RAWLINS — The actual sport of wrestling is much different than the staged choreography of World Wrestling Entertainment, but this weekend in Rawlins, you could hardly tell the difference.
If you walked by any of the wrestlers competing in the 3A East Regional Tournament, you would’ve believed they just walked out of Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches.
Black eyes everywhere; bloody noses dripping; shoulders looking as if they would be ripped out of their sockets. And what stood out amongst it all was the emotional tension.
The anger started to arise as the matches became more important through the rounds. Brawlers were being pushed into tables, charging at one another with pure brute force, and the fear that a punch may be thrown was not unlikely.
For Rawlins High School seniors Gabe Munoz and Damon Taylor and junior Kie Foster, it was emotions that helped them all achieve victory in their respective classes. They all won by pinfall.
Each athlete found their way to a victory in the same way — a literal smack to the face.
Munoz got hit first.
The senior was getting handled by Wheatland High School’s Ethan Read in the first round, and didn’t seem as if he’d be able to pull out victory; however, the senior settled down in the second round and pinned his opponent 1:29 into the period.
“I started off really slow in the beginning,” Munoz said. “I was letting him get shots he shouldn’t have gotten. I was letting him control the match — the pace of the match — and everything like that. And I don’t know, as soon as he really hit me in my nose, I woke up and started going to town.”
A similar situation would be what would drive taylor four matches later in the 170-pound class.
Pitted against Douglas High School’s Dax Read, this may have been the bout between the two best wrestlers in the entire tournament. But if you ask RHS Head Coach Nathan Lee, it’s no question about who is better.
“Damon, he’s wrestling lights out,” Lee said. “He’s finally 100 percent healthy; his lungs are good; he can wrestle a whole six minutes. We’ve been saying it all year, there’s nobody in the state whose better than him if he’s at 100 percent health.”
He’d make sure his coach could stick by his word.
Taylor was up 6-2 with the final round of the bout coming to a close, and you could see Dax getting angry. The Douglas senior was ferociously attacking Taylor with all his might scavenging for points, and would do anything to get a shot — including a jolt to Taylor’s face.
The look in Taylor’s eye completely changed, and the calm Outlaw was now out for blood. Strategy turned into savagery, as Taylor pinned Dax with 23 seconds left in the match.
“That’s what I needed a little bit,” Taylor said. “It kinda added gas to the fire.”
Each of the Rawlins’ winners ended their matches in different ways.
Munoz let out tears of joy that seemed as if they would never end, being able to win in front of his friends and family one last time at home.
“Winning it in front of everyone here in Rawlins, it was like the greatest feeling I ever felt,” Munoz said. “It’s one I’ll never forget, that’s for sure.”
Taylor played it cool, getting up with a slight smile and open arms, letting everyone know he ran the place.
Foster, however, that’s a scary sight.
The biggest of them all, wrestling in the 285-pound class, he may have single handedly cleared the gym — and the floor after multiple scares of him toppling on the spectators lined up around the outside of the mat.
Wrestling neck-and-neck with Buffalo High School’s Hunter Pope, the Bison made the same mistake as others who preceded him and gave Foster a pop to the head.
Foster unleashed the beast on Pope shortly after, glueing him to the mat 1:25 into the second round. The junior leaped from atop Pope, letting out a roar that sent a sonic wave throughout the gym.
“I’ve wrestled this kid before,” Foster said. “We’ve gone round for round at Ron Thon and it almost cost me. You just gotta be able to keep your mindset. You might be able to get a little angry or a little more aggressive, but you just gotta keep it under control, go out there and run moves and get it done.”
The trios’ ability to keep themselves composed help Rawlins to a third place finish with 194 points. The Outlaws were one-point shy of Worland High School’s second place finish. Douglas won the tournament with 258 points.
Also making major contributions to the Outlaws’ finish was Domingo Acosta (225, second Place), Aragon Garro (152, second place), Blayne Coleman (106, fourth place) and Kadin Forney (160, fourth place).
Foster, Munoz and Taylor proved they were the best in the region — now it’s time to show if they are the best in the state.
RHS heads to Casper Thursday for the Wyoming High School Wrestling 3A State Tournament.