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.
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.
A learn-by-doing methodology was on display Friday at the Loudy-Simpson Park pond as Moffat County High School science students learned quickly whether or not they had a future in engineering.