Duel of all duals

Wrestling fans can't afford to miss Meeker vs. Moffat match tonight

Forget Must-See TV tonight. The must-see action in Northwest Colorado is a rivalry on the mats between wrestlers at Moffat County High School and Meeker High School.

The rivalry is more than two small towns with strong wrestling traditions.

First, there's the history that Moffat coach Roman Gutierrez has with Meeker. He grew up in Meeker and wrestled there in high school.

Then there's the fact that the Cowboys broke the Bulldogs' two-year undefeated dual streak last year with a 36-35 win in Meeker.

This year, Meeker won the Dogfight Duals, but the teams didn't face off to name an outright champion.

It's not a bite-the-ear-off-of-your-opponent-because-you-can't-stand-them type of rivalry.

If the teams were in the same classification, that might be the case, but because Meeker is 2A and Moffat is 4A, there's a grudging respect between two of the best teams in the state.

Most of the guys are familiar with each other.

"I've known Steve since seventh grade," Moffat County senior heavyweight Kyle Fredrickson said of Meeker heavyweight Steve Rust. "We've been back and forth a lot, but last year he beat me."

The two met in the semifinals of last year's Dogfight Duals. Fredrickson led 5-4 going into the second period, but Rust gutted it out for a pin in that round.

Rust finished second in the Warrior Classic in Grand Junction and Fredrickson fourth this season, but the two never crossed paths. The Meeker wrestler is ranked first in 2A by On the Mat Rankings, and Big Fred is 10th in 4A.

The meeting between the big boys is one of a handful of matches that could go either way, according to Gutierrez.

"There are four or five that will be close and very exciting to watch," he said.

The only time wrestlers from the two teams have met this year was in the Warrior Classic. Each team had two wins and two losses.

Korey Kostur and Joe Leblanc scrapped it out in a 5-3 win for Kostur on his way to winning a the tournament in the 140 -pound class. Both wrestlers have been wrestling at 145 lately and could meet again. Moffat's 171-pounder, Brent Chamberlain, beat Hank Crawford for the other Bulldog win. Jeff Overton came back from a 4-2 deficit to defeat Moffat senior Shayne Zimmerman in a 160-pound matchup. The other Meeker victory was by senior Nick Ruckman against sophomore Cody Norman and the two will meet again tonight at 140 pounds.

Gutierrez said he thought key matches would include Kostur /LeBlanc, Zimmerman/Overton, Fredrickson/Rust and Meeker's Kyle Stout/Moffat's Jake Breslin at 112.

"I think it will be decided by three points," the coach said. "Last year, we didn't wrestle well and we gave it to them. This year we have to wrestle well to keep it close."

The visitors will spot six points before the dual starts because of no wrestler at 215. Again, Moffat County's only defending state champion, Scott Garoutte, will have the night off. In duals during January, he has had five byes in seven competitions.

The Cowboys have seven wrestlers ranked in the top 10 by On the Mat. They are particularly tough in the middle weights. Wyatt Sampson, 119; and Tyrell Stout, 135, are No. 1, while Cody Clark, 125; Joe Leblanc, 140; and Nick Ruckman, 145, are in the top three. The Cowboys are ranked second as a team behind Paonia.

Moffat County has nine wrestlers ranked. Kostur and Garoutte are the only two ranked in the top five. The others are Brice Boling, 10th at 103; Breslin, 12th at 112; Eric Fredrickson, eighth at 130; Daniel Cramblett, eighth at 135; Trenton Duarte, 12th at 152; Chamberlain, seventh at 171; and Kyle Fredrickson, 10th at 275.

"I'm a bit nervous," Big Fred said. "This is the only time I'll see Steve all year, so I want to go out with the last win."

Both teams are looking for that last win. That should make for some must-see action.

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