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.)