Moffat County wrestlers react to season’s end for some, state ticket for others as big-time brackets are set
The action at the 3A Region 1 Tournament was all the challenge some Moffat County High School wrestlers expected to see, while more than a few Bulldogs ended their run purely on a technicality.
Whatever the final result, all agreed they learned a great deal from the 2019-20 season.
With five MCHS grapplers moving along to the 3A CHSAA State Championships, the schedule is extended for a final week as the athletes headed to the Pepsi Center prepare for their greatest competition yet.
Brackets for the state event were released Sunday by Colorado High School Activities Association, determining where each of the state qualifiers will be, among them the Bulldogs.
Wrestler, weight; season record — opening opponent/school; record
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• Kaden Hixson, 106 pounds; 38-4 — Benny Diego Gonzales/La Junta; 11-8
• Caden Call, 113 pounds; 30-10 — Logan Stephens/Eagle Valley; 27-16
• Anthony Duran, 120 pounds; 26-13 — Daniel Soto/Jefferson; 26-7
• Daniel Caddy, 152 pounds; 29-2 — Ben May/The Classical Academy; 34-14
• Pepper Rhyne, 160 pounds; 31-9 — Tanner Baumgartner/Weld Central; 37-3
Regional champion Kaden Hixson is among the top seeds in state’s 106-pound class, first seeing Benny Diego Gonzales of La Junta as the tourney begins Thursday.
The Bulldogs saw three runners-up with Caden Call (113), Anthony Duran (120), and Daniel Caddy (152) paired with Eagle Valley, Jefferson and Classical Academy opponents in the opening round.
At 160, Pepper Rhyne will be up against Weld Central’s Tanner Baumgartner after earning fourth place in regionals.
Road to state
While Hixson went undefeated during regionals, the MoCo wrestlers who took silver had more struggles in the title matches, with a silver lining of the losses showing them where they can improve.
Call avoided giving up the pin in his final match, losing by technical fall in the final second of his bout, a defeat that taught him much.
“That kid was a state champion last year so he was strong,” Call said. “I’ll probably need to work more at my shots when I get to state, and I’m hoping to see that kid again.”
Duran likewise fell by tech to finish as runner-up, whereas Caddy’s major decision loss to Cameron Lucero of Pagosa Springs was one that he attributed to not feeling 100 percent physically, including a shoulder ailment.
“It wasn’t hurting too much in that match, but I’m still kind of sick,” he said.
Caddy, who is currently considering wrestling at Colorado School of Mines or Milwaukee School of Engineering, said the last week of the sport at the high school level should be his best yet as he plans to be back at peak condition.
“I’m going to be giving it everything at state. That’s all I can do,” he said.
For Rhyne, a final match for third place ended abruptly, with his Bayfield opponent given the option to automatically take the victory after a takedown by the Bulldog was deemed illegal.
“I’m still making it to state, and that was the original goal,” Rhyne said. “I worked hard all summer to get here.”
Close as could be
With five placing in the top four of their weights at regionals to be locked into state, three more of the Dogs were just short of the Pepsi Center in fifth place, which will also put them on the short list of alternates in the unlikely instance that state qualifiers can’t attend the biggest tourney of the year.
Dario Alexander (126) and Billy Lawton (182) both secured fifth place at regionals but were denied a chance for a wrestle-back for fourth thanks to previous defeats to the No. 4 of their weights.
“I didn’t want to lose again, and I was just happy I could end my high school wrestling career with win,” said Alexander, a senior who took a break from the sport after his freshman year to play basketball before returning as an upperclassman. “I love my team and these coaches. They’ve worked with me all season.”
Blake Juergens was the closest to the chance for a comeback as he took on Rifle’s Talon Cordova for the state position, with the senior Bear showing just how badly he wanted to finish in the final week in an 8-7 decision.
Head coach Tyler Seislove said of everyone on the team Juergens arguably had the toughest bracket in the 132 class.
“He went out there and gave it everything he could,” Seislove said. “He was a couple seconds away from getting back points and it being a completely different story. Next year we’ll be sending him to state.”
Seislove said those who will be going to Denver have to be sure not to underestimate anything.
“Every single kid that’s going there is pretty dang good, so they’ve got to be ready to wrestle six hard minutes,” he said.
The fifth-place match at regionals proved to be the end of the road for three more Bulldogs as Dagan White (138) and Daniel Cruz (195) struggled to find their footing in defeats that handed them sixth place ribbons.
For Cruz, the last loss of the weekend was a tough one in a weight class where he has continually been on the smaller side.
“I just don’t want to get underneath these big guys,” he said. “The weight difference has been a big disadvantage for me. I’m hoping to bulk up for next year.”
For freshman Michael Voloshin, a tall frame helped land him in the higher weights, competing at 170 in his first year of high school. A season in which he regularly saw older, more experienced competitors was capped off by a small bracket of six that guaranteed he’d place but be forever battling as the only ninth-grader.
“The last two were probably the toughest,” he said.
Even so, the young Bulldog took the losses as a learning experience that has continued all winter.
“All the coaches and my team keep working with me to make me better,” Voloshin said.
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