When the Gillette high school football programs split apart in a year, the question a lot of Gillette Camel fans can’t seem to shake is the one about the potential success of their program.

When Thunder Basin opens — and begins Class 4A varsity play — in the 2017-18 school year, will both the Camels and the ‘Bolts have enough to be successful?

In this state, quite honestly, there’s not a lot of precedent for what’s going to happen in Gillette. Wyoming has only had two communities go from one comprehensive high school to two comprehensive high schools: Cheyenne in 1960 and Casper in 1966.

Granted, those splits happened more than 50 years ago now. Even so, looking at those results gives us an idea of how well both Gillette and Thunder Basin might do on the scoreboard.

In short: The splits had unpredictable effects on the football programs at the older of the two schools. Natrona’s winning percentage fell off slightly in the 10 years after Kelly Walsh opened in Casper; Cheyenne Central’s winning percentage improved dramatically after East opened.

Meanwhile, Cheyenne East and Kelly Walsh had nearly identical (and sub-.500) winning percentages in their first 10 years on the field.

Football in Cheyenne
Cheyenne Central records, 10 years before the split: 3-6-1, 4-4, 4-5, 6-2-1, 7-3, 5-3, 7-2, 5-3, 3-5-1, 3-5-1 (47-38-4, .551)
Cheyenne Central records, 10 years after the split: 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 7-2, 6-4, 9-0-1, 8-2, 6-4, 8-1, 6-2-1 (63-31-2, .667)
Cheyenne East records, first 10 years: 2-6-1, 5-4, 4-5, 5-5, 3-6, 5-4, 3-6, 7-3, 2-7, 6-2-1 (42-48-2, .467)

Football in Casper
Natrona records, 10 years before the split: 4-4-1, 2-6-1, 6-1-1, 2-6-1, 3-4-2, 8-1, 5-1-2, 7-1-1, 9-0, 7-2 (53-26-9, .653)
Natrona records, 10 years after the split: 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-3, 3-7, 6-2, 7-1-1, 7-2, 6-3, 7-2 (56-36-1, .608)
Kelly Walsh records, first 10 years: 0-8, 6-4, 5-5, 2-8, 6-3-1, 5-3-1, 4-5, 9-1, 5-4, 0-8-1 (42-49-3, .463)


The splits arguably had more effect on the basketball floor — and in opposite directions for the different cities.

Cheyenne Central’s last title before its split with Cheyenne East was in 1956. However, in the first three years after East opened (1961-63), Central won three consecutive state titles. East didn’t win its first championship until 1988, but was a fairly consistent state tournament qualifier up until that title.

Casper basketball, though, suffered deeply as a result of the split, but the recovery came within a decade. Neither Natrona nor Kelly Walsh made the state tournament in KW’s first three years — 1967, 1968 and 1969. Natrona won the state title, though, in 1970, and KW won back-to-back titles in 1974 and 1975. The Trojans’ opponent in the 1974 title game? Natrona.

Basketball in Cheyenne
Cheyenne Central state tournament finishes, 10 years before the split: consolation title game loss 1960; no state 1959; 2nd 1958; qualified 1957; 1st 1956; 2nd 1955; 3rd 1954; 1st 1953; 1st 1952; 1st 1951
Cheyenne Central state tournament finishes, 10 years after the split: 1st 1961; 1st 1962; 1st 1963; 5th 1964; 4th 1965; 3rd 1966; 1st 1967; 4th 1968; 2nd 1969; 3rd 1970
Cheyenne East state tournament finishes, first 10 years: no state 1961; 4th 1962; qualified 1963; qualified 1964; no state 1965, no state 1966; 4th 1967; 2nd 1968; 4th 1969; no state 1970

Basketball in Casper
Natrona state tournament finishes, 10 years before the split: 4th 1966; no state 1965; 3rd 1964; 3rd 1963; qualified 1962; qualified 1961; qualified 1960; qualified 1959; consolation title 1958; qualified 1957
Natrona state tournament finishes, 10 years after the split: no state 1967; no state 1968; no state 1969; 1st 1970; 4th 1971; 5th 1972; 4th 1973; 2nd 1974; 3rd 1975; 6th 1976
Kelly Walsh state tournament finishes, first 10 years: no state 1967; no state 1968; no state 1969; no state 1970; no state 1971; no state 1972; third 1973; 1st 1974, 1st 1975; 5th 1976

It will be interesting to see how Gillette and Thunder Basin handle this split. Interscholastic sports are much more complex than they were in 1966, including the fact that 51 percent of our population now has opportunities to participate in ways they couldn’t in the 1960s. Sports offerings are also more diverse than ever.

And it will be interesting to track how the split affects a successful sports program like Gillette’s across the board, from wrestling to track to cross country and beyond.

If the second schools in Casper and Cheyenne were any indicators, Camel sports — and ‘Bolt sports — should come out fine. Sooner than you’d think, too.


Once again, Jim Craig in Lusk is our all-star of the week. This time, he dug through the archives and found the 1953 all-class all-state team. That team is now posted with the all-state listings. As always, thanks for the help, Jim!


Football season never stops at wyoming-football.com. That’s why even though it’s snowy and cold, we can’t look forward to a time when, um, it’ll be snowy and cold again…. Anyway, here are my way-too-early predictions for the 2016 season, which certainly could change by August, and again by November, thanks to any number of factors. For now, though:

Class 4A
1. Gillette: The Camels are the only team in 4A returning more than one all-state selection. Lineman Lane Tucker and receiver Madden Pikula were so honored last year, and their returns give Gillette one of the stronger returning senior classes in 4A this fall. The trick will be finding ways to replace the nine all-conference selections the Camels lost to graduation.
2. Cheyenne East: The Thunderbirds return half of their 10 all-conference selections and will be a tough team to beat because of that experience. Lineman Jacob Ross is East’s only returning all-state selection, but he’ll have more help surrounding him than is immediately apparent.
3. Rock Springs: Matt Fowler might be the best returning running back in the state next fall, and he has two things going for him: He’s part of an offense that focuses on the run, and he’s surrounded by stronger and more talented players than the Tigers have had in probably a decade.
4. Sheridan: The defending champs lost a ton to graduation. It’ll be tough for the Broncs to repeat, but they’ve got the system and the coaching to stay competitive. Lineman Jacob Hallam is Sheridan’s only returning all-state — or all-conference — selection, and the Broncs will need to build around him.
5. Natrona: Inertia alone has the Mustangs here. Even though it loses all 10 of its all-conference picks to graduation, NC typically fields one of the state’s best teams. Nearly the same thing happened last year, and Natrona remained near the top of 4A. The names will be new, but the results won’t.
Dark horse: Laramie. The Plainsmen return a trio of all-conference players, and they’re all on the outside — QB Taylor Dodd, WR/DB Connor Beeston and LB Carless Looney. If the Plainsmen get some linemen to step up, they could be really dangerous.

Class 3A
1. Star Valley: The Braves showed how talented they were in their run to a 3A title last year. And with three all-staters back this year (Kellen Hansen, Collin McGinley and McCabe Smith), more than all but one school in the class, the Braves will be the early 3A favorites, even with a new head coach.
2. Douglas: The Bearcats had a down year last year, finishing with a losing record for the first time under Jay Rhoades. That happened in part because they had a bunch of juniors on the field who were busy gaining experience. Douglas returns six of its seven all-conference players and has all three all-state selections (Zach Hoopman, Eric Jamerman and Gage Pitt) back this fall, numbers — and maybe talent — no other 3A school can match.
3. Jackson: The Broncs will be interesting to watch. Their centerpiece, running back Theo Dawson, will be gone. But that might make Jackson more diverse, opening up opportunities for a young but talented group of returning players.
4. Green River: Last year’s breakthrough season will be difficult to repeat, but the Wolves showed they have the ability to compete with, and beat, anyone in 3A. Much like Jackson, though, Green River has to show it can overcome the loss of its offense’s centerpiece player — Tyler Vendetti — to graduation.
5. Riverton: The Wolverines have three returning all-conference players, and all-stater Teron Doebele will lead a team that will be easy to overlook this offseason but will probably start turning heads sooner rather than later.
Dark horse: Torrington. The Trailblazers lost eight all-conference selections from last year’s East Conference championship team. Will they be able to recover from that? Maybe, but young players will need to show they’re ready for the varsity level.

Class 2A
1. Glenrock: Last year’s state runners-up have the early edge in what will be a wild, wide-open title race in 2A. Glenrock has five all-conference and a classification-high three all-state players (Logan Downs, Cooper Fargen and Garrett Schwindt) back for 2016, and that talent has now tasted success. They’ll be raring for more.
2. Big Horn: The Rams will be one of the classification’s more talented teams, with all-staters Nolan McCafferty and Colton Williams anchoring a crew that will see five all-conference players return. Lest we forget, Big Horn was the only program last year to find a way to beat Wheatland in 2015.
3. Greybull: The Buffs won’t sneak up on anyone this fall. After all, they’ve got six all-conference players coming back, more than any other team in 2A, and returning all-staters Dawson Forcella and Gabe Keisel should provide stability to a team ready for a big breakthrough.
4. Lovell: The defending West Conference champions return more than half of their all-conference selections and should be primed for another deep playoff run. Losing three-year starter Beau Green under center won’t help, but if someone can fill his shoes, watch out.
5. Wheatland: The senior class the Bulldogs lost will be difficult if not impossible to replace. Even so, Wheatland should stay competitive thanks in part to a pair of returning all-staters (Josh Madsen and Jacob Ward) and a crew of underclassmen that knows what it takes to win it all.
Dark horse: Mountain View. The Buffalos have five returning all-conference players and should be able to hang with anyone in the state. Told you 2A was gonna be wild.

Class 1A 11-man
1. Upton-Sundance: This really isn’t fair. The Patriots had six all-state selections from their 2015 title team, and four of them — seniors Hunter Woodard, John Sullivan and Thomas Davis and junior Dawson Butts — will return for 2016. U-S will start the season at No. 1, and until someone proves otherwise, this is their spot (and title) to lose.
2. Shoshoni: The Wranglers’ disappointing end to 2015 is tempered a bit in the knowledge that they return six of their eight all-conference selections from a team that ran through the regular season undefeated. J.J. Pingetzer and Jason Thoren were all-state picks last year and front a hungry team.
3. Tongue River: Now that the Eagles know how to win, they’ll be tough to stop. They return three all-conference and a pair of all-state selections (Cody Buller and Brennan Kutterer), and now that they’ve had the experience of playing at The War, they should carry that momentum into the offseason.
4. Rocky Mountain: Of all the sleeper teams in 1A 11-man (a long list that includes Pine Bluffs, Wright, Southeast and others), the Grizzlies are at the top. That’s because they return four-fifths of their all-conference selections, meaning they have enough raw talent to play with any team in the classification.
5. Cokeville: The Panthers were young in 2015 and will be young again in 2016, but the 2016 squad will be up to the challenge. Senior Trenton King and juniors Rick Nate and Cordell Viehweig will give stability and leadership to a team that’s always tough to top.
Dark horse: Southeast. Honestly, the Cyclones could be a top-tier team by the end of the season. They’ll need some time to grow, but they proved last year they won’t be intimidated and that they can play with any team in 1A 11-man.

Class 1A six-man
1. Meeteetse: In a weird twist, the Longhorns had seven players selected to the West Conference’s all-conference team. That’s just how deep they were last year. Of those, four will be back, including all-stater and multipurpose threat Dalton Abarr. That will give the Longhorns the early edge.
2. Kaycee: The defending champs will lose some talented players to graduation, but the return of a pair of all-state selections in junior Mark Largent and senior Reed Stafford will make the Buckaroos the favorites in the East and one of the top teams statewide.
3. Lingle: Even though the Doggers aren’t going to be eligible for the playoffs, they should field one of the better six-man teams in the state. They have the talent — both Garrett Cooper and Dallen Fleenor return as 11-man all-state selections from 2015 — so the speed at which the Doggers adapt to six-man may determine how well their season goes.
4. Snake River: The Rattlers return three all-conference selections and an all-state pick in junior J.D. Corson. With only six returning all-state selections in the entire classification, simply having one back will give Snake River a centerpiece around which to build, something most teams in six-man next year won’t have the luxury of possessing.
5. Farson: The Pronghorns — along with Snake River and six-man newcomers Riverside and Burlington — will be busy chasing down Meeteetse as the early West Conference favorites. But the Pronghorns do return three all-conference selections, and their experience will give them an edge.
Dark horse: Riverside. Just like Lingle, the Rebels’ successful adaptation to six-man will depend on the speed at which the players and coaches can learn the game. The quicker that process goes, the more dangerous the Rebels will be — well, at least for the regular season.

How about you? Who do you have winning state titles in 2016? How would you break down the top five teams in your favorite classification? Who’s going to surprise us? Post a comment and let’s talk football at a time that’s way too early to be talking football.


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.