As the parade of champions started at the Class 4A Western Regional wrestling tournament in Craig one thing was evident -- Moffat County High School had a lot of champions.
With nine Bulldog wrestlers lined up to compete in the championship round of the regional, it looked like the final matches would be duals pitting Moffat County against the rest of the western part of the state.
"It was an impressive showing that caught my attention," said coach Roman Gutierrez. "We had a great semifinal round where we went nine for nine and it set up a great show for us in the finals."
With the strong showing in the semifinals, the Bulldogs had wrapped up the regional title before the final matches were introduced. After the final match of the day, Moffat County had wrapped up the title with 258.5 points, 31 points ahead of second-place Delta.
While the semifinals were perfect for Moffat County, the round before did not go as planned. In some surprising and disappointing matches, the Bulldogs lost five times in the second round, including upsets of third-seeded Korey Kostur (125), Charlie Martinez (160) and Brent Chamberlain (189).
Of the three upsets, only Kostur was able to wrestle his way through the backdoor and get to the state tournament. Also eliminated were Steven Englert (103) and Ryan Hampton (130), leaving 10 state qualifiers for the Bulldogs.
"Ten is a good number to work with at state," Gutierrez said. "We would have liked to have seen a couple more, but you can't take away from our region. There were more than 40 ranked wrestlers here and it wasn't easy for anybody."
The finals exemplified the depth of talent in the tournament and the numbers weren't many in the Bulldogs' favor. Of the nine championship matches Moffat County was in, Kaleb Brown (135), Ty Weber (152) and Ty Grandbouche were the only three who hadn't lost to their opponents previously. That didn't make things easier for Grandbouche, who faced defending state champion Ben Tobler of Montrose.
The finals proceeded without the Bulldogs getting any upsets or being upset. Eric Fredrickson (112) was worked by Montrose's Dustin Gallegos, 10-2. Bryan Hampton (119) nearly defeated Derek Brewer of Delta in the final seconds with a takedown but it was waved off by the referees and he lost out on a regional championship, 3-2. Kaleb Brown (135) took early advantage of Montrose's Scott Dickinson with a 6-2 lead in the second period and held on to win, 9-6. Jason Mosher (140) was unable to get revenge on the wrestler who injured him at the Warrior Classic, Mullen's Takafumi Hashimoto, in a 7-0 loss.
In a pairing of the first- and second-ranked wrestlers at 145, Tobler was able to control Grandbouche throughout the match and only needed a takedown to earn another regional bracket with a 3-1 win over the MCHS senior.
In the 152-weight class, Weber, a senior, gave Broomfield's Adam Gutierrez a little hope when he earned a takedown early, but then the undefeated Bulldog stuck him to the mat in the first period.
"It really pumped me up when we were lining up and there were nine of us," Weber said. "We were struggling to win a little bit so I just wanted to go out there and get a pin."
After Weber's win came one of the biggest for MCHS as Brandon Duarte (171) faced off against Rifle's Anthony Alfini. The winner of the match would secure a spot on the bracket away from defending state champion Shawn Hart of Mountain View next weekend. Alfini earned an early advantage with a take down in the first period and Duarte's late comeback fell short with a 4-3 loss and set up a second-round showdown with Hart Friday.
Scott Garoutte (215) was caught in a headlock and pinned by Delta's James Schaeffer early in the first period.
Saving the best for last was Moffat County senior Trevor Sloan. After watching Garoutte lose the championship in the weight class that Sloan could have won, the MCHS senior stepped on the mat in what looked like a modern day David versus Goliath. Sloan was up against top-ranked Brian Daniels from Mullen, who has signed a letter of intent to play football at the University of Colorado. Daniels is every bit of 275 while Sloan could have still wrestled at 215 if he had wanted.
Sloan earned an early takedown and Daniels muscled away for an escape point in the first period to give the underdog an early 2-1 lead. In the second, Daniels tied it up with another escape. In the third period, Sloan shocked the crowd with a reversal and took the 4-2 lead with 1:43 left in the match. To the chants of "Tre-vor Tre-vor," the Bulldog held on to the narrow lead as Daniels earned an escape with 24 seconds left. As the time ran down, the crowd got louder and louder and Daniels got closer and closer to a takedown, including at one point when he nearly had a double-leg takedown and the Bulldog kicked out of the grip.
As the buzzer sounded, Sloan pointed to the crowd as Gutierrez and Linsacum jumped around on the sideline and all the little guys in the gymnasium saluted Sloan for slaying the giant.
After the match, many people consoled Daniels with, "Next week is all that matters," something of which Sloan is aware.
"There's no doubt that next week is all that matters," he said. "It gives me a lot of confidence but everything starts over and all that matters is if you can win four straight matches."
Gutierrez said he expects to see more matches from his Bulldogs in Denver such as the one he saw from his senior heavyweight in Craig.
"We'll win more of the closer matches at state," he said. "That is the place that we wrestle well and Trevor set the tone for us when we get there."
While the Delta Panthers are taking two more wrestlers to the state tournament than the Bulldogs, Gutierrez said the number could be deceiving.
"We have more guys that are point earners," he said. "Delta goes through just to win, we go through to pin and that will show in the points category."