Three Laramie Athletes Choose To Head North For College Sports
Three Laramie High School student-athletes have chosen to continue their athletic careers north of the border, in Montana.
Class of 2018 alum Garrett Worden and current senior Baxter Tuggle have chosen to play football at Carroll College in Helena, MT. Also, fellow senior Jason Upton chose to run track at the University of Montana in Missoula.
Worden was a two-time First Team Class 4A All-State honoree at LHS during the 2016 and 2017 high school football seasons. He was also a team captain. The former Plainsmen has been attending the University of Wyoming as a freshman but found a desire to return to the gridiron.
“My senior year, I had some back problems, got those fixed in August (2018), and I was like, well, I’m feeling better, oh, I’m kind of getting that itch back. Then, I went to a lot of UW games, and I was like, oh, I really want to go here, but they are full. So then, I was like, okay, Carroll’s (College) the next one. I called them, got to campus, and signed the next day. I love it there.”
When asked what appealed to him about the Saints, Worden said, “It’s a small program. They’re all very connected, it’s a lot like a family, and that’s what I really didn’t notice with the bigger programs. They’re kind of just doing their own thing. (At) Carroll, it’s a real family, and everyone’s really connected.”
Tuggle was an All-State running back last fall for the Plainsmen. He ran for 906 yards, seven touchdowns, and finished fourth in Class 4A in rushing in 2018. He also played linebacker on defense. In addition to the gridiron, Tuggle has been a varsity lettermen for the Laramie Plainsmen soccer team and competed in indoor track during his time at LHS.
While he loves the game of soccer, Tuggle said it’s been football that he’s wanted to compete in at the next level.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love soccer, and I’ve played a lot, but football’s always been the sport. It’s always been the thing I’ve wanted to do. I said it in like seventh grade, my dad said, I said I wanted to go and play college football, and that’s what I’ve strived to do since then.”
Tuggle admitted that he had a really difficult decision to make because of three offers he received within a week’s time.
“It was all at once, and it was honestly quite stressful. All the opportunities, in general, were just super-exciting. I was super-excited that I was going to be able to have a chance to go to the next level wherever I may have landed. I went up to Carroll (College), and going to the campus, seeing all the community, and the great academics, and stuff like that, it was just awesome. I’m super-excited about it still. You know, I think about it every night, I’m not going to lie.”
Worden and Tuggle join a program that’s enjoyed quite a bit of success. Carroll College has won six NAIA national championships and played in eight. Former Wyoming assistant Mike Van Diest just retired after 20 seasons at the helm, so Worden and Tuggle will play for new head coach Troy Purcell. He was hired back in December 2018.
Jason Upton has been a standout football and track athlete at LHS since his freshman season. He has been All-State in both football and track. He’s a four-year letterman in both sports. He started for the Plainsmen football team since he was a sophomore.
Upton said becoming a Griz was a really tough choice among his offers, but he feels it’s the right one.
“The visit that I had up at Montana, I really connected well with the coaches and guys, and it’s a great place, a great part of the country in Missoula. Competing in the decathlon and doing multi’s there, I think will be fun. It’ll be a really big challenge, and I think that I’m up for it.”
Upton said family played a role in his decision, as his mom recently took a job in Missoula.
“I thought the family could also be here to see me in college, and I could see them, and it could all work out well.”
As for choosing track over football, Upton felt that his mind was always on track.
“I would have liked the opportunity to play football, but I had more opportunities, and I think my family would’ve liked it more, me competing in track and field. I think I can and will be more successful at it.”
Upton joins a Griz track program guided by 11th-year head coach Brian Schweyen. He’s been with their program since the 1994-95 season.
All three Laramie High School student-athletes are getting assistance thanks to their strong academic performance in the classroom. All three are receiving money from the Path-Away Scholarship from the Wyoming Community Foundation. It helps students that qualify for the Hathaway in Wyoming, but choose to attend an out of state college. Upton is also receiving some financial help with 25 percent of full out of state tuition costs covered, plus he’s qualified for the Western Undergrad Exchange (WUE) that allows him to pay only 1.5times the in-state tuition figure at Montana.
All three are fulfilling a dream to take their talents to the next level. They also mentioned close proximity to each other and taking advantage of outdoor recreational opportunities in the area.