It was a festive evening for the Star Valley Braves as they hosted the Evanston Red Devils for the final dual of the season prior to next weeks regionals tournament in Jackson. The Braves not only would be celebrating the teams seniors in front of the home crowd, but were also unveiling the football teams state championship banner that had been won back in November with their shocking victory over the defending 2 time champion Cody Broncs.
After the fans were given their chance to celebrate the fall exploits of their school and the senior class with their parents, the girls team got things started for the varsity with 4 matches split evenly between the 2 teams. Hallie Robertson and Kylee Erickson both claimed victories in the 1st 2 matches of the night, Hallie by decision and Kylee by pinfall followed by a strong double biceps pose to the crowd in celebration which garnered a huge cheer from the Star Valley faithful.
The final 2 matches of the girls mini-meet went to Evanston both by pinfall as Brooke Schwab and Cashlee Hepworth couldn’t overcome their respective Red Devil counterparts giving each squad 2 victories in the technically exhibition girls portion of the dual, but for the record had team points been counted between the 2 squads it would have resulted in a 12-9 victory for Evanston. Thankfully team points were not being counted for this portion, so we can choose to focus instead on the 2 – 2 victories split between the 2 teams which set the stage for the boys dual to go out and break the tie.
With the dual beginning at the 160 lbs weight class, Evanston jumped out early to take control as Brady Roberts dominated his matchup with Kooper Burk and took the pinfall victory just 1 minute and 21 seconds into the contest. Grant Weiss would have a response for the Braves, pinning Cole Robinette right at the buzzer to tie the team score 6 a piece early on in a thrilling bit of drama as the ref blew his whistle with the white towel already on the back swing from the clock-watcher on duty ready to strike the officials back and let him know time was up.
Evanston would go on to take back to back pinfall victories however right afterward as Aiden Liechty and Tarring Haws earned a combined 12 team points against Star Valleys Grant Thomson and Joseph Warren respectively. Star Valley found itself in an 18-6 hole but found some of its footing again at 220 when Ryan Talbot got a much needed 2nd period pin over Kadence Haines just 19 seconds into the 2nd period to close the gap, but unfortunately the gap would widen once more a match later as Evanston took the heavyweight bought once again by pinfall thanks to Carson VanGieson matching Ryan Talbot’s time of 2 minutes and 19 seconds to pin Weslee Turner of the Braves.
The first non-pinfall finish of the night came at 106 as Levi Byrd of Star Valley earned the Braves a desperately needed tech-fall victory over Ryker Frogner 19-3 in the 2nd period and pulled the Braves to down just 24-17. However the Red Devils extended their lead once more a match later as Kolby Hamilton proved to be one of the best in the state as he pinned David Weiss in 1:35 to put Evanston back on top by double digits 30-17.
Star Valley was now down by 3 decisions at minimum now with just matches left to go and were teetering on a very thin line to escape the senior celebration with a victory, however despite the adversity facing them, they would do exactly what was needed and rip off 3 straight wins. Starting with Bridger Smith at 120 earring 6 more points by pinning Ryder Wilson in the 2nd period, followed by Tel Parry at 126 earning a major decision over Walker Wilson to bring it to a 3 point difference in team score before Peyton Andrews gave the Braves their first lead of the evening a match later by pinning Caden Marler in 1:34.
Star Valley now led 33-30 with last weeks hero Cameron Kendall up next to square off with Tyson Hamilton in what was surely the match of the night. It looked for a second like Kendall was going to pull a dramatic comeback victory for the 2nd straight week as he got a takedown in the final 17 seconds to take a 4-3 lead but when the 2 took a tumble out of bounds in the final 6 seconds, it gave Hamilton a chance at 1 final move from bottom to try to tie things up.
When Hamilton shot up for his escape it forced Kendall to clasp his hands in an attempt to keep Tyson on the mat and the officials caught it and awarded the penalty point to Hamilton with no time remaining and forced OT for the 2nd week in a row for Cameron Kendall. This time Kendall was unable to counter the opening shot attempt from his opponent as Hamilton shot in nearly instantly off the opening whistle of OT and unfortunately for Star Valley got in too deep for Kendall to counter and was eventually able to secure the winning 2 points after a brief struggle, tying the dual at 33 all.
This would ultimately be the final win of the night for Evanston though as Joseph Naef of the Braves would secure at minimum a tie by pinning Ian Hunt of Evanston in the 2nd period to give the Braves a 6 point lead with just 1 final match remaining. That final match would be Porter Merritt earning 3 final points to secure the win for the Braves over Ethan Reichenberg by a score of 9-3.
The Braves will next be in action in Jackson next Friday for Regionals before the State tournament on the 23rd.