For a model of what the Moffat County wrestling team needs this season, look no further than junior Trenton Duarte's performance Saturday at the Dog Fight Duals.
The 160-pound junior had four wins, but his most important showing was in his loss to Grand Junction Central's Logan Hancock. At the Warrior Classic, Duarte was pinned by Hancock, who is ranked fourth in Class 5A, in the first period. On Saturday, he lost 11-3, he but lasted all three rounds.
"I knew from before that he went for my legs," he said. "So I focused on getting better in that area."
Duarte's match wasn't perfect -- he gave up a takedown in the final seconds of two periods -- but it was an improvement. That's what the young Bulldog team needs.
Coach Roman Gutierrez said he was pleased with his team's improvement since the Warrior Classic, but after the team's second-place finish at the Dog Fight Duals, there still was room for improvement.
"We saw some great things from guys today," he said. "But then they would turn around and not be the same wrestler."
If Duarte was the model for improvement, sophomore 125-pounder Matt Kincheloe and 119-pound junior Jake Breslin were among the models of inconsistency. Kincheloe came back from a 2-5 deficit in the first period against Grand Junction Central's Stephen Hien to grab a last-second takedown for an 8-7 win. In his next match, he was pinned by Meeker's Kyle Stout, whom Kincheloe beat in the Warrior Classic.
Breslin wrestled well in losses to Class 5A's No. 2 ranked Sean White of Central and Class 4A's No. 5 ranked Thomas Foley, but he was pinned by Florence's unranked John Yslas.
"We were better on our feet today," Gutierrez said. "But when we're on bottom, there's not enough effort. We've got to pretend like our heads are under water when we're on the bottom position."
The inability to escape from the bottom cost the Bulldogs the tournament championship. Grand Junction Central defeated the Bulldogs 38-36. Each team was credited with seven wins, the Bulldogs earned two byes, and the Warriors had one. But pins made the difference.
The Warriors earned four pins to the Bulldogs' three. If one Moffat County wrestler could have survived three periods, the Bulldogs would have won the tournament.
"We had two kids get caught (on the bottom) against Central, and that made the difference," said 145-pound senior Korey Kostur, the only Bulldog to go undefeated Saturday. "But the good thing is that I saw some growth and some toughness today that we didn't have before."
What Gutierrez liked about the weekend was that every wrestler, with the exception of Kostur, was challenged at some point.
"That's what we're looking for," he said. "Putting the kids in a situation that makes them better is important for the growth of this team."
Clancy Garoutte, 171 pounds, and David Hickson, 215 pounds, are the two freshmen on the Bulldogs varsity. They finished the day 6-4. Each had a bye so in the matches they wrestled they finished 4-4.
"I felt like my endurance was a lot better," Garoutte said. "I think I improved a lot since break and the same for the team."
Moffat County finished 4-1 in duals. The Bulldogs opened the day with a 42-33 win against Florence. The Huskies roughed up the Bulldogs in the lower weights, pinning junior Brice Boling, 112 pounds, Breslin and Kincheloe in succession. Moffat County was able to hold on with six wins, five of them by pin, in eight matches from the 140-pound weight class on up.
In the next two rounds, the Bulldogs defeated Denver East, 57-23, and Delta, 48-32.
In the final dual of the day, Moffat County beat Meeker 46-31.
The Bulldogs with one loss were 103-pound sophomore Cory Vigil, 152-pound senior Daniel Cramlbett, 189-pound junior Nick Navratil and Duarte. Five other Bulldogs had winning records.
Another improvement for the Bulldogs was the team's ability to finish with a pin. They pinned in 29 of 41 wins.
Moffat will have a chance to track its improvement from the Dog Fight Duals with duals against Delta and Meeker down the road. Before that, Moffat heads to Las Vegas next week. The Bulldogs are returning to Centennial High School, the tournament they attended three seasons ago. The past two years they had attended the Green Valley Duals.
"I want to see us battling and making more matches close," Gutierrez said. "We're not quite getting to the point where we make every match competitive that we should. But I did see more intensity at times. It's a start."