Garcia claims ‘Best of the Best’ title and 100 career wins at Battle in the Bighorns

Avery Layne

Last weekend, the Lovell Bulldogs competed at the Battle in the Bighorns in Worland. The second event of the season featured the team wrestling a set of duals for a chance to come out on top.
“On Friday we brought our varsity lineup to Worland for the Battle in the Bighorns,” said head coach Ty Hecker. On Friday, the Bulldogs faced teams from Cody, Rock Springs, Lander and Shoshoni. Winning against the Wranglers at the end of the day spun them into the silver bracket for Saturday.
“On Saturday we wrestled Buffalo, Douglas and Glenrock,” Hecker said. “We managed to claim fifth place over Glenrock by a mere 3 points (36-33).”
“Due to injuries, we had some younger, newer guys stepping up into a varsity role,” Hecker said, noting that several wrestlers stepped up this weekend.
Freshman Chance Hatch competed his first varsity match in Worland, wrestling at 150 pounds for the team. “Chance picked up some big wins to score a lot of points for the team,” Hecker said.
Hecker also wanted to highlight junior Kyler Mickelson, a newer wrestler who filled the 215-pound weight class for the team.
“Although he did not win any matches, Kyler decided he wanted to wrestle varsity against some tough 4A class wrestlers,” Hecker said. “He showed a lot of heart and never gave up. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Owen Hill, a sophomore filling the 144-pound spot on the team, worked hard during the duals. According to coach Hecker, Hill showed a lot of heart this weekend, picking up crucial wins for his team. In the face of adversity, Hecker noted that Hill “gutted out a one-point match that helped lead the team to a victory over Glenrock.”
Hecker also noted 157-pounder Stetson Asay.
“Asay also picked up some big wins,” Hecker said. “He showed a lot of heart this weekend.”
Moving past the duals, the Battle in the Bighorn concludes the event with a series of Best of the Best matches that determined who stood on top of their weight class. Three of the Bulldogs secured a chance to wrestle for that spot: Dino DeLaCruz, Rosendo Garcia and Charlotte Bair.
DeLaCruz, the team’s 113-pounder, sealed a chance in the Best of the Best face off after defeating all but one of his opponents during the duals.
“Dino finally shook the monkey off his back,” Hecker said, “His only loss in the duals was to Dane Arnoldi of Rocks Springs, who he got a second chance to go against in the Best of the Best.”
The match lasted a tough three periods in which DeLaCruz stood his ground. Going into his rematch against Arnoldi, Hecker noted, “Dino wrestled him a lot tougher in the final match, but he ended up second in the tournament.”
After claiming his 100th career win earlier that Saturday, senior Garcia marched into his Best of the Best match in the 285-pound weight class to come out on top.
“Garcia has been on a roll this season,” Hecker said, mentioning that Garcia was the team’s only wrestler who went undefeated on the weekend. Garcia tied up with Zaryc Prosser of Riverton for three tough periods. With only a second to spare before a major decision was to be called, Garcia was able to flip Prosser onto his shoulders in 5:59 and seal the victory with a pin.
“Garcia was able to pin Prosser in the final seconds of the match, which shows a lot of determination and will,” Hecker said.
Moving on to the women’s side of the team, Hecker had a few things to say. Instead of wrestling duals, the girls were placed into their respective weight brackets to compete for the top spot.
Bair landed a spot in the Best of the Best tournament on Saturday against Kaylea Mortensen of Pinedale at 105 pounds.
“Bair entered Best of the Best facing off against a returning state champion,” Hecker noted. “Although she did not end up winning, she wrestled very tough against Mortensen.”
Hecker also wanted to recognize the other female wrestlers of the team that put in the work during the weekend.
“Avery Layne’s confidence has been through the roof,” Hecker said. “That has been the difference between this year and last year.” He also highlighted one of Layne’s quickest matches in her 155-pound bracket, which was a 17-second pin against Jaedin One Feather of a South Dakota team.
Maecie Joy was also recognized for her hard work this weekend. Joy was able to endure through a handful of tough opponents and Hecker mentioned, “Joy has been looking better each week after picking up another win in the 155-pound weight class.”
River Mangus, a new wrestler at her first tournament, also kept her head up through the tough tournament.
“Mangus entered the first wrestling competition of her life,” Hecker said. Competing in the 235-pound weight class, Mangus was able to pick up some experience and mat time for her first tournament. “This first tournament helped teach Mangus what wrestling really feels like, and she will be back looking for her first win after Christmas,” Hecker added.
Coach Hecker concluded his debrief of the weekend by stating, “We had some tough draws and a few fill-in wrestlers from other teams. However, once we get kids healthy and to their proper weight, our dual team will be stronger.”
Returning from Christmas break, the team will wrestle a triangular dual against Greybull and Rocky Mountain at the Lovell High School Johnny Winterholler Gymnasium on Friday, Jan. 5, at 5 p.m. The next day, the team will head to Shoshoni to compete in the Wrangler Duals on January 6. While preparing the wrestlers during break, Hecker has a few goals in mind.
“I aim to turn the tide and help these younger, inexperienced wrestlers develop a champion mindset,” he said. “We will learn to grind day and night like wrestlers are meant to do.”