When Moffat County High School sophomore wrestler Scott Garoutte returned from watching his team win the Class 4A state championship last year, he told his mom he would return, only next time it would be on the mats instead of in the stands.
His goal was officially reached Thursday when he pinned his first opponent, Matt Schultz of Lewis Palmer, in the second period of the state tournament.
"It's a lot different when you're down on the mats than in the stands," he said. "Your first time, you don't know what to expect but when the whistle blows the nerves settle down."
In front of 9,352 spectators in the stands, the second largest turnout on a Thursday in tournament history, the Bulldogs started off their three-peat bid with nine wins and one loss. Along with Garoutte (215), Bryan Hampton (119), Jason Mosher (140), Korey Kostur (125) and Kaleb Brown (135) made their state debuts. The latter three all won their opening matches with pins. Hampton suffered the Bulldogs' only loss with a 5-2 defeat to Widefield's Kellen Griswold.
"There really isn't any advice to give to the first-year guys except to make sure they warm up," coach Roman Gutierrez said. "If they aren't warmed up properly, they aren't focused. A lot of good kids today from other teams were caught up in the atmosphere and didn't warm up and had close matches when they shouldn't have."
The limelight made Mosher nervous, but he said it helped him stay focused.
"I was nervous all day," said Mosher, who had also watched the tournament the past two years. "Nerves are good though because they help you focus on the match."
Other Bulldogs who picked up wins were Eric Fredrickson (13-3 decision), Ty Grandbouche (pin 5:13), Ty Weber (technical fall in second), Brandon Duarte (18-1 decision) and Trevor Sloan (pin 5:08).
With the nine wins, six of which were pins, the Bulldogs finished in first place Thursday with 34 points, 14 ahead of second-place Delta.
"I was pleased with our start," Gutierrez said. "The first year kids came out aggressive and set themselves up well for the second day."
Brown twisted his knee toward the end of his match and was applying heavy ice to it later in the night.
"I heard something pop," he said. "But it probably isn't that big of a deal."
While the first round was against mostly unknown wrestlers for the Bulldogs, at least two of them will have a rematch in the second round today. Eric Fredrickson will start off the tournament for the Bulldogs today when he meets Adams City's Nick Montoya, who defeated the MCHS sophomore in the championship match of the Dog Fight Duals.
"I like starting off the team because it helps get me pumped up," Fredrickson said. "After I take care of my business then I get to watch everybody else and relax a little bit."
Brandon Duarte has the toughest draw in the second round with a match against Mountain View's Shawn Hart. The defending state champion at 160 only has one loss this year, which was against Duarte in the Dog Fight Duals. The two are 1-1 this season, and a win for Duarte will be an early highlight for the Bulldogs.
The second round matches for 4A and 5A began at 1 p.m. and the semifinals begin at 7 p.m. tonight.