The names change, the dates change, and even the teams change, but the Class 1A / 2A West Regional Tournaments remain the best in all of Wyoming’s four classifications.
Riverton and Lander have been the permanent sites for this event for over a quarter-century, and despite the inclement weather, and the sub-zero temperatures outside, the gyms will be hot beginning at noon on Thursday and continuing through to the championship games on Saturday.
Originally, both the 1A and 2A championship games were played in Riverton, but now Lander hosts the entire 1A tournament in their two gyms.
Central Wyoming College is used at times for the 2A tournament, but parking is a problem, and the Riverton Middle School is now the site for opening round games between the two and three seeds, and the consolation bracket.
Conference champions open play on the big floor in Wolverine Gym each year, facing a number four seed from the other side. This year, the Wyoming Indian boys and girls, and the Wind River boys all enter tournament play as the champions of their respective conferences.
While prognosticators say the girls’ bracket boils down to a battle between the Lady Grizzlies of Rocky Mountain and the Lady Chiefs of Wyoming Indian, nothing is for certain when it comes to regional play.
On the boys’ side, just throw out the predictions. This is one of those rare years when any of the eight teams could play for the regional championship, and those same teams could pack the trunk on Friday after being eliminated. It is that close in the 2A West.
The 1A West boys feature an unbeaten 18-0 Saratoga team hoping to extend that streak, but Northwest 1A champion Burlington played them to six points on the opening weekend of the season, and they barely escaped with a four-point win over Dubois at the Wrangler Invitational back in December. It will be a competitive tournament.
On the girls’ side, nothing ever seems to change in 1A with the orange and black of Cokeville and Burlington the favorites again as the top seeds.
The tournament has changed dramatically over the years with realignment, and conference changes.
In years past, current Class 3-A teams Lyman, Mountain View, Pinedale, Thermopolis, and Lovell all competed at the 2-A level.
St. Stephen’s and Dubois are the only two current teams to play in both 1-A and 2-A tournaments.
Tiny Dubois, with just 43 students now, beat Pinedale with a current enrollment of 357, in the 2005 2A tournament championship game. The tournament reflects the ups and downs of Wyoming’s tenuous economy.
Hanna-Elk Mountain and Tongue River made appearances in Riverton and Lander in the past but are in different regions this year.