Numbers improve for Tiger wrestlers

Courtesy cory griffith/for the lusk herald Members of the Niobrara County Tiger wrestling team includes, front row, from left: David West, Stanton Ricketts, Gabe Matthews, Cameron Carpenter and Justin Burkeland. Back row: Christopher Hicks, Colton Coffman, Jasper Caldera, James Cushman, Blake Miller, Sean Johnson and Miles Ashurst. Not pictured is Donovan Kruse and manager Camdon Fitzwater.

LUSK – Fifty years is a hard thing to imagine unless you are a rock of consistency like Ron Nelson has been with the Niobrara County High School wrestling program.

He’s still got the fire as he lit into the boys on a variety of subjects at a recent practice. What was said won’t be repeated, but when we sat down after that, is a man that still cares deeply for his student-athletes.

Many changes have come with this new season, one that all coaches, participants and fans hope makes it to a conclusion at the State 2A tournament. State is a one-day event this year, scheduled for Feb. 25, 2021.

“I don’t think anybody really knows exactly how it’s going to be until we get into it and get started,” Nelson said. “I think and hope we can get through this for the kids.”

The Tigers finished 12th at state last season with two state champions, and with more depth and experience this season, the team hope to improve on that. Seniors Jasper Caldera and James Cushman anchor a young team, and while Caldera missed last season due to an injury, is hungry. He finished fourth at 220 pounds as a sophomore and is looking at 195 pounds this year.

“I’d like to win regionals, get all-state and hopefully a state champion,” Caldera mentioned. “And of course, I hope we get to finish the season.”

Cushman has his sight set on a return to Casper and improve upon last year’s sixth place finish in the 152-pound bracket. “I think 160 pounds is where I’ll wrestle this year,” he said. “And like to finish higher.”

Donovan Kruse, Sean Johnson and Christopher Hicks are the juniors.

“Sean has looked pretty good so far, he’s focused and matured, and wants to be here,” Nelson said.

The sophomore class is led by defending state champ Colton Coffman, and classmates Miles Ashurst, Blake Miller, Cameron Carpenter and Justin Burkeland. Coffman won the 106-pound state title, while Ashurst and Miller bring size and also qualified for state last season.

Three freshmen Gabe Matthews, Stanton Ricketts and David West should fit into the mix at the lower weights.

Assisting Nelson this season features the return of JD Wasserburger, along with John Thayer and Andrew Wasserburger. Camdon Fitzwater is a fourth-year manager.

According to Nelson, “She’s been one of my best, she just gets so many things done and I don’t have to think about it.”

There will be no big tournaments or two-day events this season, as the schedule has been broken down into a dual format. The teams will participate in quads throughout the regular season.

The Tigers have only two home events and both happen before the break. A quad featuring Wright, Glenrock and Newcastle on Dec 12 begins at 10 a.m. The second one will be Dec 19 with Glenrock, Tongue River and the Kelly Walsh JV visiting Tiger Gym at 10 a.m.

Seating will be limited, and masks required.

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