After steamrolling through the regular season undefeated (17-0) in dual wrestling matches and bringing home five tournament team titles, the Bulldogs varsity team will carry the "team to beat" label Friday and Saturday at the Class 4A regional tournament at Grand Junction High School.
Going in as the favorite is not new to the Moffat County High School (MCHS) team. A year ago, the Bulldogs brought home the regional trophy and followed that up with a fourth place finish at the state meet a week later.
"We have to be the team to beat," said Bulldogs coach Roman Gutierrez, whose team is ranked No. 2 in Class 4A in the Rocky Mountain News and on Mattalk, a Colorado high school wrestling Web site. The team for MCHS to beat at state is the No. 1-ranked Alamosa Maroons, who are from a seperate region.
"I am expecting them to do well and we should win pretty comfortably (at region)," said Gutierrez.
The Bulldogs will enter the two-day meet with five wrestlers seeded No.1: sophomore Mark Hastings (33-4) at 112 pounds; sophomore Travis Linsacum (31-5) at 125 pounds; sophomore Ryan Linsacum (32-4) at 130 pounds; senior Kurtis Kostur (32-1) at 140 pounds; and senior Jeremiah Noland (32-3) at 152 pounds.
Ryan Linsacum is confident going into the meet, but understands his position of being ranked No.1 at the 130-pound weight class.
"I am real pleased with the way things have gone so far this season," said Ryan Linsacum who is seeking his first state tournament berth. "I am hoping to win regionals. Being ranked No. 1 at the regional tournament you will have a lot more pressure, because everybody is coming after you."
MCHS wrestlers seeded second are sophomore Cody Fredrickson (18-7) at 145 pounds and senior Coalin Hume (26-5) at 160 pounds.
Freshman Ty Weber (16-5) is seeded third at 135 pounds and those seeded fifth are senior Kevin Field (19-12) at 171 pounds; senior Curtis McCoy (11-17) and freshman Cliff Stehle (18-7) at 215 pounds. Junior Mike Wooten (6-20) is seeded eighth at the 275-pound heavyweight spot.
"I had an all-right season," said Field, who finished in fourth place at the regional tournament a year ago and is seeking his second straight state tournament berth. "The weight class that I am in is a pretty tough weight class. I just have to toughen up and go with it."
The Western Slope features four teams in the top 10 rankings, according to Matttalk. The Grand Junction Central Tigers are No. 5, the Rifle Bears are No. 6 and the Montrose Tigers are No.10.
The Bulldogs have defeated all those teams this season in either duals or tournament play, but Gutierrez understands his team can't take anything lightly.
"I think that Grand Junction Central will make some noise down there," said Gutierrez. "Florence has some good kids that they will push in there. Montrose and Rifle should be in the top four. There are some good kids out there."
The top four wrestlers in each weight class qualify for the state tournament slated for Feb. 17-19 in Denver at the Pepsi Center. The Bulldogs want to bring as many wrestlers as possible to the state meet to challenge all-comers for the title.
"The only way to win a state title is to get enough kids at the state tournament," said Gutierrez. "It doesn't matter if they place first, second, third or fourth. The only way they can score points is if they are there."
Nothing less than a first place finish will be a disapointment.
"We are pretty healthy, except for Coalin Hume's ankle," said Gutierrez. "We don't have any excuses this weekend and we won't make any."