To get an idea of how competitive a dual meet is between the Moffat County High School wrestling team and its southern neighbor, Meeker, one needs to look no further than the 119-pound weight class.
"Wyatt was my best friend until he moved away from Craig in eighth grade," said Bulldog junior Eric Fredrickson of his possible opponent Wyatt Sampson. "I don't think I've lost to him and don't expect that to change now."
Wrestling success and Northwest Colorado have been synonymous the last few years because of the Cowboys and Bulldogs. Both teams won state championships last year, and during the last couple of years the deeper Moffat County team has taken the annual dual.
Going into tonight's match in Meeker it appears as if depth will pay off again for the Bulldogs, who are ranked fourth in Class 4A. The Cowboys lack wrestlers in the 171 and 189 classes. Moffat County is also without a varsity wrestler as junior Shayne Zimmerman who has been in weight classes of 171 and 152 this year is ineligible.
"I'd give Moffat County the advantage right now," said Meeker coach Wally Thomas. "They've got too many strengths in the same places where we're strong."
The top-ranked, Class 2A Cowboys have nine wrestlers in the top 10 according to On the Mat Rankings. The Bulldogs have the same number of ranked wrestlers in their classification.
"I think if we went head to head with them like both teams have been wrestling, it might be Meeker's year to win," Moffat County coach Roman Gutierrez said. "But we're going to shift some things around."
Gutierrez wouldn't comment too much on how he planned to change the classes up.
"They have advantages over us in the heavy and lighter weights," he said. "Our advantage is in the middle weights and that evens it out. We're going to see what we can do to make it less even in those other weights."
Some matches that may go to either team include the dual between Meeker's Tyrell Stout and Moffat County's Deric Dill at 125 pounds. Stout defeated Dill narrowly at the Warrior Classic. Joe LeBlanc and Jesse Brookshire would have had a rematch from the Warrior that Brookshire won in the final seconds, but the Moffat County senior was bested in wrestle-offs this week by sophomore Daniel Cramblet in overtime.
"Daniel has been beating up on JV kids in tournaments and was undefeated in his only varsity tournament," Gutierrez said. "Those two are going to battle the rest of the year for that spot."
If the weight classes remain the same Moffat County's Jason Mosher, who is ranked seventh, will duel with ninth-ranked Tyler Williams. The other match pitting two ranked wrestlers would be an understatement if one were to say it was just two ranked wrestlers. It is between top-ranked 215-pound wrestlers in their respective classification. Meeker's Lee Overton and Moffat County's Scott Garoutte could do battle in a match in which Overton would likely have an edge if the duel was on the screen in Las Vegas. The Cowboy won the Warrior Classic where Garoutte took third.
If the dual is as close as anticipated, the Meeker crowd could be the difference maker.
"Their crowd gets into it," Mosher said. "It's a tough place to wrestle."
Additionally, Gutierrez said he thinks Meeker is well aware of how close they could come to finally beating their bigger-school rival this year.
"It would be a real feather in their hat to beat us," he said. "Our depth will help us by allowing us versatility."
All of the scenarios will go down tonight at 6 p.m.
The Bulldogs will then travel to Grand Junction for the Palisade tournament Saturday.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.