With a team that was three weight classes short of being full strength, the Moffat County High School wrestling team drove over another obstacle in the way of a third-straight state championship with a victory at the Dog Fight Duels in Craig.
"Looking down through some of the match ups, we had some tough battles," said head coach Roman Gutierrez. "I think we represented ourselves well this weekend and we'll build from it."
The Bulldogs finished the tournament with 110 points in front of Grand Junction Central's 90 and Adams City's 82. The Bulldogs' depth was key in the win as they placed 10 wrestlers in the final two rounds, compared to Central's seven and Adam City's six.
Adams City was the team that the Bulldogs were looking forward to facing as the Eagles came in ranked third in Class 4A. They came away with four champions compared to the Bulldogs' two (Ty Grandbouche, 145, Ty Weber, 152) but, according to Gutierrez, the advantage for the Eagles with two more champions could be misleading at this point in the season.
"With Sloan (Trevor Sloan, 215) and Martinez (Charlie Martinez, 160) wrestling, we could have had two more champions," he said. "It is hard to compare in a tournament like this, but the main question is how many of their guys could get to the state finals and right now I think it's about two."
Friday and Saturday morning started with team duels. There were two pools of five teams that each dueled each other and then the top two wrestlers from each weight class in the pools moved on to a mini-tournament with the top four wrestlers. The format set up rematches throughout the semifinal and finals.
One of the more anticipated rematches in the finals might be a preview of the 171 Class 4A state final. Moffat County's Brandon Duarte and defending state champion Shawn Hart from Mountain View met in Saturday mornings' duel between the two teams and then in the finals later in the afternoon. Duarte took the first match with a 3-2 overtime victory, giving Hart, who lost once last year, his first loss of the season. In the championship round, Hart earned a take down in the first period and neither wrestler scored the rest of the way and the state champion avenged his loss.
"Brandon looked tough and I think he gained some confidence," Gutierrez said. "That first win was big for him and we were able to give Hart his only loss of the year."
A continued story for the Bulldogs on the season is which of the younger wrestlers who wrestled behind the four state champions last year will step in to gain important points. MCHS had seven wrestlers who were either underclassmen or wrestling at the varsity level in the Bulldog classic for the first time. Sophomore Eric Fredrickson, 112, lost to Meeker's Trent Randall in the first round of the finals, 2-12, but came back to defeat Widefield's Brad Marquardt, 6-2, who had defeated him in the duel portion of the tournament, 2-7.
"I learned from the mistakes in my first lost to the Widefield wrestler," he said. "That's what's important about this time in the season -- to fix our faults and keep getting better."
Senior Ryan Hampton, 130, wrestled his way to the varsity squad Tuesday and continued his momentum with five wins and a third-place finish.
Junior Kaleb Brown, 135, was undefeated on the weekend until a tough 2-4 loss to top-ranked Joey Deaguerro of Adams City in the final.
Junior Jason Mosher, 140, returned from a shoulder injury in the Warrior Classic to battle his way to the final before a 13-2 loss to RJ Quintana
of Adams City.
"I see what level I need to be in that final," the junior said after wrestling in his first Dog Fight Duels on varsity. "It's not going to be easy for us the rest of the season, but once we get back to full strength we'll be hard to beat."
Shayne Zimmerman, 160, was the surprise of the tournament for MCHS, as the sophomore who started the season on JV made it to the championship match and finished second.
Sophomore Brent Chamberlain, 189, finished 5-1 and in third place with his only loss coming from tournament champion Matt Scott of
Grand Junction Central.
Rounding out the new faces wrestling in the Dog Fights was sophomore Scott Garoutte, who either pinned or was pinned in each of his five matches on the way to a third-place finish.
The Bulldogs finished the duel section of the tournament 4-0 with a 42-24 win over Widefield, a 47-24 victory over Florence, a 65-12 victory against Cody, Wyo., and a blow out of eighth-ranked Mountain View, 71-6.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com.