Moffat County wrestlers battle to achieve state placement

Moffat County senior Kaden Hixson gets Brush's Nick Dardanes to the mat in the 3A CHSAA wrestling state championships.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

With one first-place finisher and three more Bulldogs making it onto the podium, the Moffat County boys wrestling team finished its season at the 3A CHSAA State Championships ranked 11th among 50 teams.

Leading up to MoCo senior Kaden Hixson’s state championship at 126 pounds on Saturday night, Feb. 18, at Ball Arena in Denver, the morning and afternoon hours were busy, as the wrestlers who had been eliminated from championship contention battled for third through sixth places.

In the 165-pound weight class, Bulldogs senior Michael Voloshin pinned two opponents in the opening rounds on Friday, Feb. 17, before losing a 7-0 decision to University’s Paxton Daggett, who went on to claim first place in the finals.

“He was a tough wrestler and deserved the state title,” Michael Voloshin said. “After that loss Friday night, I knew I had to come back and place as high as possible for the team and for myself. There was still plenty of pressure on me to win.”

He fought through another tough round in the consolation semis on Saturday, losing 6-4 to Bennett’s Wesley Dubois. Still, he worked over Brush’s Ritchie Bruno for a 7-1 win in the subsequent fifth-place match to end his season at 44-6.

“It was definitely meaningful to finish fifth, and it capped off a great season that was full of hard work, sweat and plenty of training,” Michael Voloshin said.

MoCo senior Billy Lawton was pleased just to be at the state tournament, especially considering how close he came to not making it. After losing unexpectedly in the first round of regionals, Lawton had to defend his fourth place finish from a wrestle-back challenger to move on to state, securing the spot with a final win.

At state, Lawton proved he belonged with a win to start the 190-pound bracket, as Lawton pinned Fort Lupton’s Camren Galicia with only nine seconds left on the clock.

“Once I walked into state, all the nerves hit me hard, so once I pinned the kid in my first match, it was a huge relief and helped get rid of the nerves,” he said.

Things got tougher from there, though. Lawton was paired with Severance’s Colby Runner, who claimed an 11-3 major decision against Lawton in the quarterfinals and went on to win the state championship.

Lawton remained in contention with wins over his opponents from Lamar and Brush, but Saturday was all the more difficult for him, as Lawton fractured his nose and had to compete with his nostrils plugged for his final two bouts, including a fifth-place match that he lost 4-1. Even so, Lawton was still happy with himself for still making it into the top six.

“I knew I had to go all out and wrestle back and get the next best thing,” Lawton said. “I had some tough kids and didn’t place exactly how I wanted to, but I still got on that podium.”

Moffat County sophomore Zach Hedmon took sixth overall at the 157-pound weight class in the 3A CHSAA State Championships at Ball Arena on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Most of the Bulldogs who attended state were juniors or seniors, but for sophomore Zach Hedman, the experience was the biggest so far in his high school career.

Throughout the season at 157 pounds, Hedman has seen many older opponents, though he was more intimidated by the size of the venue at state than he was his potential foes.

“That just motivated me to work harder,” he said.

Hedman outlasted Grand Valley’s Dominic Mendoza 5-4 in the first round before a 22-6 tech fall by Fort Lupton’s William Alvarado in the quarters sent Hedman to the consolation rounds.

“I was a little frustrated, but (MCHS assistant coach Brayden Peterson) pulled me aside and kept me motivated and kept me focused,” Hedman said.

Moffat County boys wrestling coaches look on in celebration of sophomore Zach Hedmon during a match at the 3A CHSAA State Championships in Ball Arena on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Hedman then won two matches — one 15-13 decision in overtime and another by pin. A 20-1 tech fall by a Brush opponent denied Hedman the bronze, and that was followed by a loss by pin, putting Hedman at sixth. Now that he’s gotten to the podium, he’s looking to be back there again in the coming years.

“My goal these next two years for high school is to win state both years,” he said. “I just need to work hard and improve every day.”

In his first season as head coach, Mark Voloshin was thrilled to have not only three state placers but also a champion. With Hixson being the first Moffat County state champ since 2007, coach Voloshin hopes it will make the idea of winning a state championship less abstract for the Bulldogs.

“I’ve seen that pay off before in the past,” Mark Voloshin said. “It brings a realization to them that their goals are achievable.”

He added that the scope of the state tournament can make it more difficult for athletes.

“It’s really easy to get distracted with all the mass of humanity at Ball Arena,” the coach explained. “(The wrestlers) gotta remember there’s only 16 guys at your weight. You don’t have to wrestle all of them, and it’s just one match at a time — one takedown, one breakdown, one pin at a time. Keep it in that perspective.”

Additionally, seeing Hixson take state was something special for both the coach and for Hixon’s teammates.

“He deserved that more than anybody else on the team,” Michael Voloshin said of Hixon. “He has put in a lot of hard work over the years, and it was very special to witness him win that.”

Lawton added that working together with his fellow seniors has been special in itself over the years.

“We pushed each other, and all our teammates pushed us to make us do the best we could and finish the way we wanted to,” he said. “I’m glad there’s a lot of younger kids coming up that will be right back there, placing and representing Moffat County the same way we have.”

Likewise, coach Voloshin is expecting big things from the Bulldogs wrestling program in the future.

“There’s been a lot of adversity this season, but we’ve battled through it. These kids are resilient and proved they can take it one day at a time and finish what they start,” he said. “Being able to coach those kids and my son has been an amazing experience.”

Moffat County boys wrestling at CHSAA State Championships
Weight — Athlete, state record; season record
• 126 pounds — Kaden Hixson, 4-0 (first place); 49-7
• 138 pounds — Kaeden Martinez, 2-2; 35-13
• 144 pounds — Eli Fredrickson, 1-2; 35-12
• 150 pounds — Aron Aguilar, 0-2; 17-11
• 157 pounds — Zach Hedman, 3-3 (sixth place); 27-14
• 165 pounds — Michael Voloshin, 3-2 (fifth place); 44-6
• 175 pounds — Blake Hill, 2-2; 34-14
• 190 pounds — Billy Lawton, 3-3 (sixth place); 38-19
• 215 pounds — Cyrus Goldsmith, 0-2; 12-9

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