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Ruin the Bruins: Moffat County hoopsters crush Cedaredge

It may have been the visiting school that boasted the ursine team name, but it was Moffat County High School athletes who were giving their latest opponents a bear of a time Saturday.

MCHS varsity teams swept the Cedaredge Bruins in a pair of big wins, as girls picked up their fourth consecutive victory against a 3A Western Slope League foe at 52-33 while boys put an end to their run of bad luck with a hard-fought 57-32 triumph.

Grin and bear it

After a narrow victory the night before, MCHS girls had another team within the Top 10 of the 3A RPI rankings on their hands.

Perhaps it was the extra boost from the win over Grand Valley, but Lady Bulldogs wasted no time racking up a 7-0 lead, with the Bruins prevented from gaining a bucket until nearly five minutes into the game.

MoCo’s quick start only get better, finishing the quarter 13-5, heading into an all but unstoppable second period in which they compiled 15 straight points, five of which came off a Kinlie Brennise corner triple that, thanks to a Cedaredge foul, put her back at the charity stripe for a pair of free throws.

MCHS girls coach Jim Loughran said he was surprised by Cedaredge’s slow entry, though he was far from shocked that his players made the most of it.

“They really put a lot of pressure on them,” he said.

The 35-16 opening half gave way to a slower but solid third quarter as Brennise and Halle Hamilton kept after it in three-pointers with Quinn Pinnt and Jenna Timmer nailing buckets closer to the hoop in the 11-7 stretch.

With the game just about won, Bulldog girls chewed the clock in the last minutes while limiting the Bruins to another 10 points.

Hamilton led in scoring with 14 points and a trio of threes, with 11 for Brennise, and six for Tiffany Hildebrandt.

“I don’t know if Cedaredge didn’t bring it or it’s just because we were working well together, but we were ready for them,” Hamilton said.

Bull(dog) market for buckets

While both MCHS junior varsity teams fell in close games to the Bruins — girls JV in a 34-32 overtime heartbreaker and boys JV 50-46 — boys varsity took a page from the girls’ playbook and did them one better.

Between attacking the hoop from the get-go and shutting down the Cedaredge effort, Bulldog boys held a double-digit advantage with 12 points on the board before the Bruins finally responded after more than six minutes.

A 14-7 quarter became a 32-15 half, with a fully energized crowd all the more spirited thanks to the halftime entertainment by the Moffat County Junior Cheer Clinic, with 57 young kids joining the MCHS and Craig Middle School pep squads.

MoCo boys didn’t slow down in the slightest coming back from the locker room, renewing their resolve near the rim with layups and jumpers galore in another 18-point quarter.

Like the girls, boys didn’t strain themselves coasting to the conclusion, though Jerod Chacon took advantage of a chance for some shooting practice to add a corner three and get his scoring total to 11 points, tied with Colby Beaver for the evening, followed by Landen Najera with 10.

Connor Murphy mixed it up with one triple and layups for his seven points, though he credited the night’s success to the group effort.

“It all came down to teamwork, everybody did really great tonight,” he said. “Everybody brought a lot of heart, clicking tonight.”

Connor Etzler concurred the crowd was a huge part of the win.

“All that positive energy in the building pushed us, helped us play a lot better,” he said. “It was really loud.”

By the numbers

The W was one the boys varsity team has been striving toward for the past month. A win in December against Denver Christian during Glenwood Springs’ Demon Invitational was the last game Bulldogs recorded in the left column, feeling the effects of eight consecutive losses.

Now 3-10, MoCo boys have a conference victory under their belts, 1-3 in WSL play, which they will seek to build on moving along in the schedule, next hosting Basalt Jan. 26.

The Longhorns have had the roughest run in the league, 2-10 after a 67-48 Saturday loss to Gunnison. Before they come to Craig, they’ll face off with Cedaredge Friday.

“You never know with this league, everything can be pretty inconsistent,” Murphy said, noting that after high rankings for much of the early season, WSL’s Coal Ridge has already fallen twice this month to league opponents.

MCHS girls will see their RPI status rise considerably after their win, and at 4-0 in the conference, the 10-3 team remains one of the Western Slope’s greatest threats.

Basalt (1-11) will be the focus heading into the coming week of practice, but the bigger picture is Delta, which the Lady Dogs host Feb. 1.

The Panthers moved to 10-1 with a Jan. 18 win against Coal Ridge, 52-49, putting them at the top of the RPI list.

Still, athletes are confident moving forward.

“I’m really impressed with our teamwork and how we’ve all come together lately,” Hamilton said.

Moffat County basketball looks to set tone for four-game home stretch after matches with Grand Valley

For one Moffat County High School basketball team, Friday night was a chance to catch up with old friends. For the other, well, the night was far from congenial.

MCHS girls hoops took its third straight win in the 3A Western Slope League with a 40-37 defeat of visiting Grand Valley, while the cold streak continued for Bulldog boys, who lost 67-48 to the Cardinals.

Friendship among rivals

As MCHS’s junior varsity squads were laying a beatdown on Grand Valley — girls JV won 39-14 and boys 65-23 — girls varsity was getting their heads in the game.

But, before warmups, Stephenie Swindler and Jenna Timmer took a moment to greet one of their former teammates, sharing a hug with Megan Olinger, who previously lived in Crag before transferring to the Parachute school.

“It was a little weird,” Swindler chuckled. “I think it would have been a little weirder if we’d had to play against her, too.”

That pre-game pleasantry aside, it didn’t take long for Lady Bulldogs to bear down on the Cardinals, who have routinely been one of their toughest opponents in the conference, as well as their final foe in last season’s district tournament.

Shaya Chenoweth — last year’s WSL overall points leader and 3A leader in average points per game — was on their minds but not in their heads despite another high-scoring night, with 17 total points.

Chenoweth remained quiet on offense for most of the first half, apart from a few free throws, but she and her comrades were nonetheless keeping the Bulldogs in check.

A three-pointer by Halle Hamilton kicked off the MoCo scoring, followed by foul shots for Tiffany Hildebrandt and Jaidyn Steele.

A 7-all score after the first quarter led to more instances of mirror matches, as Chenoweth swiped the ball from Hamilton beneath the Bulldog basket only for Hamilton to nab it back at half-court seconds later.

Likewise, Grand Valley’s Jordyn Pittman stuffed an outside shot by Kinlie Brennise that Brennise would pay back in spades later in the game with some punishing blocks.

Slow but steady scoring by Brennise, Hamilton and Hildy kept the Lady Dogs ahead 14-13 at halftime, and while Chenoweth immediately came roaring back in the third period with five quick points to get the Cards their biggest lead of the game at 18-14, the same Moffat trio put together eight unanswered points with the help of takeaways and rebounds.

With a 31-24 lead to close the third — capped off with a triple by Emaleigh Papierski — Moffat County girls weren’t taking any many risks to cinch the win, though Chenoweth and Pittman evened it up twice at 33 and 35.

Still, staying fierce in the paint was key as Timmer and Hamilton elbowed their way to the rim late in the game.

“It was nerve-wracking for sure,” Timmer said. “I feel like our team works better like that, when we have all that adrenaline.”

A final field goal by Brennise — who led the team for the night with 13 points — had the Dogs ahead by one bucket, but a timeout with less than three seconds remaining meant there was still time for Grand Valley to push it into extra minutes.

An inbound pass to the Cardinals’ Bailey Radel put the game in her hands, but the three-point attempt was no good, much to the delight of Bulldog fans.

The loss was only the second of the season for 8-2 GV, who fell in overtime in a 53-51 game against Meeker. They’ll look for conference redemption as they host Aspen Saturday.

Raining 3’s

From there, Bulldog boys varsity sought to put on a good show for members of the crowd, who had their admission handled for the night thanks to Craig Association of Realtors.

Both teams had long ball aspirations from the start as Cale Scranton and Wesley Counts nailed three-pointers in the first quarter.

However, the Cardinals were draining threes like a freshly unclogged bathtub, as Wade Wiese alone hit three from outside, with one each for Emilio Garcia and Alex Cornejo to lead 17-13 after eight minutes.

Torin Reed added one from the arc to begin the second period, and a free throw by Scranton tied it at 17.

That was as close as the Bulldogs would get for the rest of the night. Aided by fouls, Grand Valley put together 10 points to respond, interrupted briefly by a free throw from Counts.

As MoCo increased their pressure inside, the Cards went back to the perimeter, and Cornejo, Garcia and Blade McCormick each added one more tre heading into the break, with put-backs on the other end by Landen Najera keeping the Dogs alive but behind 39-27.

Grand Valley remained ahead by double digits for the full second half, 53-38 going into the fourth quarter. And, though Jerod Chacon and Connor Murphy got in on the three-spree for the Bulldogs, the Cardinals weren’t giving up much breathing room beneath the rim.

In his first varsity basketball game, Logan Hafey was among the cavalry sent in with about one minute remaining, sinking a pair of free throws as soon as he stepped on the court.

“They had really, really tough defense, they were just not letting us in there,” he said of the Cards.

Just getting warmed up

Bulldog hoopsters will have little time to rest with Saturday home games coming up against Cedaredge.

At 2-10, MoCo boys badly need a win, and while the Grand Valley game was humbling, it may have toughened them up for the Bruins, who remain in the middle of the conference at 4-5, playing their first match for league credit in Craig.

“I think we can do well if we come out strong and work on what we didn’t do well tonight,” Hafey said.

Alternately, 9-3 Lady Dogs will have another challenge in store against 7-2 Cedaredge girls, who fell to league leader Delta 57-36 in December tournament play.

Their only other defeat was against Centauri, 45-40, a team which Moffat County also lost to by a five-point margin.

“If we play like we did tonight, we’ll do great,” Timmer said.

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Frosty mornings bedazzle Northwest Colorado

CRAIG — Much of the region glittered Sunday and Monday as hoarfrost bedazzled vegetation.

Thick enough to look like snow, hoarfrost is a weather phenomenon similar to the formation of dew when humid air comes into contact with cooler surfaces.

The difference is that the temperature of the object on which the hoar frost forms is well below zero, according to weatheronline.co.uk.

The resulting frost with the funny name made Northwest Colorado look like a winter wonderland.

Moffat County C-Teams give A-plus effort in home tourney

With few athletic events taking place throughout December and even fewer happenings during the lull of winter break, the Moffat County High School gym has been a relatively quiet place.

That came to an end Saturday.

The Bulldog Tournament hosted by MCHS C-Team basketball had action running at the high school and Craig Middle School the full day as the Dogs brought in competitors from Steamboat Springs, Meeker and Uintah.

The boys team went 1-2, starting with an early loss of 28-20 against the Sailors, with Donnie Quick leading MoCo in points with seven.

The home team rebounded greatly against Meeker in the next round, winning 55-29 over the Cowboys, with 20 points going to Hector Salazar between field goals and free throws.

Tanner Etzler sunk three-pointers across the day in each game, including back-to-back outside buckets against Uintah of Vernal, Utah, that gave the Bulldogs an extra boost early in their final game of the tournament.

However, the Utes got on a run in the second half to beat MCHS 49-35.

“Uintah is a tough team, and our guys played unbelievably hard,” boys C-Team coach Matt Hamilton said.

The girls had little trouble throughout the day, starting with a morning beatdown of Steamboat, 55-6, with Amber Salazar posting 22 points.

Bree Meats made it a contest during the following round against Meeker, earning 18 points in the 40-24 win.

Lady Bulldogs made it a clean sweep in the final round with a narrow 24-20 win against Uintah. Limited to only six players during all three games, the number dwindled to five when Amber Salazar fouled out late in the game.

“If you’re going to foul out, that’s a good way to do it in the last two minutes, in my opinion,” said girls C-Team coach Shay Steffan.

Salazar nonetheless led scoring again, with 11 points.

Steffan said she was especially proud of her players’ performance in the Uintah game after last year’s massacre at the hands of the Utes in the MCHS home tourney.

“We were working really hard to prepare them not having the numbers, but they pulled through and played awesome,” she said.

Moffat County Bulldog hockey vexes visitors in home opener

Steam was wafting off athletes’ bodies Saturday as they came off the chilly surface of Moffat County Ice Arena after a hard game’s work.

Yes, it was due to body heat, but given the intensity local players were showing, there may have been a little more to it.

A revolving roster among three teams the past weekend made it an unusual experience for the members of the Craig Youth Hockey Association 18 and under Midget team, yet no matter how many adjustments, they coped nonetheless. The Moffat County Bulldogs went 3-1 during a series of four games Saturday and Sunday, hosting Front Range squad Hyland Hills and the Capitals of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The three groups each faced off among each other, but thanks to Hyland Hills’ lack of available players, the Dogs agreed not to dub the matches league competitions within Colorado Recreational Hockey League.

MoCo lent the Jaguars defenseman Logan Knez to help balance the benches for the first home game, which helped Hyland Hills get a good start, perhaps better than the Bulldogs expected.

“I don’t know why we started out so slow, but finally they started forechecking the puck, started passing and playing positional hockey,” coach Tim Knez said. “They really stepped up after that first period.”

Once Moffat County got into a groove, they didn’t leave it, which team captain Jesse Earle attributed to persistence.

“Rebounds were a big thing for sure,” Earle said. “We were also playing really aggressive on defense on the outside.”

AJ Barber’s assaults on goal paid off as he bounced the puck off the goalie, and fellow forward Clay Durham knocked it in with the second-chance score twice in a row

After being credited with the assists, Barber garnered goals of his own from there as he continued to race around the rink, with Moffat winning it 7-5.

“I wasn’t necessarily trying to be the fastest guy on the ice. Just trying to be a team player and make opportunities,” Barber said. “Just gotta get there.”

The Dogs were without one of their assets on offense — after pulling double duty this season, Wyatt Boatright suffered a broken leg while competing for Steamboat Springs.

“He slid into the boards and fractured the bone,” Tim Knez said, adding Boatright will hopefully be cleared to play again by early February.

Even so, they weren’t hurting for talent with freshmen Durham and Garett Stockman, as well as Brant Gutierrez and Garrett Anson playing up from the 14U Bantam team.

No sooner had Bulldog goalie Jack Doane pulled off his jersey after coming off the ice than the steam poured from his head and shoulders.

“It’s a little hot in those pads,” Doane said with a chuckle. “The end of that game, we really started to get our confidence back. Our first and second periods, we were still figuring things out, but we came back big.”

Moffat got right back on the ice and were joined by several volunteers from Hyland Hills to face off with the Capitals, a 16U team in Wyoming. The adjustment in the lineup and the lack of a break ultimately did in the Bulldogs as they fell 5-4 in overtime.

Still, the home team had the final laugh Sunday when they met the same teams all over again, beating Hyland 9-3 and Cheyenne 6-3.

Bulldog coaches recently confirmed the dates for the remainder of the season.

Moffat County, now 7-1, will play Jan. 5 and 6 in Greeley, followed by both Jan. 26 and 27 and Feb. 2 and 3 against Arapahoe with location yet to be determined.

On Feb. 10, the Dogs will be back on the Front Range against both Arvada and Lafayette, while home games are scheduled against Northern Colorado Feb. 23 and 24.

Craig Youth Hockey Association will host its annual New Year’s Eve party Dec. 31.

The evening runs from 5 to 8 p.m. at Moffat County Ice Arena at Loudy-Simpson Park with open skating, music, prizes and food.

Admission is $5 for skating and $5 for the rest of the party. A special for large families is $40.

For more information, call 970-629-2380.

Holiday generosity: Craig kids cash in, share the wealth during Shop with a Cop

For some children, having $100 burning a hole in their pocket might inspire a shopping spree focused solely on themselves as they ransack store aisles for the most sought-after toys and the latest technology. But, even while they were checking items off their own Christmas lists Saturday morning, Craig kids also took the time to think of their loved ones.

Craig’s Shop with a Cop saw 11 local youths fill up Walmart shopping carts to the brim with some help from Craig Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado State Patrol.

Meeker community members recently hosted their Shop with a Cop at Craig’s Walmart, while Routt County did the same at the chain’s Steamboat Springs location.

Craig resident Beth Loken helped Moffat County Sheriff’s Office start Shop with a Cop in 2016, and it has been a celebrated tradition since for local law enforcement to aid in making Christmas merrier for kids.

“It’s a very special part of our community during a special time of year,” Sheriff KC Hume said. “We certainly appreciate the partnerships that have allowed us to identify kiddos and families that could certainly benefit from something like this.”

Thinking of others

“He’s pretty much made it all about everyone else. That’s just the kind of kid he is.”

— Stefene Sisson, on grandson Shooter Custer

Aided by Police Capt. Bill Leonard and Investigator Norm Rimmer, 6-year-old Shooter Custer had plenty of choices along Walmart’s back wall of board games. Even with a C-note worth of funds to work with from the program, it was a little tough to narrow down which struck his fancy.

Rimmer was likewise flummoxed by the amount of options.

“I think I had ‘Operation,’ ‘Mouse Trap’ and ‘Connect Four,’ that was about it, and then ‘Risk’ and ‘Monopoly.’ I was always jealous of the kids with the electronic ‘Battleship.’ We had to make our own,” he laughed.

Rimmer previously worked as a school resource officer in Moffat County School District, and being able to put a smile on kids’ faces is one of his favorite parts of the year.

“This is probably one of the best things we do with the community,” he said.

Shooter was accompanied by his grandmother, Stefene Sisson, who held onto the cart as he and his personal shoppers made their selections.

Stefene noted the experience was a great one for her grandson.

“He wants to be a cop when he grows up,” she said.

A toy dinosaur made its way into Shooter’s cart by the end of the trip, as did several other items that would be for additional recipients, including his parents and siblings.

“He’s pretty much made it all about everyone else. That’s just the kind of kid he is,” Stefene said.

Makaylee Hogan, 10, strode around the displays of clothing to pick out some new additions to her wardrobe, while also debating what would be the best present to get for her 2-year-old brother.

Though she was considering a toy truck of some kind, she also thought he might like Matchbox Cars, even if the smaller pieces might not be suited for a toddler.

“He doesn’t act like he’s 2, he acts more like a 5-year-old,” she said.

Cedar Higley budgeted smartly along with Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Hampton, picking up a tablet as well as a copy of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in the electronics section, later thumbing through a retrospective of Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee at the checkout line.

But, he also grabbed some smaller things around the store, including a Nerf gun and a plush animal that he squeezed with the might of Thor to prove its durability.

“This thing is indestructible. I love it!” Cedar said.

Among his purchases was a surprise for his mother, the only hint for which he gave was, “it’s fluffy.”

He said he didn’t feel he needed a reason to get a gift for her beyond the obvious.

“Well, she’s my mom,” he said.

Good guys

“So much of the time, we’re seen as the bad guys, and this gives us an opportunity to be seen as the good guys.”

— Craig Police Department Capt. Bill Leonard

Taden Jones, 7, led police officers Will Roland and Junior Gonzales all throughout Walmart before they finally came to the cash register.

His mother, Brittany, did her best to keep up with them.

“It’s such a cool thing that they do, and it’s such a good way to get kids to interact with law enforcement,” she said.

Leonard did double duty with more than one kid in the shopping excursion, also helping 8-year-old Tim Adams fill up his cart.

“We got quite a cartful here,” Leonard said. “I don’t have any kids this age anymore, so it gives me a chance to have fun and buy toys again.”

Leonard has participated in Shop with a Cop in recent years and other Christmastime police donations for many years before that.

It’s a project he enjoys both because of the holiday cheer and because it’s a positive interaction between children and the men and women who work to keep them safe.

“So much of the time, we’re seen as the bad guys, and this gives us an opportunity to be seen as the good guys,” he said.

Besides the $100 apiece allotted to them, kids also got an additional $25 gift card from Walmart, while associates also chipped in with cards for McDonald’s.

Employees also provided free gift-wrapping for those who wanted to have them ready for presentation on Christmas morning while families enjoyed donuts and cookies.

Store manager Traci Salvucci noted her heart was full seeing kids not only pick out presents of their own but also exercise generosity for their family members.

“One little girl, every single item she has purchased has been for someone else,” she said. “We gave her an extra gift card, and she wrapped it up for her mom. We gave her a McDonald’s gift card, she wrapped it up for her sister. It’s just such a pleasure to have that experience with these kids.”

🎄Craig Holiday Tour of Lights interactive map shows top Christmas displays in contest

Craig Press and Yampa Valley Electric Association host the 2018 Holiday Tour of Lights featuring homes across Craig.

The yearly exhibition of Christmas cheer throughout the town includes nine local displays at houses and yards, ranging from hanging lights in tree branches, bulbs strung along buildings, inflatable decorations and in some instances, broadcast music through radio signals.

An online map of the contest entries features preview photos and a brief description of each home. From west to east, the driving route is roughly 6.6 miles and takes at least 20 minutes depending on the length of each stop.

First place went to the Bird house, second to the Joneses and third to the Brown home.

“We hope you will take the time and do the tour to view the lights the entries worked so hard to put together. They are beautiful,” Craig Press Publisher Renee Campbell said. “We would love to have you add your home for next year. Happy holidays to everyone!"

Santa visits Ridgeview Elementary School, inspires food drive

CRAIG —  Santa Claus made a special visit to Ridgeview Elementary School on Thursday, Dec. 13. Each child had the opportunity to speak with the jolly old elf and receive a candy cane, while Janele Husband, local award-winning photographer, snapped pictures.

Santa has been visiting the school for many years, and each time, he inspires the children to collect non-perishable food items they then donate to the local food bank.

The classes competed to collect the most food items, and the winning class will receive a pizza party. The competition ended Friday, and results were not immediately available.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Moffat County wrestlers fight it out, always improving to start Warrior Classic

GRAND JUNCTION — All wrestlers begin the season with an undefeated record, and the number who keep a zero in the loss column shrinks every week. While that might not help their reputation or ranking, what matters is how they come back from a defeat.

Moffat County High School wrestling picked up quick wins and difficult losses alike Friday afternoon during the first day of Central High School’s Warrior Classic.

Among the biggest prep sporting events on the Western Slope with more than four decades of tradition, the multi-state tournament provided a test of temerity for all athletes, among them the Bulldogs.

With seven varsity wrestlers attending, only two moved along to the Saturday action, both of whom took their lumps early.

Down but not out

At 120 pounds, Dagan White had two bye rounds before getting on the mat, ultimately getting knocked out of championship consideration by Frederick’s Gabe Carrillo in an 11-10 decision.

What made the loss tougher was that White held a massive lead in points at 9-1 before Carrillo found a window of opportunity to stage a comeback.

“Dagan just stopped for a second and then got caught on his back, and it was just one of those small things,” said MCHS head coach Dusty Vaughn.

White admitted his frustration with losing the advantage.

“I feel like I should be in semifinals by now,” he said. “I made a mistake and it cost me, but now all I can do is keep try to improve and get third place.”

Sent to the consolation rounds, White pinned Fruita Monument’s Sullivan Sample and moved on to meet Nicole Koch of Delta. Though it was a rough first period, in the next round White got his opponent centered on her head long enough to gain a victory by fall. Koch had to be helped off the mat, clutching her ribs, though she and White shared a fist-bump to acknowledge no hard feelings.

It wasn’t the most physical match of the week for White — MCHS traveled Wednesday to Basalt, defeating the Longhorns 51-18 in a night where the only points the Dogs gave up in the team score were in uncontested weights.

White’s bout with Fisher Mitchell resulted in a forfeit by injury as Mitchell hurt his nose, an ironic turn of events for the Bulldog who broke his own beak last year, missing the Warrior as a result and being forced to wear a protective face mask to compete for part of the season.

“I felt pretty bad for him,” White said.

In the 145 class, MoCo’s Daniel Caddy got Palisade and Thompson Valley contenders on their backs late to press on to the quarterfinals.

Caddy had yet to experience a loss so far this season, but it had to come sometime.

Paired with fellow undefeated wrestler Cameron Lucero of Pagosa Springs, Caddy was ready to keep his streak going, but the Pirate had other ideas. A fast-paced beginning led to an equally quick result as Lucero got the moment he needed to keep Caddy at bay for long enough to win by fall at the 66-second mark.

“Daniel could beat that kid, and that kid was a state runner-up as a freshman,” Vaughn said. “It’s something that he’s starting to learn as he gets better and better is that when you wrestle state champion-level competition, you don’t have time to stop, you have to keep going, hustle to your finishes. Those little mistake cost you big at this level. We have to wrestle the next level, and being at these tournament forces you to do that. ”

Vaughn added that he believes Caddy, who sits right in the middle of 145 in terms of mass, would be all but unstoppable at one class lower if he’s able to cut his weight just enough.

“I really think he’d be a state champion at 138,” he said.

Keep fighting

The other five Bulldogs ended their run at the Warrior after one day, but that isn’t to say they made it easy on their opponents.

After sitting out part of the early schedule but with a decisive pin during the Basalt dual, Isiaih Herod came in ready to make his mark in the 132 bracket.

Yet, his first competition of Friday had the same problem as White. A big lead against Thompson Valley’s Justin McLaughlin eventually was negated when McLaughlin got the Moffat senior into a pin to deny him the next leg of the championship trek.

“It was a heartbreaker, but he’s rebounded pretty well,” Vaughn said.

Herod went back to work on the back side from there, amassing a fall against Paonia’s Dawson Morgan and outlasting Monetzuma Cortez’s Shawn Higgins in a 14-12 decision.

But, a hard-fought match with Pearson Borders of South Pointe ended the tourney early for Herod when he couldn’t come back after giving up points in what ended as an 11-7 decision.

The remaining four Bulldogs who took on the Warrior were all freshmen.

At the lower weights, Caden Call (106) and Hunter Fredrickson (113) were 1-2 and 2-2, respectively, Friday. Call gained a sudden victory over Meeker’s Ty Goedert, and Fredrickson got a 16-7 major decision with Fort Collins’ Garrett Loose and a first-period fall over Norwood’s Joshua Alexander.

“There’s no easy competition here, and that’s why we come here,” Vaughn said. “Those freshmen really wanted to be here, and we knew how tough it is here, and they said, ‘no, we want to go.'”

At 126, Ryan Duzik was 0-2 in contested matches with losses to Central and Pagosa Springs, while Kalub West (138) avoided pins but lost by 14-3 MD to Rifle’s Talon Cordova and a 15-0 technical fall to Monte Vista’s Tyler Vigil.

“It’s hard for Duzik because he won the wrestle-off this week to be here,” Vaughn said. “For Kalub, he weighs about 130 pounds, and it’s tough for him to walk out here and give up that much weight.”

The first portion of the Warrior gave Vaughn insight on what he’d like to adjust in his lineup over MCHS’s winter break whether it’s finding the best fits in each weight class or continuing individuals on their current track.

“It’s all about improving,” he said.

Down the road from Grand Junction, the Fruita Monument JV Invite was going strong Friday for younger grapplers. With five competitors in the mix, three Bulldogs went 2-0 to begin the tourney, including Anthony Duran (120), Coltyn Terry (138) and Pepper Rhyne (152). Blake Juergens (126) and Daniel Cruz (170) each remain alive in the consolations at 1-1.

All eight Friday wins by junior varsity athletes were by pin.

Both the Warrior Classic and Fruita Monument JV Invite will continue Saturday morning.

Delightful delivery guaranteed: Craig families meet special guest at Letters to Santa

The man who makes the magic happen during the holiday season has a lot of talent, but he can’t do everything by himself, which is why local businesses team up to aid him and help make Christmas special.

Craig Press and Justin Stokes State Farm Insurance co-hosted the annual Letters to Santa event Tuesday at State Farm. The special guest for the evening was Santa himself as the jolly old elf posed for pictures with Craig children who also brought in their correspondence to tell him their Christmas wishes.

This was the third year Stokes has hosted a Christmas event but the first time his business has teamed up with Craig Press, which had previously hosted the event at the newspaper’s office building.

“It’s been really successful, we’ve seen a lot of kids come out and a lot of kids smiling,” Stokes said. “I love the whole Christmas season, one of my favorite holidays.”

Kids from infancy to pre-teens met with Kris Kringle, got a snapshot and dropped off their letters at a special yuletide mailbox before getting cookies and hot cocoa.

Rye Ocker didn’t reveal too much about what she wrote in her letter, though part of it was that she was still undecided on what kind of gifts she hoped to receive on Dec. 25.

Likewise, Josiah Marshall was ready to have his first sit-down with Santa, though he blanked when it came time to ask for what he’d like to see under the tree.

“He’s never gotten to meet Santa, so it was a little intimidating,” said mom Shannon.

That’s not to say the 5-year-old wants nothing — carrying around a Christmas mailer from Walmart, he pointed out more than a few items in the toy section.

“Basically anything a boy is attracted to is what he wants,” Shannon laughed.

Craig Press will print the letters received in the Friday, Dec. 21 edition of the newspaper.