By the time the duals were over Saturday, nine Moffat County wrestlers had advanced to the mini-tournament.
The day started promising enough, as the Bulldog wrestlers won their only dual of the day, 61-13 over Mountain View High School.
Then the mini-tournament started and things got rocky.
Eric Fredrickson(119-pound class), Korey Kostur (135) and Charlie Martinez (160) each won their semifinal match to move on to the final round. But the other six wrestlers lost, and found themselves fighting for third place in the consolation round.
"The kids wrestled well to get into the tournament," Coach Roman Gutierrez said. "We're wrestling good kids and just need to turn it up a notch so we're not losing matches by one or two points."
Kostur put in one of the best performances of the day to capture the Bulldog's only first place finish. He won his semi-final match 9-7, nearly pinning his opponent from Meeker in the second period. That win sent Kostur, a 2003 state qualifier with a 18-2 record, to the finals where he faced Derrick Salazar of Valley High School. Salazar finished second at last year's state tournament and had a 15-3 record so far this season.
Kostur dispatched his opponent quickly and efficiently. He quickly earned seven points and then pinned Salazar with two seconds remaining in the first period.
"I expected it to be a very tough match," Kostur said following his win. "I thought it would go the third period and we'd see who could last longer. I just caught him in a move and stuck him."
Gutierrez pointed to Kostur's victory as one of the day's highlights.
"Korey beating Salazar was no accident," the coach said. "He was beating him pretty bad before he pinned him."
Kyle Fredrickson (275) took third in his consolation match to end the day on a high note for the Bulldogs. In his semifinal match against Meeker's Steve Rust, Fredrickson finished the first period one point ahead, with a score of 5-4. But it had been a brutal period, with both wrestlers on their backs locked into holds several times. Rust pinned Fredrickson with 28 seconds left in the second period.
But Fredrickson came back with a vengeance. The first period of his last match, against Widefield High School's Chris Hartke, went much like the first period of his previous match, and so did the second period. Only this time Fredrickson came out on top, pinning Hartke with 26 seconds remaining in the second period.
The Bulldogs finished the day with 78 points, good enough for second place among the eight schools at the tournament. All of Valley's tournament wrestlers made the finals, and they won the Dog Fight Duals with 100 points. Meeker, Grand Junction Central, and Cody, Wyo., rounded out the top five, respectively.
Ten points were awarded for a win in the semifinals, and the loser received four points. In the final round, each winner was awarded four points, second place got three points, third got two points, and fourth got one point. Additional points were awarded to wrestlers who defeated their opponents by nine points.
Steven Engler (112) lost his semifinal match against Meeker's Cody Clark, but came back to defeat his Grand Junction opponent 5-2 to take third in his weight class. Even though Engler was trapped under his opponent for most of the third period, he survived to earn a victory.
Eric Fredrickson, ranked sixth in the state with a 14-2 record, was disappointed following his finals match against Widefield's Kellen Griswold, who finished fourth in the state last year and has a 13-1 record. Before the match, Gutierrez said it would be a tough competition, and he was right.
Fredrickson and Griswold were evenly matched, with neither wrestler dominating the mats. They both spent most of the match on their feet. The first period ended in Griswold's favor with a score of 1-2, and the second ended at 1-4. With 21 seconds left in the third period, Griswold went sprawling into the bleachers, and re-entered the circle bent over holding his tailbone. But the damage had already been done to Fredrickson, who took second place in the 119-pound weight class.
After the match, Fredrickson said he sees a need for the team to improve their shots off their feet and get more aggressive when in the neutral position.
Senior Jesse Brookshire (130) lost his consolation match to Florence's Seth Withrow, by a score of 4-2. Jason Mosher (145) also finished fourth, dropping his consolation match 4-0 to Mountain View's Chris Donnelly. Kaleb Brown (140) won his match to place third, and Charlie Martinez lost to Rangeley's Randy Gipman to take second in the 160-pound class. Scott Garoutte (215) won his consolation match by default, when Calvin Kliner of Mountain View forfeited due to an injury.
At the end of the day, some of the wrestlers were satisfied with their performances, and some were disappointed. As the final scores were being read and the spectators were heading out the door, the Bulldogs were packing the mats up and cleaning the garbage off the gym floor.
Next Friday, the Bulldogs have a match in Meeker, and the varsity team will head to a tournament in Palisade on Saturday.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031, or by e-mail at email@example.com.