Coach Roman Gutierrez knows how to play the hand he's dealt and play it well.
For 20 years, Gutierrez, Moffat County High School's wrestling coach, has built a dynasty on the mats, all without the luxury of transfer students.
Unlike the majority of larger schools around the Denver metro area, Gutierrez has had to build the perennial powerhouse known as the Bulldogs with home-grown wrestlers a fact that didn't escape President Dave De Giacomo and the board of the Colorado Wrestling Hall of Fame.
The ability to create and manage a wrestling program, which is supplied with exclusively local talent, is one of the factors that played into Gutierrez being named the Hall of Fame's Coach of the Year.
Gutierrez will be honored Sunday at Ben H. Parker Student Center at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.
"Roman has coached dominant teams in his history and this year led a team to the state championship that many considered to be the best in the state," De Giacomo said. "In choosing Roman as the Coach of the Year we looked at how he put his program together and one of the things we saw is he didn't have the advantages of big city schools. He didn't have clubs to chose athletes from."
Craig's isolation prevents wrestlers from transferring to a school just to be tutored by the renowned wrestling coach that caught the Hall of Fame's eye. It's that Gutierrez has nurtured Moffat County wrestlers from the peewee mats to the high school level with success and year-to-year dominance.
These are the reasons why Gutierrez is Coach of the Year, De Giacomo said.
"It's not that Roman has just set up the program," De Giacomo said. "But he's taken it a step further and made the program into a powerhouse."
No one can argue with De Giacomo on the powerhouse point. In Gutierrez's tenure as head wrestling coach he has won four team state championships, seven team placings, collected 92 individual state places with 12 being state champions.
While De Giacomo cites Gutierrez as the main reason for all of the success Moffat County High School's wrestling team has attained, the coach himself would disagree. Gutierrez said his success only comes from the efforts of his athletes, assistant coaches and parents of the program.
"It's too bad that I'm the only one to receive the award because there are so many other people involved," he said. "We just have the kids and the coaches who will find a way to win even if they're not supposed to."
Gutierrez's proficiency at creating champions from local stock maybe the main reason why he is being honored by the Hall of Fame but it certainly isn't the only.
De Giacomo checked off a list of reasons why Gutierrez is worthy of the award, ranging from his fortitude at representing the sport of wrestling, to his solid grounding in the community in which he coaches.
"We weigh all the factors of what makes a good coach in choosing who will receive the award," De Giacomo said. "And Roman measures up to
all of them."
The awards banquet Gutierrez will attend Sunday has been held for four years. The state Hall of Fame's board, which is an off-shoot of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla., chooses which coach will be honored.
Along with Gutierrez, eight others involved in Colorado wrestling will be celebrated at the banquet, with college coach, college wrestler, high school wrestler and sports media all receiving annual achievement awards.
"It's a great honor and every coach is excited to be recognized for his level of achievement," Gutierrez said. "But I'm just one man accepting the award for the whole team's achievements."