Cheyenne East’s Kaelyn Ronnau to finish third.
Lynsie Julander opened the tournament at 155 pounds with a pin over South’s Joslyn Hockenberger, but lost a 2-0 decision in the quarterfinals to Skylee Gangwish (Kelly Walsh). Working her way through the consolation bracket, Lynsie squared off against Big Piney’s Charleigh Smith in the third-place match, pinning Smith for the bronze.
“Lynsie was sick – she probably lost about 10 pounds in the last two days,” Bullington said. “She battled through that, and came up with third place, so man, what an effort.”