SHERIDAN — Sheridan High School wrestling head coach Tyson Shatto uses Hayden Hastings as an example quite often. Shatto points to the former Bronc as proof of what his current wrestlers can achieve with dedication, hard work and an unquestioned mindset.
“I can teach through Hayden,” Shatto said. “His work ethic and the way he approached wrestling — not only in the practice room, but in life, in school — and how he carried himself. His confidence transitioned into his wrestling.”
Every week this winter, Shatto’s message has become more validated by the success of Hastings. The University of Wyoming redshirt freshman is enjoying a noteworthy season for the Pokes after patiently waiting his turn.
Hastings redshirted in his first season in Laramie. The former three-time high school state champion sat behind established wrestlers such as Branson Ashworth and Archie Colgan — both of whom qualified to the NCAA Championships last year in Cleveland.
This eased Hastings’ transition from the high school mat to the collegiate wrestling mat. It also presented Hastings with two formidable training partners every day in practice.
“I had crazy training partners that just elevated my wrestling to a whole different level,” Hastings said. “It was a big year to help me get where I’m at right now.”
Colgan graduated, but Ashworth is still in the program as one of the few elder statesman in a sea of underclassmen. Ashworth is Wyoming’s highest ranked wrestler at No. 7 in the nation at 165.
There isn’t much Ashworth hasn’t seen in his decorated collegiate career, and Hastings has taken advantage of that, picking the veteran’s brain whenever they’re grappling with one another at practice.
“Just the way he approaches every match is a routine,” Hastings said. “He just believes he’s going to win every match. For him to go out right before me and do what he does, it helps my confidence knowing, ‘I train with him, and I can compete right there.’”
Hastings is a staple in every dual for UW. He’s steadily grown in the brown and gold, not only mentally but physically, as well. The one-time 126-pound high schooler now wrestlers at his natural weight of 174 pounds.
Many times in the sport of wrestling, athletes are tasked with making weight and that sometimes entails cutting pounds. Hastings rarely has to worry about that.
“I don’t cut hardy at all,” Hastings said. “I don’t miss a meal. It has been awesome this year. It is really nice walking into practice with a full stomach and a lot of energy rather than having to lose seven-eight pounds. It’s so much easier on your mind and your body.”
What hasn’t proven easy is Hastings’ schedule thus far this season. Hastings’ very first collegiate dual in Laramie had him pitted against the No. 10 wrestler in the country, Mikey Labriola, of Nebraska. Hastings fell in that dual 14-11 but was far from dejected.
“It was a great experience,” Hastings said. “I started mounting a comeback, and I broke him mentally. It was just awesome just getting back that feeling like I was back in high school wrestling in the Sheridan pit.”
Since that time Hastings has faced off against a couple other ranked grapplers and has held up nicely. Many of those bouts have featured plenty of scoring and that’s the way he wants it. Hastings believes that he’s best suited for a match that features takedowns, reversals, near pins, etc. He doesn’t want to wrestle on his heels in a low-scoring situation. Hastings broke into the rankings briefly in mid-December at No. 19. While the validation from the pollsters was flattering, it’s far from where Hastings wants to end up.
Hastings has his eyes set on contending at the Big 12 Championships and hopefully punching a ticket to the NCAA Championships.
Whether that happens this year, Hastings has accomplished plenty in his first season with the Pokes. His success hasn’t gone unnoticed in Sheridan.
“The little kids aspire to what they see,” Shatto said. “It’s great when you have a kid like Hayden. They can look up to someone from their hometown and the can say, ‘I can do that.’”