CASPER – Amos Solano has carried a chip on his shoulder for two straight seasons.
The Cheyenne East junior placed third at the Class 4A state wrestling tournament as a freshman and followed up that finish by taking runner-up as a sophomore.
Suffice it to say he was more than prepared for Saturday’s 120-pound state championship bout at the Casper Events Center.
“It sticks with you for a while,” the Thunderbirds standout said of coming up short his first two seasons donning the powder blue singlet.
His shoulders are much lighter now.
Solano was dominant in every fashion during a 12-3 major decision over Sheridan sophomore Hunter Goodwin en route to earning the first state title of his career Saturday afternoon.
“It’s amazing. I’ve worked forever (for this),” Solano said. “Coming back to go to third (as a freshman), to second as a sophomore and then winning (state) as a junior feels great.
“(It’s) the feeling everyone would want.”
Solano never trailed during his match. He posted a pair of first-period takedowns to carry a 4-1 lead into the second. He padded his lead from there and eventually secured the final takedown of his season to earn the major decision.
“Be aggressive, be aggressive,” Solano said of his mindset entering the match. “Treat (the match) as nobody can beat you but yourself. Just go in there (fighting) like crazy and do your best.”
“Wrestle smart, no dumb moves and everything will add up together by itself,” Solano said.
T-Birds coach Thad Trujillo was “ecstatic” to see Solano succeed, especially after witnessing the type of work ethic and commitment to the sport he has put forth all season.
“The way he wrestled I think to get a major decision in a finals match is a tough thing to do, and it puts an exclamation point on the year that he’s had,” the coach said.
East placed third as a team with 195 points.
After winning the Class 4A team title a year ago and returning only five starters this winter, Trujillo was more than happy with his team’s performance.
“I was proud of the way our kids competed and fought for each other,” he said. “We’re young right now, and it’s exciting for the future and we’re going to keep getting better.”
Junior 113-pounder David Stice was East’s first finalist to compete Saturday. He arrived in the title match by way of sudden-death, which only added to his confidence. His opponent, however, proved unforgiving.
No. 1-ranked and defending 106-pound state champion Dominic Martinez of Green River blitzed Stice for a 5-0 lead before earning a pin at the 3-minute mark of the match to become a two-time state champ.
“(Martinez has) got a pretty darn good underhook,” Stice said. “I knew that coming in before he likes to get (that) because it’s a great shot to his single (leg), and he did it on me.
“It really worked well for him. I knew he was going to be good on top, but I’m really good on bottom, too.”
Stice scored a second-period takedown to pull within 5-2 and give himself more of a chance to climb back into the match, but he let off the gas after taking that shot.
“After I got that takedown, I sat on my knees and just let him have it,” Stice said. “It was stupid, but it was a good shot offensively.”
Sophomore Jackson Hesford squared off with No. 1-ranked Josh Kraus of Casper Kelly Walsh at 152 pounds. Hesford, who was ranked fifth entering the bout, held his own. He appeared to score a takedown midway through the first period, but it was waived off. Kraus broke free from the bottom position to take a 1-0 lead late in the second and subsequently threw Hesford to the mat. The East grappler landed awkwardly and immediately grabbed his right side, wincing in pain.
Hesford wrestled on, grabbed a takedown – his first of the season against Kraus – and took a 2-1 lead into the third period. The match went into overtime deadlocked at 3-3 before Kraus recorded the final takedown to earn a 5-3 win in sudden death.
“I just kept fighting through the match, mostly,” Hesford said. “It wasn’t just about winning or losing. It was about competing. And it’s more than just wrestling.
“It’s going out on the mat and giving all that you can and then being able to move on from when you (win or) lose.”
Cheyenne Central senior Brian Nicholson had one goal entering Saturday’s 160-pound final: Cap his career with a state title.
The Indians standout came up two points short.
Nicholson trailed Rock Springs’ Tristan Profaizer 2-0 after the first period, but battled his way back to within two points, 9-7, late in the third. He needed one final takedown to tie it up, but the clock beat him to it. Profaizer remained strong as the final seconds wound down to secure the state title with a 9-7 decision.
“He took me down and I tried to get a quick standup and went out of bounds,” said Nicholson, who helped the Indians to a seventh-place finish with 137 points. “We went back in bounds and stood up again and then got a takedown and thought maybe I could turn him, because I was only down two points, but (there was) too short of time to do so.
“It’s not how I wanted it to end, and I’ve always had the goal of being a state champ. To not get it really stings. But I’ll always be thankful for the coaches pushing me to be a better person and a better wrestler.”
CLASS 4A STATE TOURNAMENT
at Casper Events Center
1. Casper Kelly Walsh 223, 2. Green River 204, 3. Cheyenne East 195, 4. Thunder Basin 187.5, 5. Rock Springs 186.5, 6. Casper Natrona County 151.5, 7. Cheyenne Central 137, 8. Sheridan 131, Evanston 99, Laramie 50, Cheyenne South 27, Campbell County 11.
Cheyenne Central results
106 pounds: I. Lopez, third, 4-1; 113: Roberts, sixth, 2-3; Hilliker 1-2; 132: Ennis 1-2; 138: King 1-2; 145: Vroman, fifth, 4-2; Marks 1-2; 152: J. Dilly 1-2; 160: B. Nicholson, second, 3-1; N. Lundberg 2-2; 170: Gauthier, sixth, 3-3; Johnson, fourth, 4-2; 182: Goossen, sixth, 2-3; 195: Herd, fourth, 3-2; 220: Martin, fourth, 3-2; Bjorkquist 1-2; 285: Hill 2-2; Conine 0-2.
Cheyenne East results
106 pounds: Trujillo, fourth, 4-2; 113: Stice, second, 3-1; Mihalek 0-2; 120: Solano, first, 4-0; Hoskins, sixth, 3-3; 126: Vasquez 2-2; Dorrell 0-2; 132: Cade Pugh 1-2; Gallegos 1-2; 138: Smith, fourth, 3-2; Anderson 2-2; 145: D. Winchell, sixth, 3-3; Roadifer 0-2; 152: Hesford, second, 3-1; 160: L. Eldridge, sixth, 3-3; 170: B. Ronnau, third, 4-1; 182: Whitwright, third, 4-1; D. Lopez 0-2; 195: Mizel, sixth, 3-3; Aragon 0-2; 220: Brown, sixth, 3-3; Higgins, fifth, 3-2.
Cheyenne South results
106 pounds: Shrove 2-2; 113: Jam. Woods 1-2; 120: Gregory 2-1; Trujillo 1-2; 126: Fischer, sixth, 2-3; Silva 0-2; 132: D. Dominguez 2-2; 138: Wilken 1-2; 152: Lister 0-2; 170: Jac. Wood 0-2; 182: Garcia 0-2; 285: Serna 0-2.
CLASS 3A STATE TOURNAMENT
1. Star Valley 296.5, 2. Douglas 193.5, 3. Powell 172, 4. Pinedale 130, 5. Worland 126, 6. Torrington 120, 7. Rawlins 98, 8. Wheatland 76.5, 9. Lyman 73, 10. Cody 72.5, 11. Buffalo 58, 12. Burns-Pine Bluffs 55.5, 13. Lander 53, 14. Riverton 52.5, 15. Newcastle-Upton 45, 16. Mountain View 34, 17. Jackson 10.
Burns-Pine Bluffs results
126 pounds: C. Manlove 1-2; 132: Lo. Branigan 2-2; 145: Cudney 0-2; 160: M. Merryfield 0-2; 170: Clayson, fifth, 4-2; 182: K. Thurin, third, 4-1; La. Branigan 2-2; 195: Banville, fifth, 3-2; 285: Siebert 1-2; Wouldroupe 1-2.
Tyler Poslosky is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at 307-633-3123 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @TylerPoslosky.