SHERIDAN — Jacob Hallam found himself down 1 point with the clock winding down in the third period.
The Sheridan Broncs’ 220-pound wrestler had been in a tough match; three rounds of evenly-sparred wrestling against Gillette’s Deric Johnson that was tied for most of the bout.
As a last-ditch effort with 20 seconds left in the match, Hallam shot in for a double leg and got a good grip on his Gillette opponent — driving his feet until both wrestlers hit the ground. The two rolled near the edge of the ring desperately looking to grab the winning move.
After both wrestlers scrambled to pick up the win, the referee put both of his hands straight in the air to signal no points scored when time expired. Hallam went on to lose by a slim 3-2 margin.
If Thursday night’s dual between Sheridan and Gillette had to be summed up in a single match, Hallam’s would be it. While the Broncs battled hard in almost every match, only a few points and missteps separated them from coming out on top against the Gillette Camels in a 51-18 loss.
The hard fight got overshadowed by the end result.”
The loss put them third in the final 4A East conference standings.
Head coach Tyson Shatto would have liked to have seen his team on the other side of the scoreboard, but he still saw plenty of good performances from his wrestlers.
“In some of those matches, the hard fight got over shadowed by the end result,” Shatto said. “Our guys were fighting and made one mistake, and it ended up in the favor for the other team.”
In the five matches that ended by decision, Broncs wrestlers lost by an average deficit of just over 2 points. Gillette won 11 matches to Sheridan’s three.
Close matches included an outstanding performance by Sheridan’s Steen Avery. The 152-pound junior seemed overmatched by Gillette’s Dalton McKinsey at times, but that didn’t stop Avery from putting up a fight.
Avery escaped several take down attempts and thwarted McKinsey’s reversals while on top to bring the match to a scoreless tie in the third. However, an early reversal in the final period proved to be the difference maker, and McKinsey walked away with the 2-0 decision.
Other close matches included Jacek Aksamit’s bout at 182 pounds. The senior was tied with Gillette’s Rhyse Wardler after the Camels wrestler recorded an escape with a minute left. Trying to get the decision for his team, Aksamit went in for a double-leg takedown but couldn’t quite sink it in. Wardler turned the tables on Aksamit and ended up getting the takedown himself to win the match by a 3-1 decision.
Quinn Heyneman (138), Trenten Heil (132) and Hayden Hastings (170) were the only three wrestlers to record wins for the Broncs, with Hastings and Heil winning by fall and Heyneman getting 6 points via injury default.
For Hastings, the win proved to be another milestone in what has already been a storied career as the four-time Ron Thon champ.
Hastings went undefeated in his final regular season at Sheridan as he looks forward to a potential third state title on Feb. 25. His dominant second-round pin Thursday night made that stat even sweeter, according to Shatto.
“His wrestling is at another level,” Shatto said. “It’s another level for our guys to just see and watch. They come to expect that from Hayden — he revels in it. He loves to put on a show.”
The regular season is now over. The Broncs will head to Cheyenne to participate in the 4A East regional tournament, and Shatto said he’s very confident about his team’s future in the postseason.
“I’m excited about where we have these kids wrestling,” Shatto said. “At the beginning, there was some frustration as to where we were at, but we found a formula that works. We have the kids working hard in the room; they’re hungry. They want to do well as a team and individually. We’ll just keep grinding and do what we can with the time we have.”