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Bulldog Beat: Comebacks frame Moffat County athletes’ first events of 2022

Andy Bockelman
For the Craig Press
From left, Moffat County High School wrestlers Michael Voloshin, Kaden Hixson, Caden Call and Pepper Rhyne display their hardware from Tournament of Champions. The four of them, and Ryan Duzik, all placed at the Vernal, Utah event. Additional placers include Kaeden Martinez fourth in the JV event, and Blake Hill and Billy Lawton winning their weights in the second chance event. MCHS's Makaela Simpson also finished a runner-up with the Soroco girls team.
Courtesy / Chris Rhyne

The start of a new year marks fresh beginnings in more ways than one for some Moffat County High School competitors.

Like a champ

Bulldog wrestlers were in the thick of one of the biggest tournaments in the region this past weekend at Tournament of Champions in Vernal, Utah. Hosted by Uintah High School, the event attracts athletes from Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.

MCHS ranked fourth among 34 schools in attendance, with a score of 121 team points the best for any Colorado team.



In his first match back this season, MoCo senior Pepper Rhyne went undefeated during the tourney, with four straight wins to claim first place in the 165-pound class.

Rhyne suffered a meniscus injury in early November while preparing for the upcoming season at an event hosted by Rocky Mountain Nationals. Undergoing surgery and the subsequent recovery throughout the past several weeks, he was medically cleared Dec. 28 to return to the sport.



“The nerves were definitely there,” Rhyne said of his opening matches at TOC. “I was just kind of getting back into the swing of it. The knee is healthy, so the gameplan was to go out there and wrestle hard for six months, and that’s how we did it. I was just happy to be back doing it since I enjoy it and I wanted to see what happens.”

Rhyne did not claim any pins, but he had no trouble gaining the advantage in points against opponents with a 12-0 major decision over Palisade, 11-4 over Meeker, and 10-4 over Lone Tree.

The story was much the same in the final bout against Taylor Newton of Juab, Utah, with Rhyne earning a takedown and two near-falls early.

The 8-2 win included a third period where neither Rhyne nor Newton scored, though there was a moment when Rhyne was concerned.

“He was on top and I could not seem to get my wrist back, so I was stuck like that for a bit,” he said.

He pointed to MCHS coaches’ advice to stay steady.

“Control the match and wrestle smart the entire time,” Rhyne said. “I still went to practices after my surgery, and that gives you a whole new perspective on wrestling from the coaches’ aspect. I think that really helps.”

TOC implemented a different weight system compared to the one currently in use in the Centennial State, but Rhyne said the post-holiday break weight allowances meant there was little shock involved.

“It’s kind of been slowly spreading, and it will be in Colorado next year,” Rhyne said of the weight details.

Moffat County had five total placers at TOC’s initial varsity event.

Bulldog senior Caden Call also went to the 138-pound championship round after three pins and a 12-6 decision. However, Gabe Emery of Kemmerer was able to build his score enough to keep Call in second place with a 12-10 victory.

At 150, senior Ryan Duzik was 4-2 for the weekend with three falls. He took a 10-3 loss in the quarterfinals but worked his way through the consolation rounds to make it to the third-place match against Maple Mountain’s Hixon Canto, though he finished fourth after Canto got the pin in the second period.

Junior Kaden Hixson (120) was also 4-2 with two pins and two major decisions, making it to the semifinals before ultimately finishing fourth after a loss by MD to Roany Proffit of Kemmerer.

An early defeat didn’t hold back junior Michael Voloshin, whose 5-2 run included four pins as well as an injury win by default to finish in seventh place at the 157 weight.

TOC’s format included a second chance tourney for those who were done in by the double-elimination rule on Friday, and MCHS junior Billy Lawton and sophomore Blake Hill both made good use of their new opportunity Saturday.

In the 175 class, Lawton got three consecutive pins, with Hill going 4-0 in the 165 class, three pins plus a 10-8 sudden victory.

While nearly all junior varsity wrestlers picked up at least one win during the adjacent JV tourney, freshman Kaeden Martinez had the best outcome at 5-2, all wins by fall, to place fourth in the 138 bracket.

Competing with the Soroco team, Moffat County’s Hannah Frink, Mica Vasquez and Makaela Simpson were in the mix at Vernal as well, with Simpson making it the championship round of TOC’s girls event, ending her go with the silver, 2-1 with two pins after a loss to Uintah’s Tessa Barton.

Coming up, MCHS wrestling will compete in a Thursday triangular in Steamboat Springs against the Sailors and the Coal Ridge Titans leading to next weekend’s tournaments in Arvada for varsity and Hayden for JV.

The first of few home events for MoCo grapplers this season will be Jan. 18 with a dual meet against Meeker.

“I think it’ll be good for the team and those guys to be able to compete in front of people that they know,” Rhyne said.

Staying cool

Moffat County Bulldog hockey was back at it on the road to start the new year, with a set of Saturday and Sunday games in the Denver area.

The Dogs fell 3-0 to Arvada before an 8-2 loss to Hyland Hills later in the day, in which Memphis Herndon and Zane Durham each put one in the net off assists by Forrest Siminoe and Garett Stockman.

The following day wasn’t exactly a scoring spree, but was a much tighter game against Lafayette. Neither side scored in the opening period, but late in the second the Locomotives put one in the Bulldog net.

However, with scant minutes remaining in the game, Brant Gutierrez lit the lamp courtesy of a pass by Stockman. There wasn’t time to do much more to the scoreboard, leaving it a 1-1 draw.

Dylan Herndon was in the crease for all three games, amassing 50 saves across the series, including 22 against Arvada.

Craig Youth Hockey Association will host an upcoming round robin weekend of home matches for the 18 and under team, with the Bulldogs set to play Steamboat Springs at 11:30 a.m. and rematch Lafayette at 4:15 p.m. Saturday, as well as a game at 11:30 a.m. Sunday with Rock Springs, Wyoming, at Moffat County Ice Arena.

Home again, home again

Apart from a pre-break game against Summit, MCHS basketball varsity events have been minimal this season in the Doghouse, with a Jan. 8 boys game with Liberty Common canceled due to weather.

Nevertheless, MoCo boys and girls teams will hit their home floor this week against Middle Park, with all levels of Bulldog hoops athletes facing the Panthers starting at 4 p.m. Thursday at MCHS.

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