GRAND JUNCTION -- The championship mat was golden for the Moffat County wrestling team Saturday night at the Warrior Classic.
Moffat County went 2-0 in championship matches with seniors Brice Boling, 119 pounds, and Nick Navratil, 189, winning their classes in the 35-team tournament.
It was the first time either wrestler had placed at the traditionally challenging tournament.
"Those two wrestled smart this tournament," coach Roman Gutierrez said. "To come in and win after never placing shows their improvement."
Boling bowls through
To get to the title match, Boling had to defeat Utah's large-class state runner-up, West Jordan's Nicko Paraso, in the semifinals. The Moffat senior controlled the match with three takedowns and an 8-4 win.
"I knew the West Jordan wrestler was good, but I didn't let him dictate the match," Boling said. "We wrestled in my style."
The championship pitted two Colorado state placers against Boling and Monte Vista's Zach Trujillo. It was a rematch from a Warrior Classic match last year, which Trujillo won by pin.
This year was a different story.
Boling put Trujillo on his back four times and led the entire match for a dominating 14-5 win.
"He pinned me last year, so I was a little nervous going into the final," Boling said. "But again, I dictated the style of the match."
Boling came into the tournament as the top-ranked wrestler at 119 in Class 4A. The win at the Warrior solidified that ranking as well as enlarged the top-ranked target on his back.
"I know kids are going to come at me with their best," he said. " I have to continue to stick with what I do best."
Boling's coach couldn't agree more.
"Sometimes Brice gets caught leaving himself open for a toss or reversal by leaving his head vulnerable," Gutierrez said. "This tournament, he stayed away from that."
Navratil uses his head
The heavier weight classes aren't known for their cerebral wrestlers. Usually, it's a run-in of two large, strong boys trying to outmuscle each other. Navratil's approach, particularly in the championship match was unconventional.
He was up against Stryker Lane of Nucla, who easily defeated Class 4A runner-up Brendan Best in the semifinals. Navratil also defeated a state runner-up in Olathe's Kyle Martinez.
"I wrestled (Stryker) at nationals, and I beat him by being patient," Navratil said. "He gets frustrated if he doesn't get a lot of early action so I stalled a little. He got impatient and tried the same headlock he tried at nationals, and I slipped out of it."
At that point in the match, the score was 5-3 in the third period. Navratil slipped out of the headlock into a takedown to solidify his lead. He won, 9-5.
"To win this is huge for me because it shows me that my hard work from this summer has helped me out," he said. "I also have to thank (assistant coach) Mark (Voloshin) because he's been a huge help to me this year."
Navratil improved his record to 16-0.
"Nick is so fast for being a big kid," Gutierrez said. "He is starting to learn to use his quickness and have patience as well."
Four is better than one
At last year's Warrior, the Bulldogs had one placer. This year, the team had four placers and finished eighth as a team with 107.5 points. They were five points out of sixth place. Roosevelt won the tournament, beating Broomfield by half a point, 159 to 158.5. In addition to the champions, seniors Jake Breslin, 125, and Trenton Duarte, 171, finished sixth.
Both Breslin and Duarte won their only matches of Saturday in nail-biting fashion in the quarterfinals. Breslin defeated the tournament's top seed, Dustin Weitzel of Dolores, in the final seconds, 9-8.
He struggled the rest of the tournament, including a 9-8 loss to Douglas County's Cade Robinson, whom he pinned earlier in the tournament. Breslin lost his fifth-and-sixth place match to Rifle's James Conrardy, 7-6. He threw Conrardy to his back as time expired. If the match was two seconds longer, Breslin would have finished fifth.
"I made one mistake in the first period and it cost me," he said. "That match could be a preview of the state title match or at least of the regional title, so I have to learn from it."
Duarte prevailed against Palisade's Tim Farlow, 3-2, who defeated him two weeks ago.
Other wrestlers to move into Saturday's action were senior Levi Weber, 145, juniors Matt Kincheloe, 130, and Josh Satterwhite, 215, and sophomore David Hickson, 275. Hickson and Kincheloe wrestled opponents they previously had lost to closer the second time around but still received losses in the consolation bracket. Weber lost to the eventual runner-up, Anthony Greigo of Farmington, N.M.
"Kinch and Hickson are wrestling better and making fewer mistakes," Gutierrez said. "We need to get Josh to be a little more offensive."
Knowing is half of it
The Bulldogs came back last year from a poor showing at the Warrior to have four state placers and a top-five state finish. This year, they hope they are farther ahead at this point in the season.
"We aren't very fluid in some of our moves," Gutierrez said. "We have to get a lot of repetition in now. There were some good things this weekend, but we definitely have some work."
Boling said the seven seniors on the team need to be the ones to push the team in practice.
"At times we relaxed when we had leads," Boling said. "We need to get tougher as a team, and that comes from the seniors and our leadership in the wrestling room."