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Upton and Newcastle call it quits on partnership

Sonja Karp, NLJ Sports Editor

For the last decade, Newcastle and Upton fans have joined forces and cheered on their high school wrestlers together, as the two Weston County school districts combined their small wrestling programs in an effort to roster a team that could fill most of the weight classes.
In that time, although no team titles have been won, the Dogies/Bobcats fared pretty well at regular season tournaments as well as regional tournaments, and have even had individual state champions.
The stands and the teams will look different this year, however, because as of Oct. 23, the co-op has come to an end.
According to school officials at Newcastle High School, a difference of opinion regarding coaching styles may have played a part in the rift that caused the dissolution. Alysha Engle, NHS athletic director, stated that a disagreement occurred on Sunday, Oct. 22, and the next day the co-op was dissolved.
“It happened really quickly,” Engle said. “Unfortunately, the chain of events then left us scrambling to come up with an idea for a head coach for Newcastle.”
In the aftermath, Newcastle was left without a head coach for the program, given that the head coach for the co-op was Lee McCoy of Upton. With the break, McCoy will stay with the Upton Bobcats for the quickly approaching season.
Previously, there was a brief period in which the Dogies/Bobcats had co-head coaches, one from Upton and one from Newcastle. However, after Jason Wheeler left Newcastle, no one applied to take his place so McCoy resumed the role of head coach of the entire joint team on his own.
“When I began as AD I questioned why we didn’t continue having co-head coaches,” Engle said. “The biggest issue, from what I could gather, was that no one was certified and interested in taking the position here at NHS.”
Meanwhile, Brooks Bowthorpe of Newcastle had been McCoy’s assistant coach at the high school for several years. Bowthorpe has also been the middle school head coach for five years, and this season they have 53 kids, 40 of whom are boys, out for the sport.
“Our middle school program is very robust, so I’m not sure what the disconnect is when they get to high school,” Engle said. “It’s true that there are three sanctioned sports, and a couple of club options, to choose from in the winter, but the numbers for wrestling drop significantly from middle school to high school.” 
While it may have seemed an obvious option to move Bowthorpe into the head coach position at the high school, he was not in the running for the job as he had already been hired as the high school girls wrestling assistant coach, while his wife Shaide Bowthorpe is the head coach for the girls team at both the middle and high school levels.
“There was no one certified in the district to coach wrestling who felt comfortable stepping into the position,” Engle explained. “We even talked about our boys having to co-op with Gillette if we couldn’t find anyone.”
Engle went on to explain that Gillette would be the only option as a co-op because if Newcastle were to join up with one of the smaller schools closer by, the whole team would have to wrestle 3A, because Newcastle cannot wrestle down a class, as per Wyoming High School Activities Association rules.
Fortunately, a solution was found prior to having to take that drastic step. Former Dogie wrestler Tiegen Marchant, who has been helping with the middle school program for a few years, came to the rescue. Marchant was close to being certified as a head coach, needing only to take a care and prevention class, and will be fully certified by Nov. 20, when practice officially kicks off.
With the position being filled at the 11th hour and the coaching crisis averted, the question of what the season will look like for both Weston County teams remains a question.
As a co-op, the Newcastle/Upton team had struggled with numbers and filling all of the weight classes recently, which impeded the ability of the team to score points overall. Now, with the split, both the Dogies and the Bobcats find themselves with even fewer numbers.
According to Engle, Upton should have around five wrestlers in their program, three of whom are very strong.
“Since they will be dropping down to 2A, they will probably win a state championship,” she predicted. “The three have a great chance of winning individual state championships, and in 2A if you have three champs and two other placers, you have a good shot of winning the team title as well.”
Newcastle also has five students who will be out for the sport for certain, and also potentially two more who will be relatively new to the sport. But, for the Dogies, the number of open weight classes will make it nearly impossible for them to have success as a team given they are competing against 3A schools who usually fill every weight class and sometimes have more than one athlete in several weight classes.
As individuals, the members of the Dogies will have the same opportunities for success as they had in the co-op, however, as a team the possibilities aren’t as promising.
Given the low numbers, Marchant will be the only coach since there will be no need for an assistant, however, Sean and Merritt Crabtree will be  volunteering their time to help the  team out.


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