Rangers 5th, Lady Rangers 8th at Ron Thon

Don Cogger, For the Gazette
Posted 2/2/23

Consistently billed as the toughest wrestling tournament in the state, the Ron Thon Memorial Tournament in Riverton pits the top wrestlers in Wyoming in each weight class against each other, regardless of classification – a true “Best of the Best” competition.

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Rangers 5th, Lady Rangers 8th at Ron Thon


Consistently billed as the toughest wrestling tournament in the state, the Ron Thon Memorial Tournament in Riverton pits the top wrestlers in Wyoming in each weight class against each other, regardless of classification – a true “Best of the Best” competition.

The Kemmerer High School wrestling teams proved up to the challenge over the weekend, with the Rangers and Lady Rangers combining for two individual champions, two runners-up and nine total trips to the podium. The Rangers’ 5th-place finish was the highest in program history, while the Lady Rangers finished eighth in their first year as a state-sanctioned program.

“Things really went well for us,” said KHS head coach Darrell Bullington. “I think this is our highest placing that I know of – we’ve been in the Top 10 a few times. We placed five of the 10 boys we entered in the varsity, and four of the five girls placed. I thought we wrestled well overall – we had some exciting matches. Our JVs did really well, also – they finished 8th. So all in all, a good weekend, pretty exciting.

Ranger sophomore Roany Proffit won his second consecutive Ron Thon championship at 126 pounds, posting a 5-0 record; he won all five of his matches by pin. Fellow sophomore Laynee Walker became the Lady Rangers’ first-ever Ron Thon champion, winning the 125-pound title with a 4-0 record.

Riggen Walker (152 pounds) and Kaylie Julander (145 pounds) finished as runners-up, while Landon Heaps (4th, 182 pounds), Karl Haslem (5th, 132 pounds), Gabe Emery (5th, 145 pounds), Kylee Batista (5th, 130 pounds) and Nadia Runnion (6th, 190 pounds) also earned a spot on the podium.


Sheridan (212 points) won the team title, followed by Green River (210.5) and Thunder Basin (197). Star Valley (156)  and Kemmerer (131) rounded out the top five.

After pinning his first three opponents in the first round, 126-pound champion Roany Proffit squared off against Green River’s Ryker Mele in the semifinals, going into overtime before finally winning by pin. Proffit went on to pin Star Valley’s Tel Parry in the third round to win the championship.

“It’s a feeling of accomplishment that all of my hard work and losing had finally paid off, since no one just wakes up and becomes great at a sport,” Proffit said. “It means much more than a title, it helped me get to know myself and build confidence for the next season to come.”

At 152 pounds, Riggen Walker won his first four matches, including an impressive 7-1 decision over Star Valley’s Porter Merritt in the quarterfinals and a 17-10 win over Cody’s Jackson Wood in the semifinals to advance to the finals. In the championship match, Walker lost a close 3-1 decision in the match’s finals seconds to Thunder Basin’s Jais Rose.

“Riggen got taken down in the last 35-40 seconds of the match,” Bullington explained. “It was a great match – a few times, Riggen almost had the kid taken down, and he’d scramble out. It was a real good match, he [Rose] was a tough kid.”

Landon Heaps finished fourth at 182 pounds, posting a 4-2 record; after losing to Sheridan’s Colson Coon in the semifinals, Heaps rebounded in the consolation semis, pinning Thunder Basin’s Jaxson Viergets. In the third-place match, Heaps lost a close 9-5 decision to Worland’s Nathan Harper.

“Landon was right in that match, and got beat right there at the end,” Bullington said. “All the kids who placed were in highly-contested matches – it comes down to who ends up making that mistake.”

After losing a close 5-2 decision in the second round, 132-pounder Karl Haslem rattled off four straight pins to advance to the consolation semifinals. Haslem lost a major decision to Thunder Basin’s Ashton Leegaard, but bounced back in the fifth-place match, winning a 16-7 decision over Sheridan's Keegan Rager.

“I thought Karl wrestled really well – he had a really tough bracket,” Bullington said. “I mean, they’re all tough, but his was pretty loaded.”

At 145 pounds, Gabe Emery pinned his first three opponents to advance to the championship semifinals. Back-to-back losses dropped him to the fifth-place match, where he pinned Star Valley’s Joseph Naef in the second round to finish fifth.

Other Ranger wrestlers who scored points at Ron Thon included Austin Christen (113 pounds), Ayden Kelley (138 pounds), Tanner Schramm (170 pounds) and Dylan Hagler (195 pounds).

Lady Rangers

On the girls’ side, Star Valley finished in the top spot with 171 points, followed by Pinedale with 148.5 and Kelly Walsh, with 90. Buffalo (84) and Sheridan (79) rounded out the Top 5; Kemmerer was eighth, with 66 points.

“We only had five of the girls there, so to have a Top 10 finish was pretty great,” Bullington said. “Four out of the five placed, so it was a good showing by them, a lot of hard work paying off.”

After receiving an opening-round bye, Laynee Walker faced Worland’s Rylee Anderson in the quarterfinals, pinning Anderson in the second round. In the semifinals, Walker wrestled Natrona County’s Andraya Canchola to a 7-4 decision to earn a spot in the championship match; she pinned Powell’s Yessenia Teague in the second round to claim the title.

“It feels great, because I have improved from last week, and it showed in my matches,” Walker said. “The tournament went well for me, my semifinals match was very close, but I was able to pull through with it. It was tied and I was able to hang a few back points right at the end of the match.”

Kaylie Julander finished second at 145 pounds, earning a spot in the championship match by virtue of pins over Shoshoni’s Abrianna Kiser and Star Valley’s Cara Andrews. In the title match, Julander lost to Central’s Meadow King to finish runner-up.

At 130 pounds, Kylee Batista compiled a 6-2 record, including wins over Lander’s Jordan Nielsen and Kelly Walsh’s Addison Thomas. In the fifth-place match, she won by medical forfeit over Star Valley’s Remington Aullman to finish fifth for the tournament.

Nadia Runnion posted a 1-3 record at 190 pounds, losing to Sheridan’s Kylah Pleines in the fifth-place match to finish sixth for the tournament.