So on Saturday morning, it was five Bulldogs versus six Fort Morgan wrestlers to see who could win out the most.
While every match was big for the Bulldogs, one of the more important ones was the first match for the blue and white as Eric Fredrickson took on Fort Morgan's Chris Bustos in what turned out to be the only head-to-head match between the teams throughout the tournament. Fredrickson earned himself a trip to the medal rounds and Bustos a seat in the stands for the rest of the day with a 9-1 win.
"We talked about how important it was to get the wins in the morning," said Eric Fredrickson. "It was particularly important for me because I started off the morning against a Fort Morgan wrestler."
Kostur and Mosher were eliminated but seniors Hampton and Duarte also secured themselves medals with 8-4 and 16-4 wins respectively.
Fort Morgan finished the round 2-1, with a pin, making up two points of the deficit and they had three wrestlers waiting to wrestle in the next round from losses in the semifinals.
In the consolation semifinals, Fredrickson was unable to continue his winning ways and was sent to the fifth- and sixth-place match with a 7-2 loss. Hampton continued to wrestle through his bracket after a first round loss with an 11-4 whooping and Duarte pinned his opponent to move into his second consolation championship in as
Fort Morgan went 2-3 in the round with a pin, so the points stayed even and with one round left before the championships and the Bulldogs held on to a 122-101-point lead.
Fredrickson was unable to win his match to earn sixth-place finish and he'll have a chance to improve on that place his next two years.
Hampton and Duarte went in to their final high school matches with a no-holds-barred attitude.
"We came this morning to win a state title for the team," Duarte said. "That mission hadn't changed after the first two rounds and Bryan and I wanted to finish it out for our other seniors."
Hampton had came through the wrestle-backs with three wins after a first-round loss and his next opponent was the wrestler who gave him that first loss, Kellen Winslow of Widefield. The match seesawed back and forth and was tied, 5-5, at the end of the third period. In the overtime, Hampton earned the takedown and his fourth win in the consolation bracket for the bronze medal.
"He had beaten me twice this year already, so I knew what I was up against," said the senior, who started the season on junior varsity. "Not very many people expected me to be able to do this this season and it is just a great feeling."
"Bryan was a bright spot for us in the tournament," Gutierrez said. "He put it in his mind that he was going to get a medal and nobody was going to stop him."
Duarte stepped on the mat to wrestle for the bronze but he was not at 100 percent. He caught the stomach flu on the way down to the tournament and had eaten little while in Denver. His quarterfinal loss to eventual state champion Shawn Hart of Mountain View was a heartbreaker, but that was behind him and his focus was on Pueblo Centennial's Don Teschner.
"If I couldn't win a championship for myself, I might as well have secured the championship for the team," Duarte said.
The referee barely had his whistle in his mouth when Duarte took control of Teschner and cradled him into a pin 55 seconds into the match.
After the win, Duarte and Hampton embraced knowing that they had secured the team its third consecutive title and accomplished the mission of taking some pressure off of their fellow seniors in the championship round.
"Those guys had a job to do and they did it," Gutierrez said after going into Saturday for the first time in three years that the title wasn't secured before Saturday. "We led from start to finish and the performances on Saturday morning secured that for us."
"It's just a great feeling to know that we had such an important role in the win," said Hampton, who, with the help of Duarte, opened up a 128-109 1/2 lead for the final round for the Bulldogs. "I won my last match in high school and the team won a state championship, it's great!"
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com.