Everyone knows the Prior name in Bayfield is synonymous with football and basketball.
Kobe Prior knows this.
Doesn’t mind, either, but wants to carry it into another arena. And last weekend, he did just that. Wrestling at the Rocky Mountain Nationals series’ namesake event inside the National Western Complex in Denver, the BHS freshman placed sixth out of 24 folkstyle 156-pounders in the 15-and-under age division.
“It feels really good,” he said Wednesday evening. “I don’t want to walk my brother’s path or my dad’s path. I want to walk my own and show everyone that I can be successful in not only what my family’s good at.”
All told, Prior finished 3-3 after losing by pin to Team Aggression’s Dalton Reed in the fifth-place test. He did, however, win his first three bouts by second-period pin, 10-0 major decision and 9-5 decision, respectively, before falling by pin to Montana-based Bruin Wrestling Club’s Tristyn Gilliam, the eventual champion, in the semifinals.
“He kind of tweaked my arm, and after that I lost two in a row,” Prior said. “So, I’m not happy about that part of it, but I’m happy about the first day of the tournament where I did pretty good. I was confident I’d be able to make the finals, but ...”
Prior said he will compete at the Aztec Warrior event April 20-21 at the McGee Park Convention Center in Farmington. He will compete in folkstyle and freestyle brackets.
“I’m going to go out there and wrestle my hardest and be sure to stay away from the cradle, because that was my downfall toward the end,” he said.
Sophomore Dylan Pickering and freshman James Mars also traveled north for the Mile High City showcase, giving observant head coach Todd McMenimen plenty to watch.
“We got to warm up together and just enjoy the fun of the big show,” Prior said. “And I really just wrestled how I wrestle, let the victories come. My hard work paid off, I guess.”
In the 18-and-under, 132-pound class, Pickering went 1-2 and was eliminated by Korben Uhler, a two-time AIA Division IV State Champion at Camp Verde High School of Mingus Mountain Wrestling in Arizona. His win, however, came via an 11-9 decision over Casper, Wyoming-based Natrona County High School’s Kyler Henderson, who placed fifth at 120 pounds at the 2019 WHSAA Class 4A State Championships.
His first loss, however, came in the next round against Casper-based Eastside United’s Jace Palmer, a three-time WHSAA Class 4A state champion (most recently in 2019 at 132).
Competing in the 15-and-under 123-pound division in Denver, Mars won his first bout in just 56 seconds but then dropped a 13-4 major and dropped into the consolation bracket, which wasn’t a bad thing. He rallied himself to win two consecutive bouts by pin in less than 80 seconds each before losing a 12-0 major to Daniel Soto of Edgewater-based Lil’ Saints and finishing one win short of placing.