The Wyoming High School Activities Association’s board of directors approved the addition of nine-man football to the state for the 2020 season, changing the Class 1A 11-man division to a nine-man division.

The board voted unanimously to approve the change on second reading Tuesday, the Casper Star-Tribune’s Brady Oltmans reported on Twitter.

9-man football proposal carries unanimously. There will be 9-man football starting in 2020 in Wyoming.— Brady Oltmans ? (@BradyOltmans) April 23, 2019

The change comes in time for schedules to be set for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Wyoming hasn’t had organized nine-man football since 1994.

In January, WHSAA Associate Director Trevor Wilson said several programs would opt to Class 2A to keep their 11-man teams, and a handful of six-man programs have indicated a desire to up to nine-man. In all, Class 2A would have 17 teams while Class 1A nine-man and Class 1A six-man would have 13 teams apiece.

A November WHSAA survey indicated that programs’ preliminary classification choices — which may change prior to the 2020 season — included the following:

  • Class 2A: Big Horn*, Big Piney, Buffalo, Burns, Cokeville*, Glenrock, Greybull, Kemmerer, Lovell, Lyman, Mountain View, Newcastle, Pine Bluffs*, Pinedale, Thermopolis, Upton-Sundance*, Wheatland.
  • Class 1A nine-man: Lingle*, Lusk, Moorcroft^, Riverside, Rocky Mountain, St. Stephens*, Saratoga, Shoshoni, Southeast, Tongue River, Wind River, Wright, Wyoming Indian.
  • Class 1A six-man: Burlington, Dubois, Encampment, Farson, Guernsey-Sunrise, Hanna, Hulett, Kaycee, Meeteetse, Midwest, NSI, Snake River, Ten Sleep.

*-indicates a program that expressed a desire to opt up from current classification; ^-indicates a program that expressed a desire to opt down from current classification. All opt-ups and opt-downs are subject to WHSAA board approval.

Final classification decisions and conferences won’t be set until after the WHSAA’s reclassification work is completed in the fall. Teams may move up or down classifications based on changes in enrollment between now and then.

The 2019 season will be unchanged by Tuesday’s vote.


When the WHSAA Board of Directors meets for the first of its four quarterly meetings on Sept. 26-27 in Casper, one of the big topics will be — get this — reclassification.

The WHSAA reclassifies schools every two years. Two big changes are part of this year’s reclassification cycle — the changes the WHSAA approved last spring, and Thunder Basin now officially being a part of reclassification rather than an add-on.

In case you forgot, here’s how the structures are changing:

  • Basketball, volleyball and track are changing from a 12-16-20 format to a 16-16-16 format. Four more teams in 4A, four fewer teams in 2A. That’ll mean a lot of moving around for those sports.
  • Soccer is changing from a 12-team 4A to a 14-team 4A, with everyone else in 3A.
  • Wrestling, cross country, golf and swimming don’t have any structure changes; neither do one-class sports indoor track, alpine skiing, Nordic skiing and tennis. Wrestling, cross country, golf and swimming, though, will see some schools change classes to accommodate Thunder Basin.

Based on the “average daily membership” enrollments provided by the WHSAA, here are the changes I anticipate for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years:

For football: No changes. (The only possible change prompted strictly by enrollment comes at the 3A/2A level. Buffalo opted up to 3A this season and will have the option to do so again for the next two years as they’ll still be classified in 2A by enrollment. Riverside will continue to be ineligible for the six-man playoffs at its current enrollment level.)

For basketball, volleyball and track: Star Valley, Riverton and Cody from 3A to 4A; Burns, Lovell and Big Piney from 2A to 3A; Upton from 2A to 1A.

For soccer: Star Valley from 3A to 4A.

For wrestling, cross country and golf: Jackson from 4A to 3A; Thermopolis from 3A to 2A.

For swimming: Jackson from 4A to 3A.

Conferences and regions for each sport have yet to be established. Conferences are established by participating schools, but the WHSAA sets regions for regional tournament qualifying.

Because this is gonna get SUPER confusing, here’s a cheat sheet to estimate which schools will be classified where for each sport. Check it out. It’s handy.


The ADM numbers the WHSAA provided to the schools, rounded to the nearest whole number, are as follows:

1. Kelly Walsh, 1,958
2. Natrona, 1,902
3. Rock Springs, 1,597
4. Cheyenne East, 1,522
5. Cheyenne South, 1,409
6. Cheyenne Central, 1,346
7. Thunder Basin, 1,234
8. Gillette, 1,175
9. Laramie, 1,142
10. Sheridan, 998
11. Evanston, 828
12. Green River, 817
13. Jackson, 813
14. Star Valley, 783
15. Riverton, 711
16. Cody, 615
17. Powell, 561
18. Lander, 546
19. Douglas, 505
20. Rawlins, 474
21. Worland, 428
22. Torrington, 358
23. Buffalo, 339
24. Pinedale, 321
25. Wheatland, 280
26. Mountain View, 263
27. Newcastle, 257
28. Lyman, 231
29. Burns, 224
30. Thermopolis, 216
31. Lovell, 212
32. Big Piney, 188
33. Glenrock, 184
34. Kemmerer, 177
35. Moorcroft, 170
36. Greybull, 154
37. Tongue River, 151
38. Big Horn, 140
39. Wyoming Indian, 136
40. Rocky Mountain, 132
41. Wright, 127
42. Wind River, 125
43. Sundance, 120
44. Shoshoni, 114
45. Pine Bluffs, 111
46. Southeast, 94
47. Riverside, 93
48. Lusk, 92
49. Saratoga, 84
50. Cokeville, 80
51. Lingle, 73
52. Upton, 70
53. Burlington, 69
54. Guernsey-Sunrise, 67
55. Normative Services, 65
56. St. Stephens, 65
57. Farson, 62
58. Hanna, 62
59. Kaycee, 54
60. Hulett, 51
61. Fort Washakie, 49
62. Encampment, 47
63. Snake River, 46
64. Dubois, 43
65. Meeteetse, 43
66. Midwest, 39
67. Arvada-Clearmont, 35
68. Arapaho Charter, 35
69. Ten Sleep, 35
70. Rock River, 28
71. Glendo, 20
72. Chugwater, 12


Big Horn moves from Class 2A to Class 1A 11-man in 2017 — and that should make everyone in Class 1A 11-man more than a little scared.

The Rams were state champs at the 2A level last season despite being the smallest school in the classification. Next year, with Thunder Basin coming into 4A and causing a cascade of class changes, the Rams will move into 1A 11-man.

If Big Horn wins a title in 2017 after changing classifications, they’ll be just the seventh team — and the second program — to do so. The Rams would join Cokeville and Southeast as the only programs to have won back-to-back state titles despite switching classifications from one year to the next.

In all, 11 teams in state history have moved classifications after winning a state title; Big Horn will make the 12th. Yet only the Panthers and Cyclones won a state title the next year.

Cokeville has pulled off the feat three times, winning the 1988 1A title and the 1989 2A title; the 1989 2A title and the 1990 1A 11-man title; and the 1994 1A 11-man title and the 1995 1A Division II title. Two of those came near the 1989 season, when Cokeville opted up to 2A after 1A became a nine-man-only division for that season, prior to the state’s move from four to five classifications in 1990.

Southeast, meanwhile, has done this three times, too: The Cyclones won the 2000 1A Division II title and the 2001 2A title, the 2006 2A and the 2007 1A title, and the 2008 1A and the 2009 1A 11-man title.

In those six cases, three championships came when moving up a class and three titles came when moving down, like Big Horn will do next year.

In addition to the Cokeville and Southeast changes noted, six other teams tried, and failed, to repeat as state champion despite changing classifications after a title-winning season. Five of those six teams moved up in classification after winning a title. Teams that failed to repeat after changing include Burlington in 1995 (1A nine-man to 1A Division II); Cowley in 1956 (B six-man to B 11-man); Green River in 1977 (A to AA); Lingle in 1991 (1A nine-man to 1A 11-man); Tongue River in 1957 (B six-man to B eight-man); and Worland in 1960 (A to AA).

(Note: Changes in name classification alone are not considered here; for example, Big Piney won the 2000 2A title and the 2001 3A title, but that was a case of a classification renaming than a classification change. Additionally, champions from shift years 1982 and 1989, where the state went from three to four and four to five classifications, respectively, are not noted here unless the team actually moved in classification in more than just name, as Cokeville did in 1989 to 1990.)


(Post updated 10:14 a.m. Feb. 8, 2017, to note Southeast’s 2006-07 repeat at different classifications.)

The Wyoming High School Activities Association this week officially juggled classifications for four football programs for the 2017 football season to accommodate a new high school set to open in Gillette next year.

Thunder Basin High School in Gillette will waste no time, starting its varsity football program in Class 4A in 2017. Their entry will force one school to shift its classification for the 2017 season: Evanston will go from 4A to 3A, Buffalo will go from 3A to 2A and Big Horn will go from 2A to 1A 11-man. Also, Lingle, currently in 1A six-man but ineligible for the playoffs, will formally move from 1A 11-man to 1A six-man and become eligible for the six-man playoffs in 2017.

Buffalo will remain in 3A after opting up despite the program’s reclassification. reported the changes in a series of tweets.

Buffalo officials have previously said the Bison would opt up to Class 3A for 2017. Buffalo is the only one of the four schools affected by the changing classifications to note its desire to opt up. Coaches and administrators from Evanston, Big Horn and Lingle indicated to Tuesday they would accept the classification level set by the WHSAA.

The proposal had been addressed first at the WHSAA’s board of directors meeting in February and was formally approved at the board’s meeting Tuesday in Casper.

With Buffalo’s successful appeal to Class 3A, three classifications — 3A, 2A and 1A 11-man — will have 13 programs apiece.

Normally, by structure, the 10 largest schools in the state are classified as 4A schools; the next 12 are classified in 3A; the next 14 are in 2A; the next 14 are in 1A 11-man; and the remaining schools are in 1A six-man.

Conferences will be set prior to the release of the 2017 schedule in early November. Schools in each classification for the 2017 season will be:

Class 4A: Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne East, Cheyenne South, Gillette, Kelly Walsh, Laramie, Natrona, Rock Springs, Sheridan, Thunder Basin.
Class 3A: Cody, Douglas, Evanston, Green River, Jackson, Lander, Powell, Rawlins, Riverton, Torrington, Star Valley, Worland, Buffalo.
Class 2A: Big Piney, Burns, Glenrock, Greybull, Kemmerer, Lovell, Lyman, Moorcroft, Mountain View, Newcastle, Pinedale, Thermopolis, Wheatland.
Class 1A 11-man: Big Horn, Cokeville, Lusk, Pine Bluffs, Rocky Mountain, Saratoga, Shoshoni, Southeast, Tongue River, Upton-Sundance, Wind River, Wright, Wyoming Indian.
Class 1A six-man: Burlington, Dubois, Farson, Guernsey-Sunrise, Hanna, Hulett, Kaycee, Lingle, Meeteetse, Midwest, Normative Services, Riverside, Rock River, St. Stephens, Snake River, Ten Sleep.


Get caught up. Read part 1 and part 2.

The competitive struggles for the schools at the bottom of Class 3A aren’t revelations. In fact, they were the crux of a five-classification proposal made in 2012 by the Wyoming Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association — a proposal so tempting that the WHSAA delayed reclassification for a year to discuss it before ultimately rejecting it.

The problem in the WIAAA proposal was the difficulties inherent in five classifications, such as increased travel and problems with scheduling state tournaments, were just too much for the WHSAA to overlook.

The WIAAA was onto something, though. Its proposal tried to address the issues with competitiveness and with the shrinking schools in Class 3A. Just one look at what the WIAAA’s proposal would have done to 3A (shrink it from 16 to nine schools) and what it would have done to 1A (add one school) makes that clear.

The issue is 3A. Obviously.

But Wyoming doesn’t need, and can’t accommodate, five classifications for all of its sports. The WHSAA was right to reject the WIAAA proposal. With only 71 high schools, and only 67 that consistently offer the traditional gamut of volleyball, basketball and track, this state does not have enough schools and has too much distance between them to justify five classes for all its sports. We’ve seen what five classes and scheduling for competitive equity did to football — games got worse as travel distances increased.

The time for change is near, though. The next reclassification cycle, which will classify schools for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years, will give the WHSAA a unique opportunity. Thunder Basin High School is scheduled to open in Gillette in the fall of 2017. It will likely be a fully fledged 4A school by the fall of 2018. By default, TBHS’s entry into the Wyoming high school sports scene will force changes beyond Gillette; at minimum, the smallest 4A school (now Jackson) would go to 3A, the smallest 3A (now Lyman) would go to 2A, the smallest 2A (now Upton) would go to 1A.

I think a tweak to the existing classification system — one that would be timely given the changes TBHS’s classification will spur — might prove helpful.


In the fall of 2018, the WHSAA should move 3A’s four smallest schools to Class 2A for all sports except football. That small change would help redraw Wyoming’s classification boundaries at 12-12-24-rest, as Class 2A would expand from 20 to 24 schools. Class 1A would go from 21 to 22 schools (24, if you count Arapahoe Charter and Fort Washakie Charter) to accommodate the bump from Thunder Basin.

Such a move could also brings up the opportunity for congruence between Wyoming’s football and basketball classifications, something that hasn’t happened since 1990 when the state moved to five classifications for football. With existing programs, 11-man football could be split into four equal divisions of 12 schools apiece based on the cutoffs for all other sports. (Class 4A football would go from 10 to 12 schools and 2A and 1A 11-man from 14 to 12.)

Using enrollment figures used for the 2016-18 reclassification cycle, here’s how the classifications (and, for argument’s sake, potential conference alignments) would shake out:

For all sports but football
4A East: Gillette, Thunder Basin, Cheyenne East, Cheyenne South, Cheyenne Central, Sheridan.
4A West: Kelly Walsh, Natrona, Rock Springs, Laramie, Evanston, Green River.
(Alternatively, a quadrant system of Gillette, Thunder Basin and Sheridan in the Northeast, Cheyenne schools in the Southeast, Casper schools and Laramie in the “Central” and Rock Springs, Green River and Evanston in the Southwest.)
Largest school: Kelly Walsh (ADM 1893). Smallest: Green River (ADM 873).

3A East: Riverton, Douglas, Lander, Rawlins, Torrington, Buffalo.
3A West: Jackson, Star Valley, Cody, Powell, Worland, Pinedale.
(Alternatively, a quadrant system of Riverton, Lander and Rawlins in the “Central,” Douglas, Torrington and Buffalo in the “East,” Cody, Powell and Worland in the Northwest and Star Valley, Jackson and Pinedale in the Southwest.)
Largest school: Jackson (ADM 742). Smallest: Pinedale (ADM 299).

2A Northeast: Newcastle, Moorcroft, Big Horn, Tongue River, Wright, Sundance.
2A Southeast: Wheatland, Glenrock, Burns, Pine Bluffs, Southeast, Lusk.
2A Northwest: Thermopolis, Lovell, Greybull, Rocky Mountain, Shoshoni, Riverside.
2A Southwest: Mountain View, Lyman, Big Piney, Kemmerer, Wyoming Indian, Wind River.
Largest school: Wheatland (ADM 272). Smallest: Riverside (ADM 90).

1A Northeast: Upton, NSI, Midwest, Hulett, Kaycee, Arvada-Clearmont.
1A Southeast: Lingle, Guernsey, Hanna, Rock River, Glendo, Chugwater.
1A Northwest: Burlington, Dubois, St. Stephens, Meeteetse, Ten Sleep.
1A Southwest: Saratoga, Cokeville, Snake River, Farson, Encampment.
Largest school: Upton (ADM 87).


For football
4A and 3A: Same as other sports.

2A-Division 1 East: Wheatland, Newcastle, Thermopolis, Moorcroft, Glenrock, Burns.
2A-Division 1 West: Mountain View, Lyman, Lovell, Big Piney, Kemmerer, Greybull.
Largest school: Wheatland (ADM 272). Smallest: Greybull (ADM 176).

2A-Division 2 East: Big Horn, Tongue River, Wright, Sundance (Upton-Sundance for football), Pine Bluffs, Southeast, Lusk.
2A-Division 2 West: Wyoming Indian, Rocky Mountain, Wind River, Shoshoni, Riverside, Cokeville (likely opt up), Saratoga (co-op with Encampment forces move up).
Largest school: Big Horn (ADM 159). Smallest: Riverside (ADM 90). (Riverside’s continuation in six-man football if desired is easily accommodated, as is Upton-Sundance, either as a co-op or as two independent programs with Upton in either 11-man or six-man.)

1A Northeast: NSI, Midwest, Hulett, Kaycee.
1A Southeast: Lingle, Guernsey, Hanna, Rock River. (or a combined 1A East)
1A Northwest: Burlington, St. Stephens, Meeteetse, Ten Sleep.
1A Southwest: Dubois, Snake River, Farson. (or a combined 1A West)
Largest football school: Lingle (ADM 83). (All 1A football would be six-man. Technically, both Upton and Saratoga would be classified as six-man schools but would likely compete in 11-man due to existing co-ops, while it’s likely Cokeville, a 1A program, would opt up to 2A for football.)

For all sports except football, four classifications is the right number. How Wyoming arranges those four is the problem.

The 12-16-20-rest setup worked when established in 2001. It doesn’t work as well now.

No solution will fix all the problems. Someone will always be the big school, and someone will always be the small school. I fear a 12-12-24-rest setup may just shift 3A’s competitiveness problems to 2A. However, I do think this tweak will help close the gaps between the biggest and smallest schools in every class except 2A, and I think competitiveness at the 2A level will be evened out by the number of schools in the classification. Both competitiveness and shrinking school size, especially in Class 3A, can be addressed with this change.

For perspective, let’s look at the sport that’s been more or less ignored in this discussion so far: football.

Since 2001, Wyoming’s non-football classification structure has remained the same. Football’s classification structure in that same time period, meanwhile, has seen at least one change with every single reclassification cycle, with the notable exception of the transition from 2015 to 2016.

It’s absurd to think that football’s classification system deserves biannual tinkering and the system used for the rest of the state’s sports does not.

Fortunately, I think, the answer is simple. And one small change could set the course for Wyoming for another decade.

Do you have ideas for changing Wyoming’s high school sports classifications? Post a comment and share your designs!



Get caught up. Read part 1.

Competitiveness is a concern in Wyoming’s Class 3A more than any other classification.

Consistently, the smallest schools in Class 3A have little to no hope of competing for state championships. In fact, schools ranked in spots 25 through 28 in enrollment in the past five-plus years haven’t won a single state championship in any sport except football (which uses five classes).

Mountain View, Newcastle, Thermopolis, Lyman, Glenrock and Lovell — the six schools that have alternately occupied the bottom four spots in the 16-school Class 3A since the 2010-11 school year — have won a combined zero state titles at the 3A level in that span.

However, 3A’s four largest schools (Jackson, Star Valley, Cody and Douglas) have won 45 3A titles in those five-and-a-half years. And that doesn’t even count football titles or Jackson’s numerous all-class championships in alpine and Nordic skiing.

The only class that measures up similarly is 1A, where the bottom quarter of schools have also been held without a non-football state title since 2010-11. However, some of those schools, like Glendo and Chugwater, are so small that they don’t field varsity programs for many sports.

The bottom quarter of schools in 4A and 2A have won 6.1 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively, of those classifications’ state non-football championships in that same span. Those numbers are well above 3A’s 0.0 percent.

Bottom 25 percent in 3A: 0 non-football titles
Bottom 25 percent in 4A: 6 non-football titles (6.1 percent) (not counting 3A schools like Jackson that have won all-class titles in sports like Nordic or alpine skiing).
Bottom 25 percent in 2A: 4 non-football titles (7.7 percent)
Bottom 25 percent in 1A: 0 non-football titles


The struggles for competitiveness in 3A go beyond just the bottom four schools.

The eight smallest schools, or the schools in the bottom half, of 3A have won just 11 of the 76 non-football 3A titles awarded since the 2010-11 school year. That means the bottom half of schools in the 3A class have won just 14.4 percent of the 3A state titles — the lowest percentage of any of Wyoming’s four classifications.

Comparatively, in other classifications, those figures are much higher.

In 4A, the bottom half of schools in enrollment have won 31.6 percent of the non-football titles (again not counting 3A schools like Jackson that have won all-class titles in sports like Nordic skiing or alpine skiing — which, if included, would make that percentage even higher).

In 2A, the bottom half of schools in enrollment have won 21.2 percent of non-football titles.

In 1A, the bottom half of schools in enrollment have won 33.3 percent of non-football titles (Snake River, which is at the midpoint of the 1A rankings, was placed in the bottom half to account for schools like Chugwater and Glendo that don’t consistently field varsity programs for many sports.)

Clearly, in 3A, the smallest schools in the classification have the toughest time winning state championships, and 3A’s rates are significantly worse than other classifications.

Something is wrong.


The 3A struggles are more pronounced in some sports than others. In four of the 14 sports offered at the 3A level (excluding football), the eight smallest schools have been shut out of  state championships for more than a decade. For example, the last bottom-half team to win the boys track and field title was Torrington in 2002; the last bottom-half team to win the girls swimming title was Newcastle in 2002; the last bottom-half team to win the boys swimming title was Lyman in 1990. A team in the bottom half of 3A has never won a girls cross country title.

Class 4A, conversely, doesn’t have that problem. The longest bottom-half drought in the 22 4A (or one-class) sports is in boys track and field, which hasn’t been one by a bottom-half team since Laramie in 1996; girls swimming hasn’t had a bottom-half winner since Laramie in 2001; wrestling hasn’t had a bottom-half winner (or any winner but Gillette) since Green River in 2002. However, 17 of 4A’s 22 sports have had at least one bottom-half winner since 2010.

And in 2A and 1A, the biggest gaps are in 2A girls basketball (no bottom-half champions since Lusk in 1999), 1A boys track (no bottom-half champs since Farson in 1998) and 1A girls track (no bottom-half champs since Albin in 2003). They are the only three of the 15 sports offered at the 2A and 1A levels haven’t had at least one bottom-half champion since 2006.

Football, too, has no such problems. In fact, in the past six seasons, schools in the bottom half of their classifications in enrollment have won 13 of the 30 titles (43 percent) — twice in 4A (Sheridan), three times in 3A (Powell), once at 2A (Big Horn), five times at 1A 11-man (Cokeville and Southeast) and twice in 1A six-man (Kaycee and Meeteetse).


But competitiveness isn’t just about championships. Right now, those bottom quarter of schools in 3A are struggling just to keep up. Just look at the 2014-15 school year’s culminating events to see how the bottom four schools in Class 3A in terms of enrollment (Newcastle, Mountain View, Glenrock and Lovell) fared at the state level. It wasn’t pretty.

The best finish was the Mountain View girls’ second-place finish in volleyball and the Lovell girls’ second-place finish in girls basketball. Mountain View’s girls also finished third in girls basketball and sixth in boys cross country; Lovell’s boys finished fifth in track and field; and Newcastle’s girls finished sixth in girls swimming. No other teams in the bottom quarter of 3A finished higher than sixth. For golf, soccer and swimming, at least three of the four schools didn’t even field teams in those sports.

So far in 2015-16, the highest finish for a bottom-four school in 3A is Mountain View’s second-place finish in volleyball. No other bottom-four team has finished higher than fifth at state so far this year in any other sport.

The problem of 3A isn’t a problem tied to the competitiveness of the individual schools, either. Schools at the bottom of 3A have proven they know how to win when given the chance in 2A. The six schools alternately holding down the bottom four spots in 3A the past five and a half years (Glenrock, Lovell, Thermopolis, Lyman, Mountain View and Newcastle) have combined to win 14 state championships at the 2A level since the 2010-11 school year. (And Glenrock and Newcastle have both been 3A all that time.)

And therein might be the key to a solution.

Part 3, tomorrow: A potential solution to the biggest problem in Wyoming’s high school sports’ classification system.



The last major change to Wyoming’s high school classification system came in 2001.

In the past 15 years, the system hasn’t changed. The schools have.

Wyoming’s high schools — and, by proxy, the Wyoming High School Activities Association — have struggled to devise a classification system that works for all schools for all sports except football. The problems show up most significantly in Class 3A, particularly those in the bottom quarter of the 16-team classification.

Not only are the schools at the bottom of Class 3A smaller, they’re also less competitive than they were 15 years ago. However, a small tweak to the state’s existing classification system could help solve the problem that’s dogged the bottom of 3A, and therefore the entire system, for the past several years.


In Wyoming high school sports, no school has it more difficult than school No. 28.

When the Wyoming High School Activities Association sets its classifications every two years, school No. 28 of Wyoming’s 71 athletics-sponsoring high schools is in a difficult spot — the smallest school in Class 3A.

Consistently, the same schools end up in the 28th spot: Mountain View, Thermopolis, Lovell, Glenrock and Lyman. And Mountain View, Thermopolis, Lovell and Kemmerer have all recently been school 29 — the biggest in Class 2A.

In 2001, when the WHSAA went from enrollment-based cutoffs (e.g., smaller than 104 students was 1A, and so on) to a set number of schools per classification (the 12 largest in 4A, the next 16 largest in 3A, the next 20 largest in 2A, the rest in 1A), the splits worked pretty well. The smallest 3A school, school 28, floated at about 300 students; the largest 2A school was about 250 students, or maybe a bit smaller. However, that cutoff has changed dramatically. For the next reclassification cycle, set to start in the fall of 2016, school 28 will be Lyman at 210 students. In 1998, the school ranked 28th — the cutoff between 3A and 2A — had 288 students.

The problem, though, isn’t that the smallest 3A schools are shrinking. It’s that the biggest schools in 3A aren’t shrinking as fast.

In the past 15 years, the largest discrepancy to crop up is the one between the largest and smallest schools in Class 3A. Almost all schools near the 3A/2A cutoff line 15 years ago — Kemmerer, Glenrock, Mountain View, Lyman, Lovell, Thermopolis, Newcastle, Wheatland — have all gotten smaller. The ones that have grown only grew by minuscule amounts. (The exception is Pinedale, where natural gas development prompted a huge influx of students.) The schools at the top of 3A are smaller, too… but their rate of loss is not nearly like that of those schools near the bottom of the classification.

And while the most recent reclassification cycle has Glenrock, Kemmerer and Lovell in 2A, the other four small schools hovering near the 2A/3A cutoff (Newcastle, Wheatland, Lyman and Thermopolis) are still in 3A despite having lost significant numbers of students.

This is almost exclusively a 3A problem. For 4A, 2A and 1A, the 12-16-20-rest setup continues to work. For example, the gap between the largest 2A school and the smallest 2A school has remained fairly static: In 2005, the smallest 2A school had 97 students; entering 2016, it will be at 87.

Here’s a quick glance at the school ranked 13th (largest 3A using current classification rules), schools 24-28 (the bottom five in 3A) and 29-32 (the largest three in 2A) over the years:

13. Powell, 645

24. Wheatland, 322
25. Lovell, 266
26. Kemmerer, 262
27. Greybull, 227
28. Glenrock, 217
29. Lusk, 203
30. St. Mary’s, 190
31. Sundance, 181
32. Pinedale, 178

13. Cody, 718

24. Glenrock, 330
25. Thermopolis, 316
26. Lovell, 247
27. Kemmerer, 233
28. Greybull, 214
29. Lyman, 197
30. Pinedale, 192
31. Hanna, 192
32. Sundance, 192

13. Cody, 693

24. Glenrock, 321
25. Thermopolis, 304
26. Kemmerer, 248
27. Lyman, 237
28. Mountain View, 236
29. Lovell, 228
30. Greybull, 192
31. Wind River, 187
32. Pinedale, 185

13. Lander, 787

24. Kemmerer, 331
25. Lyman, 316
26. Mountain View, 309
27. Glenrock, 306
28. Thermopolis, 288
29. Lovell, 254
30. Wyoming Indian, 240
31. Big Piney, 218
32. Wright, 200

13. Jackson, 743

24. Glenrock, 257
25. Kemmerer, 244
26. Pinedale, 221
27. Thermopolis, 216
28. Mountain View, 213
29. Lovell, 209
30. Lyman, 200
31. Big Piney, 192
32. Greybull, 168

13. Cody, 695

24. Glenrock, 253
25. Pinedale, 249
26. Kemmerer, 210
27. Lyman, 208
28. Lovell, 204
29. Mountain View, 196
30. Thermopolis, 189
31. Big Piney, 179
32. Wright, 173

13. Cody, 671

24. Newcastle, 260
25. Glenrock, 223
26. Lyman, 218
27. Mountain View, 213
28. Thermopolis, 204
29. Kemmerer, 199
30. Lovell, 199
31. Big Piney, 187
32. Burns, 181

13. Star Valley, 734

24. Wheatland, 286
25. Newcastle, 248
26. Mountain View, 226
27. Lyman, 225
28. Glenrock, 219
29. Lovell, 214
30. Big Piney, 203
31. Thermopolis, 201
32. Kemmerer and Burns, 183

13. Star Valley, 717

24. Wheatland, 298
25. Newcastle, 237
26. Mountain View, 222
27. Glenrock, 222
28. Lovell, 215
29. Thermopolis, 210
30. Lyman, 204
31. Big Piney, 198
32. Kemmerer, 177

13. Riverton, 742

24. Wheatland, 272
25. Mountain View, 236
26. Newcastle, 224
27. Thermopolis, 215
28. Lyman, 210
29. Lovell, 204
30. Moorcroft, 193
31. Big Piney, 192
32. Glenrock, 191


As noted, the problem is not just the schools’ ranking — it’s also their size relative to other 3A schools.

This wouldn’t be a problem if competitiveness had stayed consistent even as the enrollments have changed. Over the past five years, though, we’ve seen a definitive shift in 3A’s competitiveness.

In short, no size means no chance. For 3A, the 12-16-20-rest classification splits have been a competitive death sentence for schools at the bottom.

Part 2, tomorrow: How small 3A schools’ decreasing enrollments has diminished those schools’ ability to stay competitive.


In advance of the first quarterly meeting of the Wyoming High School Activities Association’s Board of Directors on Sept. 29-30 in Casper, the WHSAA has released the enrollment numbers it will use to classify schools for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 sports seasons to the state’s high schools.

And the potential changes are numerous.

Although larger changes could be made to the classification structures of various sports — such as changing the number of schools in each classification — the following changes are on tap if no such changes are made:


Class 4A and Class 3A will remain the same.

Class 2A will see Moorcroft jump back into the classification after two years in Class 1A 11-man. WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird said via email to that Moorcroft has filed a petition to stay in Class 1A 11-man. Even if it’s approved, such a move might make the Wolves ineligible for the postseason.

Class 1A 11-man will see Wright come down from Class 2A to take Moorcroft’s prior place in 1A.

Riverside will be the 11th-largest Class 1A 11-man school but has asked to play six-man. Lingle, meanwhile, is the 14th-largest 11-man school but has also asked to play down in six-man. Class 1A 11-man’s size is designated as 14 schools.

Previously, when schools have asked to opt down a classification, if the WHSAA approved the option, those schools have been ineligible for the playoffs.

Cokeville, which came in 51st place — just below the cutoff for 11-man football — opted up to Class 1A 11-man again, Laird said.

Burlington, meanwhile, will be below the six-man/11-man cutoff and will move to six-man, coach Aaron Papich said via email Thursday.

Upton and Sundance are slated to continue their co-op for football, Laird said. Laird also said the Patriots’ playoff eligibility for the 2016 season won’t be determined until hard enrollment figures come in prior to that school year. Their decision to join football programs will not affect the classification of any other schools.

Other sports

Other sports will see significant shifts, too.

Jackson has supplanted Riverton as the state’s 12th-largest school and, because of that, will be scheduled to enter Class 4A for all sports except football in the fall of 2016. The difference between Jackson (742.26) and Riverton (741.70) ended up being less than one student.

Thermopolis and Lyman are scheduled to move from Class 2A to Class 3A, while Glenrock and Lovell are scheduled to move from Class 3A to Class 2A.

Upton is scheduled to move from Class 1A to Class 2A, while Saratoga is scheduled to move from Class 2A to Class 1A.

Gillette’s new school

The ADM figures do not account for the proposed second high school in Gillette, which is tentatively scheduled to open in the fall of 2017.


Tentative district alignments set by the WHSAA are as follows, as noted in information provided to the schools:

4A and 3A: Unchanged
2A East: Wheatland, Newcastle, Thermopolis, Moorcroft, Glenrock, Big Horn, Burns.
2A West: Pinedale, Mountain View, Lyman, Lovell, Big Piney, Kemmerer, Greybull.
1A 11-man East: Tongue River, Wright, Upton/Sundance, Pine Bluffs, Southeast, Lusk.
1A 11-man West: Wyoming Indian, Rocky Mountain, Wind River, Shoshoni, Saratoga, Cokeville.
1A six-man East: Lingle, Guernsey, NSI, Midwest, Hanna, Hulett, Kaycee, Rock River.
1A six-man West: Riverside, Burlington, Dubois, Snake River, Farson, St. Stephens, Meeteetse, Ten Sleep.

4A East: Gillette, Cheyenne East, Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne South, Laramie, Sheridan.
4A West: Kelly Walsh, Natrona, Rock Springs, Evanston, Green River, Jackson.
3A East: Douglas, Rawlins, Worland, Torrington, Buffalo, Wheatland, Newcastle, Thermopolis.
3A West: Riverton, Star Valley, Cody, Lander, Powell, Pinedale, Mountain View, Lyman.
2A East: Moorcroft, Glenrock, Burns, Big Horn, Tongue River, Wright, Sundance, Pine Bluffs, Southeast, Lusk, Upton.
2A West: Lovell, Big Piney, Kemmerer, Greybull, Wyoming Indian, Rocky Mountain, Wind River, Shoshoni, Riverside.
1A East: Lingle, Guernsey, NSI, Midwest, Hanna, Hulett, Kaycee, Rock River, Arvada-Clearmont, Glendo, Chugwater.
1A West: Saratoga, Cokeville, Burlington, Dubois, Snake River, Farson, St. Stephens, Encampment, Meeteetse, Ten Sleep.
(North and South conferences for non-football sports will be set by participating schools in 3A, 2A and 1A.)


The “Average Daily Membership” enrollment numbers for grades 9-12, rounded to the nearest full number:

  1. Gillette, 2,519
  2. Kelly Walsh, 1,893
  3. Natrona, 1,870
  4. Rock Springs, 1,588
  5. Cheyenne East, 1,541
  6. Cheyenne South, 1,340
  7. Cheyenne Central, 1,267
  8. Laramie, 1,066
  9. Sheridan, 965
  10. Evanston, 857
  11. Green River, 837
  12. Jackson, 742
  13. Riverton, 742
  14. Star Valley, 724
  15. Cody, 613
  16. Douglas, 522
  17. Lander, 520
  18. Powell, 514
  19. Rawlins, 492
  20. Worland, 415
  21. Torrington, 361
  22. Buffalo, 332
  23. Pinedale, 299
  24. Wheatland, 272
  25. Mountain View, 236
  26. Newcastle, 224
  27. Thermopolis, 215
  28. Lyman, 210
  29. Lovell, 204
  30. Moorcroft, 193
  31. Big Piney, 192
  32. Glenrock, 191
  33. Burns, 187
  34. Kemmerer, 177
  35. Greybull, 174
  36. Big Horn, 159
  37. Tongue River, 150
  38. Wyoming Indian, 146
  39. Wright, 145
  40. Rocky Mountain, 125
  41. Wind River, 120
  42. Sundance, 118
  43. Pine Bluffs, 111
  44. Southeast, 108
  45. Lusk, 106
  46. Shoshoni, 106
  47. Riverside, 90
  48. Upton, 87
  49. Saratoga, 85
  50. Lingle, 83
  51. Cokeville, 78
  52. Guernsey-Sunrise, 71
  53. Burlington, 67
  54. NSI, 65
  55. Midwest, 55
  56. Arapaho Charter, 53
  57. Hanna, 52
  58. Dubois, 51
  59. Hulett, 49
  60. Snake River, 48
  61. Farson, 48
  62. Fort Washakie, 48
  63. St. Stephens, 45
  64. Kaycee, 45
  65. Encampment, 44
  66. Rock River, 32
  67. Meeteetse, 32
  68. Arvada-Clearmont, 30
  69. Ten Sleep, 27
  70. Glendo, 19
  71. Chugwater, 13


Edited 8:10 a.m. Sept. 18 to fix a typo in Burns’ ADM.

In September — as it does every two years — the Wyoming High School Activities Association will begin discussing reclassification of its schools.

The discussions are usually pretty straightforward. After all, enrollments are what they are, and the lines are set where they are set.

Because of that, if we know where to look, we can get a preview of what changes might be headed down the pike this fall.

Enrollment data from the Wyoming Department of Education, which the WHSAA uses for reclassification, shows only a couple small changes for football classifications but some potentially big changes for other sports.


Based on the enrollment data I see, the football changes I anticipate are small. Wright and Moorcroft will switch places, with Wright moving to 1A 11-man and Moorcroft to 2A, and Lingle and Burlington will switch places in 11-man and six-man. This is significant only in that it will now be Burlington, not Lingle, that will have to petition the WHSAA to stay in 11-man (if they so choose), and Lingle will be in 11-man automatically instead of having to opt up. I also anticipate that Cokeville will still have to continue to opt up to stay in Class 1A 11-man.

Burlington’s choice is interesting. If the Huskies opt up, I envision similar conferences to what we have now: eight teams in the 1A 11-man West and seven in the East (with the continuation of the Upton-Sundance co-op) and seven teams in the 1A 11-man East and six in the West. However, if Burlington opts for six-man, that will give both 1A 11-man and 1A six-man seven teams in both their East and West conferences, which would mean a balanced and full schedule for every team in both divisions of 1A.

If Burlington decides to go to six-man, conferences could look like this:

1A 11-man East: Wright, Upton-Sundance, Lusk, Southeast, Pine Bluffs, Tongue River, Lingle.
1A 11-man West: Rocky Mountain, Riverside, Wind River, Wyoming Indian, Shoshoni, Saratoga, Cokeville.
1A six-man East: Hulett, NSI, Kaycee, Midwest, Guernsey, Rock River, Hanna.
1A six-man West: Snake River, Farson, Dubois, St. Stephens, Burlington, Ten Sleep, Meeteetse.

Other sports

I anticipate four-class sports, like basketball, volleyball and track, will see more significant changes: Based on the numbers posted, Lyman and Thermopolis would move from 2A to 3A; Lovell and Glenrock would move from 3A to 2A; Upton would move from 1A to 2A; and Saratoga would move from 2A to 1A.

Lyman, Thermopolis, Lovell, Upton and Saratoga have all made moves like these recently, but Glenrock’s move from 3A to 2A would be the Herders’ first such move in about 40 years. The Herders made the move from Class B to Class A in the 1970s and have been a Class 3A/A school ever since…. but I anticipate that will end with the 2016-17 school year.

When I made similar predictions in 2013, my predictions were right on the mark. But, of course, that (and this) doesn’t mean anything yet. These numbers could change by the time the WHSAA puts out its ADMs, or it’s possible I read the wrong numbers. And I had to make educated guesses for enrollment with Lusk, Burlington and Wyoming Indian, which will have their numbers adjusted by the WHSAA.

Let’s not forget, too, that this fall’s reclassification discussions will be complicated a bit more by the proposed addition of a new high school in Gillette, tentatively scheduled to open in 2017 — right in the middle of this two-year reclass cycle.

There’s no guarantee that anything will come out the way I predict it might.

Still, this is a nice little glance at what might be happening when we start talking reclassification in September and when classifications are finalized in November.


Campbell County School District board members voted Tuesday to add a second high school in Gillette.

Sound familiar? It should.

I’ve written about this issue before: How the logic doesn’t outweigh the emotion of such a decision (December 2014); how reclassification might fall out if Gillette adds a second school (March 2011); and the ties between a third school in Casper and a second in Gillette (October 2010).

Like I wrote in 2011, the decision to add a second high school in Gillette affects much more than what happens on the playing fields and courts. From a reclassification standpoint, though, the decision could create ripples that will be felt throughout the state.

If the new school opened in Gillette today, for all sports except football Riverton would go to Class 3A, Lovell to Class 2A and Riverside to Class 1A to accommodate the new school. And for football, Evanston would go to 3A, Buffalo to 2A, Wright to 1A 11-man and Upton to 1A six-man. (Remember, right now Lingle and Cokeville fall below the 11-man/six-man cutline but opt up to 11-man.)

The moves for four-class sports (basketball, volleyball, track, etc.), three-class sports (wrestling, cross country, etc.) and two-class sports (soccer, swimming, etc.) are less of a struggle than the moves for football. Remember in 2007 when Riverton debated opting down to 3A? The Wolverines could make that switch pretty seamlessly for most sports.

Football, though, could present a challenge. If Evanston grows a little bit, the 11th school in the WHSAA listings will likely be Sheridan. Neither Evanston nor Sheridan will likely want to move down a classification. Wyoming could go back to an 11-school 4A and an 11-school 3A to accommodate, which complicates scheduling among other concerns.

The new school is tentatively scheduled to open in fall 2017 — right in the middle of a two-year reclassification cycle for the WHSAA. That will further complicate matters….

Like I said in 2011, we could see a completely new high school classification system develop, with the new school in Gillette as the impetus.


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