CHEYENNE – Liam Fox’s first official practice as a high-school wrestler was Nov. 22.

But the Cheyenne East freshman’s preparation for this season started well before that.

He practiced with the Thunderbirds as a seventh-grader when his Carey Junior High season ended. Last winter, Fox prepared for a junior high national tournament with East varsity wrestlers who were practicing for the high school portion of the same event. Fox also was a regular at East’s open mat workouts throughout the summer and fall.

All of those practices against high school wrestlers helped him hit the ground running this season. Fox has gone 28-1 through the first four weeks of his freshman campaign.

That includes a 5-0 mark at the Shane Shatto Memorial tournament in Douglas. He won the 132-pound championship with two pins and two wins by major decision.

Those efforts earned Fox Prep Athlete of the Week honors from WyoSports’ Cheyenne staff.

“I wanted to get more experience and get used to wrestling in high school,” Fox said of what motivated him to practice with East while he was still in junior high. “I had to get used to wrestling older people who were stronger than me from a couple years of lifting weights. I had to learn what I could use to counter that strength and experience.”

Fox has learned that being technically sound has helped him overcome what he lacks in strength and high school experience. What Fox lacks in experience at the high school level, he makes up for with experience at the national level.

He went 6-3 to place sixth and earn All-American honors at the middle school portion of the National High School Coaches Association national tournament in Virginia Beach. In June, Fox placed second in Greco-Roman and third in freestyle at USA Wrestling’s Kids Nationals in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.

“I’m sure practicing with us helped, but it also helps to have as many matches under your belt at all levels as he does,” East coach Thad Trujillo said. “He’s been so successful because he is so competitive.

“I don’t know if he’s one of those guys who hates to lose more than he loves to win. I would guess hating to lose is what drives him.”

The lone blemish on his record is what stands out to Fox more than any of his 28 wins this season.

Fox dropped a 10-8 decision to Kyler Lauridsen of Bennington, Nebraska, at the Flatwater Fracas dual tournament Dec. 18 in Grand Island, Nebraska. He trailed 10-3 late before scoring a takedown and three near-fall points in the match’s waning moments. Fox is confident he could have pinned Lauridsen, given a few more seconds. The loss served as an early lesson.

“I have to get started earlier,” he said. “At the beginning of the match, I wasn’t being aggressive or taking as many attacks as I was later in the match.

“I’ve been trying to score first each match. I’ve found that helps me set the pace, and I’ve been pretty successful when I do that.”

That was evident in the Shatto final, Trujillo said. Fox took down Laramie sophomore Dakota Ledford midway through the first period and added three near-fall points to lead 5-0. He chose to start the second period in the neutral position and added another takedown for a 7-0 lead midway through that frame. Fox ended the match by pinning Ledford at the 5:14 mark.

“He was the aggressor in that match,” Trujillo said. “When he scores early, he’s pretty dangerous.”

While being technically sound has helped Fox overcome any difference in strength, he is a lot stronger than he gives himself credit for, Trujillo added.

“He might not realize how strong he actually is,” the coach said. “I’ve scrapped with him a little, and he is a strong kid for his age. I know it’s a little different having to step out there on the mat with a 17- or 18-year-old who has been shaving for a couple years, but he holds his own strength-wise.

“But he’s right, he is a pretty technical and smart wrestler. He learns something, hits it two or three times in a drill, and, all of a sudden, you see him do it in a match. It’s hard for a lot of guys to transfer it from their brain to their muscles that quickly, but he has a natural ability to do that.”

Others recognized for their efforts include:

n Keagan Bartlett, wrestling, Cheyenne Central: The junior went 4-0 with three pins to win the 220-pound bracket at the Shatto Memorial.

n Roree Cowley, girls basketball, Central: The senior averaged 12.7 points in the Lady Indians’ three losses at the Taco John’s Invitational.

n Ryan Fornstrom and Stu Lerwick, boys basketball, Pine Bluffs: Fornstrom, a junior, averaged 22 points and five assists to help the Hornets to wins over St. Stephens and Shoshoni on Friday in Glenrock.

Lerwick, also a junior, added 24.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

n Jordan Jones, girls basketball, East: The senior averaged 17 points to help the top-ranked Lady Thunderbirds go 3-0 at the Taco John’s Invitational.

n Jaden Shelit, girls basketball, Pine Bluffs: The senior guard averaged 12.5 points to help the Lady Hornets to lopsided wins over St. Stephens and Shoshoni on Friday in Glenrock.

n Nathanial Talich, boys basketball, Central: The senior averaged 20.7 points to help the Indians go 2-1 at the Taco John’s Invite.

n Rylee Jo Ward, girls basketball, Burns: The senior guard scored 26 points, grabbed seven steals and dished out five assists during a 52-37 win at Alliance, Nebraska.

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.

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