Moffat County wrestlers finish fifth, ending season on a win
PUEBLO — Kaden Hixson was bleeding all day.
The Moffat County sophomore fell in his CHSAA State Championships quarterfinal match via 15-7 major decision and adding injury to insult, he smashed his face off the mat, breaking his nose.
The pain was one thing, but the bleeding was a disruption in the remainder of his matches, sometimes halting the contest as Hixson was gaining momentum.
“My nose hurts pretty bad and throughout the match blood just keeps coming out and stopping the match. It’s a little hard to breathe,” Hixson said. “Wrestling, you’re going to get your nose bumped. After breaking it, getting it hit again and again, it just hurts.”
Hixson won his consolation match Friday afternoon, but lost his consolation semifinal by pin. That sent him to the fifth-place match. There was no question who was the more dominant wrestler in that bout. Hixson moved Platte Valley’s Nicholas Dill with little issue, racking up a 12-4 major decision and nearly pinning him twice.
“My last match, I had my best match of the day, maybe my year,” Hixson said. “Ending this crazy year strong felt good.”
Junior Pepper Rhyne also took fifth at 160 pounds. He was the only Moffat County wrestler to win a quarterfinal. In the 160-pound match, he defeated Emmett Wolfe of Manitou Springs with a 10-6 decision.
As a sophomore, Rhyne earned one win at the state wrestling tournament and didn’t place. The top six in each eight-person bracket place in the smaller 2021 tournament and with a 10-6 decision win in the quarterfinal, he was guaranteed a spot on the podium. One hour into his day, he had already improved on last year.
“He’s probably the hardest worker in our wrestling room,” said Moffat County head coach Tyler Seislove. “All the hard work he’s been putting in for the last three years now, it’s finally coming to fruition and he’s reaping the rewards now.”
Rhyne lost his semifinal to eventual champion, Cameron Lucero of Pagosa Springs, moving on to the consolation semifinal, where he lost 5-2. Rhyne worked hard to the very end, defeating Wolfe again, this time by a 5-0 decision, to take fifth.
In their first state appearances, senior Blake Juergens and freshman Blake Hill went 0-2 on the day.
Hill, a freshman in the 170-pound bracket, got his first taste of the big stage. He was pinned in both his matches, but gained valuable experience that can carry him through the next three years.
“We knew coming in here he was going to see a lot of really tough competition,” Seislove said. “But again, for a freshman to be here, it’s a great experience for them to get a feel for the best competition in the state.”
As for Juergens, this was his first and last shot at state. When he qualified at regionals, a weight lifted off his shoulders. He was happy to be at state, but still hoped for more. The senior lost his first match and found himself in the consolation round against a familiar foe: Bryce Rowley of Rifle.
Juergens most recently saw Rowley at regionals, where he lost by fall. He thought knowing his opponent would help him to win, but the Rifle senior bested him again.
“I wrestled my best,” Juergens said. “I had tough kids all day. It felt good to make it.”
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