(Riverton, WY) – Due to COVID-19, the 2020 USA Wrestling season ended quickly, much like everything else last spring. The Riverton USA Wrestling board stretched the season as far as they could until federal and state mandates said no more.
They continued communication throughout the restrictions, staying up to date with the National Charter and focusing on how a 2021 season would be plausible.
Board members traveled to Casper to the Wyoming Amateur Wrestling Association in the fall to learn of the new restrictions and what a season could potentially look like.
They felt it would be beneficial to start practice whether or not tournaments would be scheduled in Wyoming. Many obstacles were overcome. The biggest is not having a practice facility due to the school district COVID protocol not allowing any outside organization to use district facilities.
The Riverton USA Club used the Wolverine Den in prior years, sharing and investing in mats with the Wolverines. Riverton High School coach Jay Galey helped the USA Club find practice mats that could be used for the club at the new practice building. The USA Club secured a facility, the former Ben’s Supermarket, thanks to John Aschenbrenner and family, at 116 N. Federal Ave.
Board members were uncertain if any tournaments in Wyoming would be scheduled. However, they knew even if it was just a season of practice it would give young wrestlers the opportunity to continue learning, growing, and getting back to a sense of normalcy.
“Last year all the kids in the club had been working so hard at becoming a better wrestler only to get cut short due to a pandemic,” said Travis Barton, club president.
Board members Travis Barton, Cassie Gambler, Kayla Leidy, Ross Thornock, Spencer Piplica, Lindsey Haun, and Jamey Kirkland were uncertain how many families would register their wrestlers amidst the pandemic during an uncertain season.
Keith Smith, head coach of Riverton USA wrestling, said, “It is essential that we have this wrestling season. These boys and girls are an investment in our future.”
Only one month into the season the club had 65 registered wrestlers and 40 wrestlers signed up for the first tournament. Thermopolis Wrestling Club held Wrestleopolis on February 6th, 2021.
Under the direction of new head coach Smith, and many assistant coaches, the team took second place out of 21 teams and approximately 400 wrestlers. The club has not accomplished a top two place in many years.
On the weekend of February 13-14, several coaches and 28 wrestlers traveled to Gillette for a two-day tournament and placed in many brackets.
The majority of the team traveled to Thermopolis again on Sunday, February 28, 2021 where they took 4th as a team.
Head Coach Keith Smith said overall they did well; we lost some key matches and some wrestlers out due to injury. A few wrestlers competed out of state and brought home the gold and bronze in folk-style events. The older kids will be traveling to Sheridan this coming week for junior state and the rest of the club will travel to compete in a very popular tournament in Pinedale.
As the season progresses and COVID restrictions are being reviewed, more tournaments are popping up around the state.
“The things these kids learn in wrestling, like dedication, integrity, and perseverance will benefit our community and it will build a stronger tomorrow,” said Smith.