Moffat County senior wrestlers work to have no regrets in final high school matches
Rhyne finishes third
For the Craig Press
DENVER — As the last week of the high school wrestling season comes around, the hard fact is that, regardless of age, not every athlete will end their time in the sport with an award.
Still, as long as they hold nothing back, that’s all coaches ask for them on the mat.
Taking five upperclassmen to the state championships at Denver’s Ball Arena, Moffat County High School wrestling saw two of their oldest members take placement honors Saturday to end their time in the sport as Pepper Rhyne earned third place in the 3A 170-pound class and Anthony Duran sixth at the 126 weight.
Next best thing to a title
After taking his first loss of the tournament and only the second of the season Friday night in the semifinals during a rematch with Mullen’s Kaleb Valdez-Lemos, Rhyne was raring to go Saturday morning.
A 7-2 victory over Bayfield’s Kobe Prior secured his spot in the consolation finals, and knowing the next round would be his last, he was prepared to go full force in his coming match with Gage Olson of James Irwin.
“I gave it everything. I felt 100 percent,” Rhyne said, noting he felt no resistance from the knee on which he had surgery early in the season.
After two periods, Olson had earned an escape and Rhyne a takedown, but the MoCo grappler really took the lead in the third. He accrued a reversal to add to his lead and pushed forward all the more seconds later as he slammed his opponent to the mat, gaining seven near-fall points before Olson’s coaches wanted him medically evaluated.
“They have to stop due to an injury timeout like that, and you get extra back points for that,” Rhyne said.
The two picked up shortly afterward and though Rhyne gave up a takedown, he took the win at 11-4.
Though he would have preferred being in the finals, Rhyne said he was pleased to nonetheless finish his time in the high school sport with a victory, his senior record 29-2.
However, it remains to be seen whether he moves on to compete in college wrestling next year or in his other big sport.
“I haven’t decided yet; looked at a few rodeo schools and some wrestling schools,” he said.
Rhyne said being on the mat has been part of his life for well over a decade and it will be hard to walk away from it entirely.
“I started when I was 4, I believe. It teaches you all sorts of life lessons,” he said. “I want to thank all my coaches for sure, my parents have definitely helped me all this way and all the guys in the practice room that have been there since day one. I hope the entire team gets here.”
While Rhyne had gained state placement before — fifth place last season — teammate Anthony Duran was looking to do the same in his third and final time in the season’s biggest tournament.
As part of his 36-10 season total, Duran was 3-3 at state, with a pin first thing Saturday morning keeping him in the running.
In the consolation semis, he trailed Sierra’s Daryl Mills 6-4 before getting to his feet in the final seconds, flipping Mills judo-style right at the ref’s whistle only to find out he was being denied takedown points.
Moving on to the fifth-place match, Duran said he could only work to improve and not worry about the past result.
“I was trying not to make the same mistake as the last match and just do a little bit better,” he said. “I was trying to get into a good mindset for this last year and make sure I placed this time. Just trying my hardest to get on that podium.”
For the final match, he was paired with Eaton’s Patrick Preston, to whom he had lost in the quarterfinals and was eager for some payback.
Though he put up a fight, Duran couldn’t catch up in points in what amounted to a 6-3 loss.
Still, he head his head high afterward knowing he had given his all.
“Anthony really had a great four-year career, and we’re glad he was finally able to get a medal,” MCHS head coach Tyler Seislove said.
The initial list of Bulldog seniors also included Caden Call (138), Kalub West (145), and Ryan Duzik (152), before being whittled down little by little.
West struggled in his first two matches and was out of the running by Friday, while Call and Duzik weathered wins and losses alike to make their way into Saturday’s continued consolation rounds, each going 2-2 before their elimination.
“When you get to state, all these matches get close, and we probably could have won some we didn’t and won some we shouldn’t have,” Seislove said. “We can’t be upset with anything and where we finished. We had a good year and nothing to hang our heads about.”
After high school, Duran said he will likely be keeping an eye on younger sibling Noah as he continues in the sport.
“I’ll probably be watching my brother and helping him get into the right mindset and pushing him so he can get to state too,” he said. “All the teammates I’ve been with since sixth-grade, they’ve been pushing me and I’ve been pushing them, so we could get to this moment.”
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