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‘Shootout’ challenge reflects Shoshoni’s can-do spirit

in Community/Economic development/News/Recreation
Now entering Shoshoni
2032

By Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily

Like a challenge delivered out of the Old West, a shootout at high noon was held Saturday in Shoshoni.

Mayors of Fremont County’s towns, or their designees, met at the Shoshoni Rifle Range on the south edge of town to compete in three shooting categories – rifle, handgun and Annie Oakley shotgun-style shooting – as part of a fundraiser for the Fremont County Republican Women.

“When the Republican Women’s president, Ginger Bennett, called me, she wanted the shootout at high noon on Shoshoni’s Main Street,” said Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith. “I said, ‘Anything is a possibility in Shoshoni, let’s talk about it.’”

Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith exhibits a can-do attitude that characterizes his efforts to make things happen in Shoshoni.
Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith exhibits a can-do attitude that characterizes his efforts to make things happen in Shoshoni. Highsmith — whose father also served as Shoshoni’s mayor — said residents care about the community and have good ideas for its future. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

Highsmith was elected Shoshoni’s mayor in 2018. Like Saturday’s mayoral shootout, his can-do spirit is reflected throughout the 650-resident town.

It’s all about building and maintaining a community, its people and a great place to live, according to Highsmith.

“Shoshoni has always been my hometown, the place I consider my home, and the place where I always planned to retire,” Highsmith said.

Highsmith’s parents moved to Shoshoni in 1962. His wife Kathy’s parents moved to Shoshoni about 1950.

“I married my wife in 1972. That’s when we purchased our first real estate in Shoshoni. We have three beautiful daughters we raised in Shoshoni until 1989. We returned to Shoshoni in 2009,” he said. “We are Shoshoni people with Shoshoni roots.”

In fact, Highsmith’s father Joel Thomas Highsmith Sr. was mayor of Shoshoni in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Shoshoni in 2019 is a microcosm of life these days in central Wyoming. Local economies are struggling, even in Shoshoni where ConocoPhillips operates a gas plant in Lost Cabin, east of town.

Some people have left town. People make long commutes, usually through Shoshoni and the town’s famous intersection, to work in the oil and gas industry. Young people graduate out of the Shoshoni school system, and most leave. And few young people and their families live year-around in the community that boasts small-town amenities and is bordered by one of Wyoming’s best fishing reservoirs.

Boysen Reservoir, which borders Shoshoni, is a major focus for the community, with a committee considering ways to bring more people to the reservoir to take part in various activities and help revitalize the town. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

“Besides our school system, I believe Shoshoni’s crown jewel is Boysen Reservoir,” Highsmith said.

Shoshoni also benefits from residents willing to look at ways to breathe new life into the community, the mayor said.

“People care about the future of this town and they have ideas,” he said.

The Shoshoni Town Council, or as Highsmith calls it, “the governing body,” has established a pair of committees focused on Boysen Reservoir and the rifle range.

“We are looking at different options to enhance our town. The Lake Committee has met with Boysen State Park officials and the new owners of the Boysen Marina, who are both doing a great job,” Highsmith said. “We are looking at developing more activities and fishing opportunities so that Boysen becomes more of a destination for people on their way to Jackson and other places.”

Highsmith said the goal is to bring more events to Boysen Reservoir, which in turn, will help the town. At one time, winter carnivals, high-altitude drag races, fishing derbies and other events flourished at Boysen throughout the year and brought visitors and their money to Shoshoni.

Highsmith said the same committee approach is being used to draw people to Shoshoni’s rifle range, arguably the best in the county and central Wyoming. Grants and donations have helped the local rifle club improve safety at the range through steps such as having local range enthusiasts act as monitors when the range is open.

Shoshoni continues to host a number of community events, including its Labor Day Ranch Rodeos and its annual Don Layton Memorial Antique Tractor and Engine Show.

The landscape of Shoshoni is changing for the better, too, Highsmith said.

He recalled the days when downtown Shoshoni boasted a Gambles store, grocery store and movie theater.

This photo shows some of the old buildings that line Shoshoni’s streets. The town recently demolished six old buildings on Main Street, along with a hotel and the community’s old school. Residents are now looking into ways to fill the empty space with businesses to help the town. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

Today, some of the older, unusable buildings, including six separate buildings of the old Main Street, have been demolished, as has an old motel and the Shoshoni school in the center of town.

A new $39 million K-12 school has been built on the north end of town and is in its fourth year of operation.

The mayor said town officials are keeping an open mind to the opportunities for Shoshoni.

“We’ve been talking to the developer who bought our old school land,” Highsmith said. “We’ve been thinking and discussing, what can survive here.”

Town officials and many citizens agree Shoshoni needs an active motel/hotel and a local gathering spot, such as a café.

“That would be a big bonus for school activities and activities at the lake and rifle range,” Highsmith said. “Boysen State Park and the marina need more camper spots. Maybe we need a campground, because the lake is an important part of what we may do. Maybe our future is senior housing. We need more housing so our teachers can live here.”

The future for one of Wyoming’s busiest intersections – where U.S. Highways 20 and 26 meet – is involved, too, because it’s in the middle of town. Contrary to billboards on the edges of Shoshoni proclaiming the superiority of each highway, both provide convenient and scenic pathways to Yellowstone National Park.

The main intersection in Shoshoni takes travelers north on U.S. Highway 20 to Thermopolis or west on U.S. Highway 26 to Riverton. The intersection plays a role in attempts to revive the community, with residents looking at possible ways to build up businesses in the area. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)
The main intersection in Shoshoni takes travelers north on U.S. Highway 20 to Thermopolis or west on U.S. Highway 26 to Riverton. The intersection plays a role in attempts to revive the community, with residents looking at possible ways to build up businesses in the area. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)



“There will be changes in our intersection, even possible business expansion,” Highsmith said. “Our history involves a time when there were seven gas stations, and one on each corner of our intersection.”

Highsmith said Shoshoni people want businesses that benefit the community, including its school.

“We are open to ideas, and we are looking at things,” he said.

New Shoshoni school is a bright light in town

Bruce Thoren is in his sixth year as superintendent of Fremont County School District No. 24.

Shoshoni’s school district is very rural in nature, covering nearly 2,000 square miles.

“We’ve got kids attending from Natrona County, from Missouri Valley, Hidden Valley, Burma, Riverton, Shoshoni … the valley is where the vast majority of our students live,” said Thoren.

The school provides kindergarten through 12th grade education for more than 390 students and about 25 of those live with their families in Shoshoni. A school bus also makes daily stops at Riverton’s old Kmart to serve the more than 100 Shoshoni students who live in Riverton. Other students drive themselves to town, or ride school buses.

The school district is easily the largest employer in Shoshoni, with nearly 100 part- and full-time employees.

“These employees are a big deal for the Town of Shoshoni, and I believe the new building is definitely helping the viability of the town. Without the school, quite honestly, I’d hate to see what would happen to the town,” Thoren said.

There’s history attached to Shoshoni schools, too, as the first Shoshoni School opened in 1906 with 58 children and two teachers. After its first year of operation, a new school was built to educate 134 students at a cost of $7,000. The new building allowed the first- through fourth-graders to escape the old Shoshoni jailhouse, where they were attending school.

Thoren is proud of the school district’s ongoing partnership with the town.

“Things are headed in the right direction in Shoshoni, and the town council and mayor are looking to increase the viability of the town. Everyone wants to put the nicer things in place, including more paved streets,” Thoren said. “While most of the school employees and the Conoco gas plant employees commute from other places to work, a lot of those people would live in Shoshoni if we are able to get some of these community upgrades completed.”

Thoren points to future oil and gas development, including the Moneta Divide project, as possible boosts to the Shoshoni-area economy.

The Shoshoni Recreation District is part of the school district’s partnership with the town.

“This is a small Wyoming town, but it’s thriving with recreation,” said Recreation Director Michelle Rambo, who herself attended Shoshoni schools for 13 years.

The recreation district is currently preparing for its annual Halloween haunted house involving the efforts of more than 30 volunteers. It’s said to be one of the creepiest and best of its kind in Wyoming.

“People come to Shoshoni from all over the region to participate. It’s a huge event,” Rambo said.

Rambo, like the mayor and school superintendent, is positive about the future of Shoshoni, a community grounded in volunteerism “that works together to do what’s best for all of Wyoming.”

“My childhood friends live here, raising their families. We are all part of this community. We support our town,” Rambo said, adding a statement of her pride for Shoshoni schools and the mascot. “We ‘Ride for the Brand, be a Wrangler.’”

Elk hunting outlook good, deer hunting ‘mixed bag,’ says G&F report

in News/Recreation/wildlife
2021

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Fall is in the air and it’s the time of year when hunters around Wyoming are finalizing their plans for a successful hunting season. The Wyoming Game & Fish Department  has prepared a fall forecast of its eight regions to make planning much easier. 

The WGFD uses a map to define the eight regions identified as Cody, Sheridan, Jackson, Pinedale, Lander, Casper, Green River, and Laramie. 

The hunting season outlook in each region for the big three game animals — pronghorn antelope, deer and elk — is covered in the forecast, along with information on other species. 

Antelope

According to the report, pronghorn populations are up in the Casper, Green River, and Laramie regions, while in Sheridan and Cody, the populations remain stable. Although lower populations have been recorded in Pinedale, the limited number of licenses issued should mean success rates will be high, the report said. In Casper, populations are average. A GPS collar tracking program is set for the winter of 2019-20 to provide better information to Pronghorn Managers.   

Deer

The outlook for deer hunting is a “mixed bag,” according to the WGFD forecast. Although a successful hunting season is expected for the Big Horn Basin, most deer populations in Wyoming are down due to the severe winter of 2016-17. However, the Pinedale and Cody regions are seeing large populations and high quality hunting opportunities, with Cody herds expanding into new areas and habitats.

Elk

Elk hunting should be good, the report said. Populations increased in Casper, Cody, Green River, Laramie and Sheridan, with Sheridan’s populations being high due to limited hunter access to private land. The Lander and Pinedale populations remain steady in almost all areas.

The WGFD Fall 2019 Forecast also has information on moose, big horn sheep, mountain goats, bison, upland game birds and small game, including turkey and migratory game birds. 

For complete information you can read the full forecast at the WGFD website.

For adventure close at hand, Cheyenne residents hike or bike Hidden Falls

in Recreation/Tourism
2008

On the plains of southeast Wyoming access to mountainous hiking and biking can seem at a distance.

Curt Gowdy State Park offers Cheyenne residents and visitors from northern Colorado a great escape that’s just minutes from the capital city.

The Crow Creek Trail to Hidden Falls trail is a particular gem in the state park. The 3.6 mile out and back trail leads to a charming little waterfall and offers terrain that is fun for families but challenging enough that everyone gets to feel those muscles working.

It’s not an hours drive to get outside. This is your reminder, southeastern Wyoming, take in the fall weather while it lasts at Curt Gowdy State Park.

Camping in The Shadows of Outlaws

in News/Recreation/Tourism
1921

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Outlaw Cave, Hole-in-the-Wall, the names conjure images of bandana-covered faces, men in black hats, and a posse hot on their heels. Twenty miles southwest of Kaycee, Wyoming, is a campground that offers a chance to walk in the footsteps of those lawless legends. 

Outlaw Cave Campground is located on the rim of Outlaw Canyon, 1000 feet above the middle fork of the Powder River. This majestic 12-site campground offers few amenities, but a wealth of scenery and adventure. Great fishing and hiking abound, but the real draw is the history.

Wild bunch
Front row left to right: Harry A. Longabaugh, alias the Sundance Kid, Ben Kilpatrick, alias the Tall Texan, Robert Leroy Parker, alias Butch Cassidy; standing: Will Carver, alias News Carver, & Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry; Fort Worth, Texas, 1900.

Between 1899 and 1901, Butch Cassidy (aka Robert Leroy Parker) and the Sundance Kid (aka Harry A. Longabaugh) were lawless members of Butch’s gang the Wild Bunch. The same Butch and Sundance immortalized by myth, legend and Hollywood films. The Wild Bunch was part of a loose organization of other gangs known collectively as The Hole-in-the Wall Gang. The Wild Bunch’s crimes were wide-ranging and included bank robbery, stagecoach and highway robbery and horse and cattle rustling. 

The Hole-in-the-Wall gang got its name from their base of operations, out of Hole-in-the-Wall Pass. These desperadoes were outlaws on the run and one of their many hideouts was in hidden deep in a canyon on the Powder River. 

The route to the campground takes you past row after row of red sandstone bluffs, lined up like rusting battleships in port. In the early morning light, some look like ghost ships, or would could be mistaken for the last resting place of Noah’s Ark.

The drive will take you through working ranches, and you’ll see scores of wildlife, endless and amazing geological features, but few other campers. 

The no-fee campground is located on BLM land and has one vault toilet but no water and no trash collection. Camper are advised to pack out what you bring in. 

Fifty yards from the campground is the rim of Outlaw Canyon and the trailhead to Outlaw Cave. The hike down to the cave is a 1,000 foot descent! This hike is more technical than the average walk in the woods, but for the experienced hiker, the trek will take you about 20 minutes. It’s not hard to see why gangs chose this location for their hideouts. 

The reward for your effort will be a peaceful running river, and brown trout begging to take your bait. You did remember your pole?

Explore the caves along the other side of the riverbank, and take time to imagine yourself holed up there hiding from the law. Remember, you are standing in the shadows of the outlaws themselves. Butch, Sundance and the multitude could have plotted their next robbery right where you are standing!

A big dam deal: Buffalo Bill Dam expansion celebrated

in Agriculture/Energy/News/Recreation
1888

By Cowboy State Daily

The anniversary of the completion of one of Wyoming’s most impressive engineering feats was celebrated recently as Cody marked the 25th anniversary of the expansion of Buffalo Bill Dam.

The $132 million expansion project launched in 1985 raised the dam’s height from 325 feet to 350, increasing its storage capacity by 260,000 acre-feet.

The “Great Dam Day” on Aug. 17 celebrated the completion of the project with a number of activities that gave visitors a chance to stop by the dam and its visitor’s center.

Among the attendees was Bill McCormick, who served as the project manager for the expansion.

McCormick said one of the most challenging parts of the job was removing a large section of a mountain to allow for the expansion.

Project officials soon figured out that rock from the mountain could be used as “riprap” to line the reservoir’s shoreline, he said, eliminating the need to bring in the material from elsewhere.

“So it seemed very logical,” he said. “We had good granite right here and (workers could) take the rock from here.”

While the project was originally supposed to be completed in five years, various developments delayed completion, McCormick said.

“The estimated five years for the project actually took 11 as things were modified or problems came up or the design changed,” he said.

The dam today provides irrigation water for more than 90,000 acres of land in the Big Horn Basin, along with a 6-mile long reservoir that serves as a recreation area.

More than 100 ride to raise money for cancer patients

in Community/Recreation
PEAKS fundraiser for cancer patients
Cyclists head out of Cody on Saturday during the annual PEAKS to Conga bicycle ride for charity. More than 100 riders took part in last weekend’s event to raise money for cancer patients in the Bighorn Basin, riding from Cody to Shell — a 66-mile journey. (Photo by Wendy Jo Corr)
1556

By Wendy Jo Corr, Cowboy State Daily

On a breezy morning in Cody, the first full day of summer, more than 100 people of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities wheeled away for a common cause.

The ninth annual PEAKS to Conga bicycle ride got underway shortly after 7 a.m. on Saturday when 100-plus bicycles hit Highway 14/16/20 east of Cody on a 66-mile journey to the tiny town of Shell as part of a fundraiser to assist cancer patients in the Bighorn Basin.

The ride is meant to be fun and non-competitive, according to organizer Laurie Stoelk, and is fully supported – meaning designated vehicles running the route were available to pick anyone up who didn’t want to ride the entire 66-mile stretch.

The participants ranged in age from young adults to senior citizens, and while many of the riders were decked out in cycle gear, many were less experienced.

Rayna Wortham, a Cody police officer, was one of the participants. Although she’s not a competitive bike rider, as part of her fitness routine she regularly rides the North Fork Highway between Cody and Yellowstone National Park. Her trusty dog, Macy, rode along with her this year in a bike basket.

Stoelk says the fundraiser began after a group of local bicyclists befriended a gang of lady motorcycle riders 10 years ago who were taking part in a cross-country “Conga” journey in honor of a friend who was battling cancer.

Stoelk, a nurse at the Cody Regional Health Cancer Center in Cody, began organizing what would eventually become the PEAKS to Conga ride. PEAKS (which stands for People Everywhere Are Kind and Sharing) provides short-term gas, grocery and other non-medical expense assistance to Cody cancer patients who are experiencing financial hardship.

Stoelk noted that over the past several years, the annual bike ride has raised more than $100,000 to help cancer patients from all over the Bighorn Basin. And this year’s turnout was the biggest in the event’s history, with 130 people registered.

The route isn’t easy – from Cody, there are a few hills as riders begin, and a steep incline to the top of Eagle Pass, about 13 miles east of town. It’s mostly downhill for the next 30 miles or so, but quite hilly between Greybull and Shell.

At the end of the line, though, is the reward – the park in Shell each year is taken over by massage tables, yoga practitioners, food vendors and musicians as a celebration (or rather, a “Shell-abration”) for those who participate in the event. Riders’ registration fees include dinner and dancing to live music. Many participants choose to camp out in Shell overnight.

And for those who would rather not straddle a bicycle for 66 miles, Stoelk points out that there are other ways to contribute to their cause. PEAKS is sponsored by the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation in Billings, Montana, and donations can be made directly to the Foundation.

Wyoming’s Wallace wins unanimous approval for Interior post from powerful US Senate committee

in News/Recreation/Tourism
1533

WASHINGTON, DC — Wyoming resident Rob Wallace is one step closer to overseeing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service following unanimous approval of his appointment to the post by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee on Wednesday morning. 

Wallace, nominated by President Donald Trump to be the next Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, received commendations from Republican and Democrats alike during the meeting of the 21-member committee.

“I’ve known Rob for over 35 years and without question Rob is the right person for the job,” said EPW Chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). “Stakeholders from across the political spectrum agree that Rob is an outstanding choice and I urge my Senate colleagues to support his nomination.”

Minority EPW Chairman Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) said Wallace was both qualified and ready to lead, noting that Wallace “pledged to uphold science and bolster the expertise of the career staff” at the Department of Interior.

“I believe he is up to the challenge to providing badly needed leadership within the Department of Interior,” Carper said. “I look forward to welcoming Mr. Wallace to Delaware.”

Following the vote, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said he was “delighted” to vote for Wallace and said the two had a “terrific conversation”.

“Even though the organization he would work for is called the Department of Interior, this is a country that has more than interior, it also has edges,” Whitehouse said.  “The edges are our coasts and our coasts are overlooked by the department and he agreed to sit down with a bipartisan group of coastal senators and begin a conversation as to how coastal communities can be treated with more attention and more fairly.”

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a similar meeting on Thursday morning to consider the nomination of Wallace.

Wallace’s appointment must also be approved by the full Senate.

Wild night of bare-knuckle boxing returns to Cheyenne

in News/Recreation
1212

By Cowboy State Daily

The appearance of the great-grandson of legendary heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey in the main event highlighted a wild night for bare-knuckle boxing’s return to Cheyenne on Friday.

The four-hour show also saw a 300-pound fighter crash through a unique caged ring and tumble to the floor below. Promoters declared this latest event with its eight knockouts and usual bloodshed a success. The expectation is for more of the events to be held as the long-underground sport emerges into the limelight. Up to a half dozen similar “backyard brawls” might be held in Wyoming — the only state where the sport is legal — later this year.

“It’s different. It’s just a good time all the way around,” said fan Anya Turner, 26, of Cheyenne, comparing the sport to boxing. “The energy’s definitely better. It’s a little more raw.” 

The 700 or so fans who attended “BYB Brawl 1: Brawl For It All” at the Cheyenne Ice & Event Center roared when the action grew frenetic, which was often. Tens of thousands more watched via pay-per-view.

The organizer, BYB Extreme, of Miami, Florida, unveiled its unusual “Trigon Triangle” ring, enclosed by a 7-foot-high chain-link fence and shaped like the Superman symbol. 

“It’s really to promote confrontation and therefore resolution, and keeping those results in the hands of the fighters,” said Mike Vazquez, president of BYB. Translation: Knockouts are preferred over judges’ scoring decisions.

Indeed, eight of the nine bare-knuckle fights ended in knockouts. The ninth was declared a no-contest after Josh “Dempsey” Gormley, Jack Dempsey’s great-grandson, may have accidentally stuck a finger in the left eye of Bobby Brents, who was unable to continue.

“I hit him in the head with a closed fist,” said Gormley, 45. “There was no eye poke. I’m upset about it.”

Brents charged hard at the outset and opened cuts around both of his opponent’s eyes, but Gormley fought through it.

“I’m a Dempsey. I’ve got more heart than body,” he said. 

The newest combat sport began in Wyoming because of former state representative Bryan Pedersen, a financial analyst and kickboxer who successfully sponsored legislation in 2012 creating a state mixed martial arts commission, which he chairs. Last year, the commission — at his urging — approved rules for bare-knuckle bouts. After 28 other states declined to legalize the matches, Wyoming sanctioned the sport. 

Pedersen and other supporters view it as safer than Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) because no kicking or kneeing is allowed, plus the absence of gloves leaves less skin area to be struck.

Cheyenne hosted the nation’s first event in June 2018, followed by bouts in Gillette and Casper. Bare-knuckle fighting has provided significant advertising for Wyoming, underwritten by fans watching on pay-per-view, Pedersen said. 

“They pay 19 bucks, watch the fights with their friends and they hear, ‘This is in Wyoming,’ and someone will come,” he said.

Although Mississippi and New Hampshire are toying with the sport, Wyoming still has the edge, with more fights coming. 

“Maybe another four to six events the rest of the year, based on phone calls we’re receiving,” he said.

Billy “The Kid” Martin, who grew up in Cheyenne and lives in Casper, lost by technical knockout (TKO) to Leo Pla of Parker, Colo. Martin broke his own left hand early, then Pla broke Martin’s nose, sending him to the canvas. 

“I popped right back up and then he had a really, really good body shot – right in the liver,” Martin said. “You ask any fighter: It takes one good liver shot and you can’t breathe.”

Rock Springs native Joseph Guillen lost by TKO to Joey Angelo of Las Vegas.

Guillen sat out three years, grief-stricken over the deaths of his mother, two cousins, two uncles and a friend, all within two years.

“I shut down. I just stayed in my house and quit training, quit everything. So this gave me the opportunity to get back into the ring,” he said. 

The evening included two traditional MMA fights. In a super heavyweight match, Lamar Cannady-Foster attempted a kick but Jermayne Barnes grabbed his foot and pushed him backward. Cannady-Foster’s bulky frame hit the gate and popped the latch bolt, springing it open. He fell backward and down five steps onto the concrete floor, injuring a leg. He was unable to continue so Barnes was declared the winner because he was ahead on the judges’ scorecards.

“I’m a warrior. I want to go out there and earn it,” Barnes said. “I don’t like freebies. I don’t like handouts.”

Filmmakers with the popular 2015 Netflix documentary Dawg Fight – about illegal backyard fights – shot new footage for a followup. Dada 5000, a star of the film, helped organize the Cheyenne event.

“What a great place to have it at,” he said. “And it’s far from the backyards.”

Mixed Martial Arts finds home, big-name sponsorship in Wyoming

in Community/Recreation
1185

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Pain shot across Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor Devin Henry’s face as he disengaged a grapple Monday with one of Cheyenne Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s students. 

“Hang on a sec,” Henry calmly told the student. “I think I broke my finger.” 

The 42-year-old’s purple belt cut a sharp contrast against his black gi, a lightweight, two-piece garment worn by several martial arts participants, as he cradled the injury and paced the training mats.

Within minutes, he returned to his student, and the duo continued to drill a series of subdual techniques.

“It doesn’t hurt now,” Henry said. “But I’m going to be in pain tomorrow, for sure.”

The Jiu Jitsu academy’s primary coach and owner Matt Cano nodded, acknowledging his junior instructor’s tenacity.

“It’s a rough sport, and you do get hurt from time to time,” Cano said. “But we bounce right back and keep at it.”

About 30 students and instructors sparred in pairs during the night’s training session, guided by Cano’s quiet directions.

Most of the time, he was on the ground with them, explaining and demonstrating Jiu Jitsu techniques simultaneously. But occasionally, he walked among the combatants, offering praise and critiquing the students’ moves.

“Jiu Jitsu is about human intelligence over brute strength,” Cano explained. “It’s human chess. It’s all about strategy.”

Japan to Brazil to America

After learning the Japanese martial art of Jiu-Jitsu from traveling instructor Mitsuyo Maeda, Carlos Gracie started a legacy by opening his family’s first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1925, according to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu association Gracie Barra.

In the decades to follow, the Gracie family refined and adapted the fighting style until 1993, when Rorion Gracie put together the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as a way to test his family’s techniques against other popular martial arts like Karate, Judo and Tai Kwan Do.

The sport exploded across the globe, and by 2006, even the U.S. Army used moves inspired by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in its Modern Army Combatives, hand-to-hand combat training.

Although backyard wrestling and bareknuckle boxing enjoyed a modicum of popularity among young fighters in Wyoming around the turn of the millennium, combat-centric training centers remained sparse around the state, Cano said.

“Growing up, I was really into watching the UFC and all that,” he recalled. “But, there weren’t any real high-quality trainers for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. You got some good wrestlers around here and good boxers, but for the longest time, we didn’t have high quality trainers that strictly focused on (mixed martial arts).”

‘Homeless’

After a stint in the U.S. Army, Cano trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu throughout the Rocky Mountain region, fought in both amateur and professional MMA bouts, then decided to focus on bringing Wyoming to the forefront of the growing global martial arts trend.

“It was around 2015, and I had one more pro fight, but I always had one foot in, one foot out with teaching,” Cano said. “I wanted to spread my love for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and it did — it spread like wildfire.”

Cano’s academy began with three buddies in a two-car garage. He quit his full-time job as a diesel mechanic and dedicated himself solely to the art.

“I had no income the first couple of years,” Cano explained. “I was homeless — just living in the academy.”

Nowadays, Cano’s academy is located in downtown Cheyenne with nearly 5,000 square feet of training space.

“We’ve got about 135 students here at the academy now,” he said. “That’s between our kids’ classes, advanced Jiu-Jitsu, beginning Jiu-Jitsu and kickboxing classes.”

Name recognition

The academy owes its success to several factors, including the nearby U.S. Air Force base, the instructors’ determination and Cano’s passion for teaching.

But the 32-year-old coach said one of the tipping points for Cheyenne Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was an off-the-cuff friendship with Kurt Osiender.

“We’re the first major academy in Wyoming to be sponsored by a big name,” he explained.

Osiender is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who trained under Ralph Gracie before starting his own academy in California. Referred to as a professor in the sport, Osiender met Cano during a series of seminars. 

“I kept asking him questions about different techniques, and after awhile, we just hit it off,” Cano said. “He comes and puts on seminars here at the academy throughout the year. He loves Wyoming. He loves guns and whiskey and Frontier Days. He says it’s his kind of state.”

In a sport where training lineage can hold as much weight as the color of a combatant’s belt, having a Gracie-trained instructor sponsor your gym is a huge honor, Cano said.

“Kurt certified my brown belt in 2016,” he remembered reverently. “That was a really big deal for me. Some people use stripes on the belt to indicate degrees, but Kurt’s old school and doesn’t do stripes.”

As much the student as the teacher, Cano said despite the growth of his own academy, he’s got a long way to go.

“I’m in no hurry to get my black belt,” he said. “Kurt will give it to me when he feels I’m ready. As long as I learn something every day, that’s all that matters.”

As the academy grows, Cano said he hopes to see Wyoming earn a place on the MMA map, but until then, he plans to keep rolling with his students and sharing his love for the sport.

“Spiritually and mentally, you’re in the zone with that training partner,” Cano said. “We share blood, sweat and tears on these mats. We’re all brothers and sisters here.”

To learn more about Cheyenne Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, visit https://CheyenneBJJ.wixsite.com/cbjj

Coalition to sue over state’s new grizzly hunt law

in News/Recreation
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A coalition of environmental groups plans to sue the state over a new law giving it the authority to conduct grizzly bear hunts.

The groups, including the Sierra Club, filed a notice this week with the state Game and Fish Department of their intent to sue over the statue, which was signed into law about a week ago by Gov. Mark Gordon.

The groups, in a news release, said the law is contrary to a federal judge’s ruling last year that said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service erred by removing grizzlies from the endangered species list and giving management of grizzly bears to the state.

But backers of the law, as well as the law itself, maintain that federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act require cooperation between federal and state governments.

Senate File 93, signed into law by Gordon on Feb. 15, was the Legislature’s response to a federal judge’s ruling in September that halted a hunting season on grizzlies.

The hunting season was scheduled after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had ruled recovery goals for grizzlies in Wyoming had been met and the animals could be removed from the endangered species list.The Fish and Wildlife Service is appealing the judge’s decision.

SF 93 would give the Game and Fish Department the right to declare a hunting season for grizzlies if it determined such a hunt would be beneficial to the state’s residents.

The coalition, which also includes the Center for Biological Diversity and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, said the new law violates the Endangered Species Act and Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives federal law primacy over state law.

“This state law directly and unlawfully conflicts with the clear mandate of the federal Endangered Species Act that grizzly bears not be shot by trophy hunters seeking their heads and hides for bragging rights,” said Nichola Arrivo, a staff attorney with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), another member of the coalition.

But the law’s backers maintain the Endangered Species Act requires federal officials to work cooperatively with states in managing endangered species, so the law is valid.

The law itself raises the same point.

“In enacting the Endangered Species Act, the United States Congress requires the United States secretary of the interior to cooperate to the maximum extent practicable with the states in conserving and managing any endangered or threatened species,” it said.

Jim Allen, an outfitter in Fremont County who served in the Legislature from 2015 through 2018, said if nothing else, the legislation would show the state’s intent that federal laws be administered in accordance with laws in effect in the state.

“What (bill sponsor) Sen. (Wyatt) Agar’s (R-Thermopolis) bill does is just one more statement by the state that can’t be ignored by the (federal) agencies,” Allen said. “State and county use plans are statements the federal government is supposed to abide by.”

While the federal government may not recognize the law’s validity, it will still send a message, Allen said.

“Nothing else that we’ve tried has worked to gain (grizzly bear) management, so why not pass a bill?” he said. “It can’t hurt.”

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