Behind the lines: The Year that Was

Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.

The 2022 prep athletic season will be remembered for a return to normalcy after the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic the year before.

The year began with remnants of the adjustments made to allow athletics to continue during a global epidemic.

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One of the strangest events came at St. Stephen’s when the Eagles hosted Wyoming Indian in a Class 2-A Southwest conference matchup last January. The new Eagle’s gym was strangely silent with just the sound of squeaking shoes on the polished floor. There were no fans in attendance, just the two teams, the game officials, and the media.

Wrestling felt the final stages of pandemic precautions more than any other sport. A good Wind River squad missed the Lander Invitational after the team was placed in COVID protocol after a strong exposure in Thermopolis the week before, but thankfully the pandemic began to recede, and athletics came back as we once knew them.

Over the summer, wrestling added a new venue, with girls now having their own division and not having to wrestle with boys any longer.

Fremont County crowned four individual wrestling champions in late February. Lander’s Colton Laird was the Class 3-A champion at 106 pounds. The trio of Wyatt Trembly of Dubois, Pehton Truempler from Shoshoni, and Wind River’s Tucker Jensen won Class 2-A titles at 170, 152, and 220 pounds.

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A week later, Shoshoni and Dubois made a little history on the hardwood. The Wranglers returned to the Class 2-A state tournament after a quarter-century of frustration. Placing second in the Class 2-A West Regional under the leadership of head coach Jonathan Wakelin.

Dubois capped a tremendous season, one of the best in the tiny school’s history, riding a 21-game win streak into the Class 1-A state championship game. Head coach Kyle Miller’s Rams fell just short of the title in a close game with a talented Upton Bobcat team.

On the subject of talent, some programs rebuild, the Lady Chiefs just reload. Most teams would call a third-place finish at the state tournament a successful season, but head coach Aleta Moss and her girls were used to the winner’s circle after winning three consecutive state championships the previous years.

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On the subject of reloading, does anyone remember when the Lander Tiger boys were not state swim champions? If you do you’ve been a fan since the mid-1990s. The streak continued again last season.

The outdoor venues were good ones for Fremont County teams as well.

Riverton’s phenomenal golfing family, the Paxton’s continued to excel with Easton earning a Canadian PGA Card and entering the ranks of professional sports.

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Easton’s younger brother Parker won his third state individual championship, and the Wolverines were state champions once again.

Later last summer, Parker placed seventh at Pinehurst, North Carolina in the High School Golf National Invitational Championships.

Lander continued to have stellar spring sports, with the boys winning the Class 3-A state track title while winning just three individual events and placing in only one field event.

Senior Blaine Goklish won the 800-meter run, and junior Gage Gose ripped up the 400-meter oval winning both the 110-meter high hurdles and the 300-meter intermediate hurdles.

Perhaps the strongest statement made by head coach Ben Gose and his boys came in the four relay events. The Tigers won a pair and placed second in the other two, a testament to the strength of the team’s depth.  

There were a couple of other individual champions from county schools, with Wyoming Indian’s Larissa McElroy winning the 3200-meter run and placing second in the 1600.

Wind River sprinter Jaycee Herbert had a fabulous season, capped by a pair of state titles in the 100 and 200-meter dashes.

A former Wind River athlete, now running for Big Piney after his father was hired as superintendent of schools was junior Colby Jenks. Jenks won the 800 and 1600-meter runs, was a close second in the 400-meter dash and added a championship in the 300-meter hurdles for the Punchers.

Gose was busy in the early summer, taking the runner-up spot in the emerging division at Nike Nationals in Oregon in June.

The Lander Lady Tigers’ upset heavily favored Cody for the state soccer title in 2021, but in a rematch last spring fell to the Lady Broncs after another excellent season.

Over the summer, Riverton Raider baseball had near-record numbers of players joining the team under the brief tenure of manager Kevin Loftus. Despite a promising season, with a full roster, differences with the Legion board ended his contract. Loftus took a position as the hitting coach for a high school in Atlanta, Georgia, and was hired as director of hitting for a 1400-player youth baseball organization.

Not all sports involved a ball or running, rodeo remains a favorite in Fremont County, and three youngsters carried on that tradition last summer.

Stetson St. Clair, and Irelynn Campbell of Shoshoni, and  Aisylnn Vroman of Wind River all qualified for the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo.

Football was king last fall with four Fremont County teams making the post-season. Lander, in head coach John Scott’s last season, earned the third seed from the east before falling 41-17 to Star Valley.

Shoshoni, Wind River, and Dubois all reached the semi-finals, with the Wranglers moving on to the state title game against Pine Bluffs.

Wind River under first-year head coach Rod Frederick had one of the best seasons in school history before meeting Shoshoni in a classic battle at Pavillion. The Cougars lost quarterback Chris Burke and running back Jaycee Herbert early in the second half and fell to the Wranglers 25-14.

The injuries were devasting, but junior running back Cooper Frederick, the coach’s son, set a Class 1-A 9-man rushing record in the opening round of the playoffs with 549 yards on a whopping 61 carries.

The Wranglers handled the Cougars the following week in Shoshoni in a 40-6 win that sent them back to Laramie for the state title game for the second consecutive year.

Shoshoni battled Pine Bluffs to the finish, but a Hornet’s touchdown with 53 seconds remaining in the contest was the difference in a 33-27 season ending defeat.

A final note on the season came at Ethete, where Wyoming Indian hosted the all-class state cross country finals for the second year. Athletic Director Keith Bauder and his staff outdid themselves with another spectacular, well run event.

Here’s to another great year around Fremont County.

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