Moffat County wrestlers keep battling at huge tourneys headed into winter break
Moffat County wrestling boasted nine athletes on the podium — five boys and four girls — during two tournaments between Friday, Dec. 16, and Saturday, Dec. 17.
The Moffat County boys took 10th among 39 schools at the Warrior Classic hosted by Grand Junction’s Central High School, with four of their varsity competitors earning placement.
As one of the biggest grapplefests on the Western Slope, the event is traditionally seen as a benchmark for how MoCo athletes are doing to conclude the early season.
Senior Michael Voloshin got furthest in the bracket, sweeping through Friday’s opening rounds with three quick pins in the 165-pound class. He squeaked by a Uintah foe in the semifinals to move on to the championship bout, which ended with a last-second fall at 5:59, claimed by Brush’s Ritchie Bruno, leaving Voloshin with the silver as he heads into Christmas with a 15-1 record.
Senior Kaden Hixson also incurred his first loss at the Warrior Classic but quickly bounced back from defeat. Losing 6-5 in the 138-pound semifinals to Meeker’s Trae Kennedy, Hixson went on to take back-to-back wins (5-4, 3-2), gaining third place in the process and bringing his record to 16-1.
Now 14-3, senior Billy Lawton gained three pins to get to the 190-pound semis before a 15-0 technical fall to eventual champ Jett Swain of Uintah. Lawton responded with a 6-1 sudden victory over Meeker’s Brendan Clatterbaugh, a rematch against the Cowboy who beat him a week earlier. However, his day ended ranked fourth after being pinned by Central’s Tyler Ziek.
Sophomore Zach Hedman was the fourth Bulldog to go undefeated during the first day of the Warrior, all wins in the 157 class by pin. Unfortunately, he was forced to forfeit his Saturday matches due to injury, ultimately placing sixth with a 12-5 total for the year.
Staying on top
If the Warrior Classic was packed, Bulldog girls barely had breathing room on the Front Range at Greeley’s Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament. Among 56 schools, the Moffat County placed sixth overall.
Senior Makaela Simpson rocked the early rounds with four consecutive pins to get to the 170-pound finals, where she was matched with the undefeated Neveah Garcia of Platte Valley, whom Simpson had lost to earlier in the month. Garcia won the grudge match, with Simpson placing second with a 9-2 record.
Though only one of them was picking up team points, Kenleigh Pubanz and Rylie Dschaak were dual threats in the 235-pound class as both of them placed.
Now 7-3, Pubanz took the bronze with three falls, interrupted only by a defeat in the semifinals. Dschaak also made it to the semis and despite another loss after that, finished with her third pin of a 3-2 day to end up fifth.
Out of either Bulldog team, sophomore Maddie Soper had the most bouts of anyone with seven total in the 155-pound class, all of which were either won or lost by fall. With her first match won in 19 seconds — the fastest of anyone from MoCo during the weekend — she placed fifth with a record of 5-2 for the tourney and 9-4 overall.
In the Moffat County girls team’s first year, coach Ashleigh Seely said she’s seen a good blend of confidence boosters at smaller events and tests of tenacity at bigger contests.
“To place this well at these giant tournaments makes our future look very promising. The girls walked into the UNC tournament very nervous to see 10 mats going at once,” she said. “I told them the teams we are going up against are in the same shoes as us, to look at it as an opportunity to improve, and to wrestle just like they would at home. To be at these larger tournaments will prepare our mental capacity for when we walk into the regional and state arena. We know where we need to improve. The gas pedal is full throttle for practices over break.”
After the winter break, both teams will compete at another large-scale event Jan. 6-7 at the Tournament of Champions in Vernal, Utah.
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