SHERIDAN — Coming into his wrestling season, Sheridan High School sophomore Wesley Ndago didn’t expect to be competing for a top place at the state championship.
“Last year, basically all I did was a lot of losing, so coming out this year, I didn’t expect any different,” Ndago said. “I knew I was going to be slightly better but I didn’t expect to see the kind of success I’ve seen this year.”
The same idea applies to the SHS wrestling team as a whole. No one around the program really expected this. After finishing ninth at state last year and losing several top wrestlers to graduation, including three-time state champion Hayden Hastings, the program seemed primed for a rebuilding year.
This year’s team began the season full of underclassmen with limited experience, yet the Broncs took third at regionals last weekend and qualified 20 wrestlers for state this weekend, the fourth-most of any 4A team.
Only two wrestlers on this year’s team placed at state last season. Senior Trevon Covolo took fifth in the 126-pound weight class and junior Quinn Heyneman (138) finished fifth. Several wrestlers on this year’s team qualified for state last year but didn’t advance far in the double-elimination tournament.
This year, freshman Reese Osborne (113) is the favorite in his weight class to take home a championship, which entails winning four matches in a row over two days. Covolo (126) and Heyneman (152 this year) figure to contend again. Ndago (285), Kel Tritschler (138) and Chance Quarterman (145) all have good chances to place — meaning finish in the top six — in their respective weight classes as well.
Tritschler took second at regionals and wants to place at state, a doable goal for the senior’s final high school competition.
“Looking at my bracket, I have a good chance at placing,” he said. “Everybody’s beatable.”
Tritschler said his season has gone better than he expected. He has a chance this weekend to break the school record for pins in a season. The record is 27 pins; Tritschler has 25. Tritschler is both nervous and excited but feels he and the rest of the Broncs are ready to go.
“As a team, we’re doing great,” Tritschler said. “We’re finally peaking.”
Sheridan head coach Tyson Shatto was pleasantly surprised with the results at regionals. Looking back, though, Shatto said he should have expected it because of the way the Broncs have worked all season.
“They’re showing fortitude and determination, and the character that they have as boys is pretty awesome,” Shatto said.
Shatto believes the team has a chance at finishing in the top four and taking home some hardware, something he did not expect at the beginning of the year.
“It’s a great surprise,” Shatto said. “That’s a pretty lofty goal, but the way these guys have progressed, I’ll throw it out there that there’s that outside shot.”
Ndago has a lofty individual goal as well. After finishing second at regionals, he wants to place in the top three at state.
This week’s competition is the culmination of a season’s work, but the consistent focus on improving match by match remains the same.
“The goal can’t be any different than what got us to this point,” Shatto said. “If we try to change things up, make it more difficult than it is, that puts some added pressure on ourselves, and there’s no need for that.”
Shatto said the team’s performances at conference dual meets showed him that the Broncs were capable of making noise at state. He added that some of the bigger tournaments like the Ron Thon Memorial Invitational helped the team prepare for the level of competition at state.
The season has gone superbly so far, but Shatto isn’t ready to admit satisfaction yet.
“There’ll be time for reflection when it’s all said and done,” he said. “We’ve got another weekend ahead of us. Hopefully we can look at that and say, ‘That was our best wrestling. That was our best shot.’”
The state wrestling championships begin Friday at 9 a.m. at the Casper Events Center.