Moffat County wrestlers start strong, keep confident at rowdy regionals

Moffat County High School's Billy Lawton is seconds from a pin in the 3A Region 1 Tournament.
Andy Bockelman

MONTROSE — With a dozen Moffat County High School wrestlers entering the 3A Region 1 Tournament, nearly all of them will move on to see the second day.

MCHS grapplers took plenty of wins to begin the regional event in Montrose, and Bulldogs will stay in the action for 11 weight classes for Saturday’s rounds, ending Friday placed third among 14 teams.

First things first

While the majority of the Dogs had a bye round in the brackets, Dario Alexander, Blake Juergens, and Taylor Coleman faced competition immediately.

In the 126-pound class, Alexander wasted little time to make short work of Olathe’s Trenton Fletcher, pinning the Pirate in 54 seconds.

At 132, Juergens likewise moved swiftly, piling up the points in a one-sided match with Bayfield’s Xander Hovenstine. Though he aimed to get the maximum score possible against the Wolverine, Juergens won by technical fall at 18-2 to conclude the second period.

While most of his teammates had more time to get their heads together, Juergens said he preferred getting into the action sooner.

“It’s kind of nice just wrestling right off the bat,” he said. “I’ve been working on staying confident on my feet and being ready to take people down.”

In the 145 brackets, Coleman met a different kind of MoCo wrestler — Montezuma Cortez — in Anthony Abeta, who got the Bulldog on his back midway through the second period.

Quarter quarrels

The MCHS grapplers who were automatically in the quarterfinals didn’t take the advantage lightly.

Kaden Hixson (106) took the fastest Bulldog pin of the day at 45 seconds in a whirlwind match with Olathe’s Justus Hubbard, while teammate Caden Call (113) followed moments later on the same mat with a fall against Steamboat Springs’ Archer Bosick.

A few mats down, Anthony Duran (120) started his latest run at a state qualification by collecting four team points with a 9-0 major decision for the win over Cortez’s Ryan Pipkin.

From there, the going got a little tougher for the Dogs’ roster.

After their solid start, Alexander and Juergens were paired with high seeds from Alamosa and Delta, both of whom pinned the Moffat County athletes to send them to the consolation rounds.

With the chinstrap on his headgear malfunctioning, Dagan White (138) had to take a loaner from Alexander before he could get going against Erik Krauth of Glenwood Springs.

However, White got behind in points and couldn’t catch up, taking the loss 9-7.

“I got all flustered and got messed up. That kid was more of a defensive wrestler, and I couldn’t get my shots easy,” White said. “I couldn’t pull him down because he was so strong.”

Wrestling with Demons wasn’t all bad — Coleman’s pairing with Glenwood’s JoJohn Ritter was much more successful as he worked for the pin and got it with 1:28 off the clock despite the earlier defeat in the back of his brain.

“When I started that match, I was terrified. I almost broke down in tears because I was worried it’d be over that fast,” Coleman said. “But my coaches, my aunt, my family, they were behind me. They told me don’t think about it as your last match. Think about it as his last match. You’ve got to give it all you got. That’s what I told myself in that match and wound up going through and getting that pin.”

At the 152 and 160 weights, Daniel Caddy and Pepper Rhyne moved into the Saturday semifinals in style. Glenwood’s Elo Garcia put up a mighty fight, but Caddy gained the fall with two seconds left, while Rhyne’s rematch with Brady Samuelson went much the same as when Basalt came to Craig in January, Rhyne gaining a pin at 1:13.

Tough competition

At the higher weights, MCHS freshmen Michael Voloshin and Billy Lawton were among the youngest in the running at 170 and 182.

Though Voloshin is guaranteed to place in regionals, he’s the only freshman in the field of six at his weight, the other five of whom are all in the state conversation by On the Mat Rankings.

Voloshin had the misfortune of being paired with top seed in the region, Alamosa’s Hunter Smith, and the member of the Mean Moose — who led the team scores Friday — pinned him quickly.

Lawton likewise was up against high-ranking Zebuel Alexander of Gunnison, who took the fall at 1:03.

Junior Daniel Cruz also had his work cut out for him against the second seed of the 195 class, and Alamosa’s Austin Trujillo took command quickly, pinning Cruz in 48 seconds.

Another round of byes ensured most of the Bulldogs wouldn’t be suiting up for the consolations until Saturday, with the exception of Juergens, White, Coleman and Lawton.

Juergens ended his Friday victorious with a pin of Cortez’s Caden Cote, as did Lawton, whose January dual match against Rifle’s Grant Houser repeated itself with a fall for the Bulldog.

White’s second round saw him matched with Olathe’s Mason Galvan, getting the fall at 1:25.

Though he’s out of the running for a regional title — after achieving second last season — White said he’s ready to put in the work to get third place and beyond.

“I’ve gotta go to state,” he said.

Coleman’s third bout of the night was against Steamboat’s Caleb Anderson, and though the MoCo grappler came out fiercely, the Sailor chugged along to Saturday action with a pin to end Coleman’s run in the double elimination tourney.

Though Coleman has experienced numerous struggles in a 3-15 season at varsity events, head coach Tyler Seislove said he’s shown immeasurable heart the whole winter.

“He’s a little light for his weight, but he always wrestles hard and has done everything we ask of him,” Seislove said. “That’s all you want in these guys.”

While he was disappointed to end the tournament sooner than expected, Coleman was pleased with himself that he never gave up while on the mat.

“I’d say it’s been a good season,” he said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.