Wrestling practice had been going for five minutes when Scott Garoutte yelled to Moffat County coach Roman Gutierrez, "Coach, it feels like the end of January."
It was the first summer wrestling practice the Bulldogs have held in recent memory, designed to keep the wrestlers in shape during vacation so that come next January, they won't be crawling on the mats as exhausted as they were Thursday night.
Gutierrez invited wrestlers from Hayden and Meeker to the practice to make the hour of sweat and strain more fun and competitive.
"If I ask kids to come up for practice, a lot of them won't come. But if we have kids from different places, they'll wrestle harder," Gutierrez said.
Although only a handful of Bulldog wrestlers showed up for the practice, Gutierrez appeared to be happy and in his element as he circled the grappling pairs.
"Take 'em down, beat 'em up," he instructed. "Ugliest is on top."
Garoutte, last year's 215-pound state champion, wrestled on one side of the wrestling room with Moffat County's Kyle Fredrickson and Meeker's Steven Rust. The trio rotated in response to each of Gutierrez's whistles, talking goodhearted trash the entire time.
"I'm not wrestling like I did in the season," Garoutte said, climbing up from the mat with Rust.
"Why aren't you?"
"Cause then I'd just pin you every time," Garoutte cracked.
After 40 minutes of practice, Fredrickson's gray T-shirt was drenched in sweat. At one point, Garoutte had complained that one of Fredrickson's legs weighed as much as he did, but the pair was working each other hard despite the weight difference.
Fredrickson, who starts his senior year this fall, said football usually keeps him in good shape for wrestling season. But he hoped the summer practice would improve his shooting and endurance.
"In football you get a break every 30 seconds. But in wrestling you go for six minutes straight," Fredrickson said.
Gutierrez plans to hold the hour-long practices once a week. Next week, the team heads to Meeker for some informal matches, and Gutierrez said wrestlers from Rifle, Rangely and perhaps Grand Junction could attend.
"It'll keep the kids sharper than in the past, and help the younger kids improve a little," Gutierrez said.
The practice ended with a three-round, three-minute match. Wrestlers who attend each practice will get 16 matches in this summer. That's half a season's worth of matches, Gutierrez said.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.