Doggin' the competition

Bulldog wrestlers ready to grapple

The first week of training isn't what you'd call blood, sweat and tears practice.

But in the season's second week, the Bulldog wrestling team is beginning to find its stride.

"You're always looking toward that state championship," coach Roman Gutierrez said.

Since taking the program's helm in 1981, Gutierrez has turned Moffat County into a Class 4A wrestling powerhouse. The Bulldogs have three state qualifiers from last year's team, and are considered one of the state's top teams.

"Right now, on paper, it looks like we're about the fourth best team in the state," Gutierrez said. "But you also have to be realistic about other teams. Right now you almost have to give Northridge the nod, and Alamosa has three kids that you almost expect to be state champions."

Moffat County lost three wrestlers heading into the 2006-07 season, two to graduation and the third moved out of the school district.

Gutierrez said a vast majority of the teams Moffat County competes against lost one or two wrestlers this season. So it will be the same teams, this time with a little more experience, fighting for Class 4A's top spot.

"Barring any sickness or injury, I feel we should be one of the top teams again," Gutierrez said.

One of the Bulldogs wrestlers is senior Brice Boling.

Boling, who competed at 119 pounds last season and will do so again this season, is listed in the "most varsity victories in a season" category with 38 from the 2004-05 season, and the "most pins in a season" category with 27. Boling etched himself in the record book during 2004-05 for the "most near falls" with 51.

With Moffat County High School's strong tradition, the Bulldogs and their coach know other teams are gunning for them season after season. Still, they continue to stay strong, holding a dual meet record of 309-32, which is listed second as the "best dual meet record for a school" in the Colorado High School Wrestling record book.

What the Bulldogs will find in their first week of competition is whether they are as good on the mat as they are on paper.

"We'll find that out in the very first dual we wrestle," Gutierrez said. "We wrestle Broomfield right here at our house."

Broomfield finished third at the state tournament last year with two first-place finishes and two second-place finishes, and the Eagles are returning a strong core of wrestlers, just like the Bulldogs.

Gutierrez's biggest goal is for the wrestlers to improve.

"We just want to make sure everyone's improving every week," Gutierrez said. "If we can get everyone in the right weights, I expect us to do very well."

Back in action this year for the Bulldogs, along with Boling, are fellow seniors Nick Navratil at 189 pounds and Jake Breslin at 125 pounds. Breslin and Navratil are state qualifiers. Throw junior state qualifier Cory Vigil into the mix at 112 pounds, and things are shaping up well for the team.

Boling and Navratil placed at the state tournament last year -- fourth and fifth, respectively -- and Gutierrez hopes they can make a return trip to state with more teammates this time around.

"We have a good group of seniors," Gutierrez said. "You have all kinds of possibilities if kids are just willing to work hard to get where we need them to be."

Notes: Since Gutierrez began coaching the Bulldogs, he has taken the program to the top, earning five state titles ('85, '94, '01, '02 and '03). Gutierrez has also coached wrestlers who hold state records.

Mark Hastings, Travis Linsa--cum and Kyle Kostur hold the first, second and third places for the "most varsity victories in a season" in the Colorado High School Wrestling record book. Hastings and Linsacum have 50 wins, and Kostur topped out at 48.

Melanie McDaniels can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or mmcdaniels@craigdailypress.com.

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