Moffat County wrestling Senior Night sees advantage vs. Grand Valley, squeaker with Meeker
It may have been Senior Night for the Moffat County High School wrestling program, but the final home duals of the season saw one of the Bulldogs’ youngest on the varsity roster come through at the close despite a lot of pressure on his shoulders.
MCHS swept the competition in a set of duals Tuesday night against Grand Valley and Meeker, taking a 49-21 win over the former and a much narrower 37-33 victory against the latter.
The evening began with a Senior Night ceremony honoring the five oldest members of the team: Daniel Caddy, Dagan White, Dario Alexander, Taylor Coleman and team manager Mati Fredrickson.
Following the spotlight presentation of bouquets and flowers to seniors and their families, the Dogs began their bouts against Grand Valley.
With only seven contested varsity weights — open class forfeits going to Bulldogs Caden Call, Anthony Duran, Pepper Rhyne and Daniel Cruz and Cardinal heavyweight Hayden Grice — MoCo grapplers already had the score in their favor, though they were ready to hit the mat either way.
After picking up a shot to the nose earlier this month, 106-pounder Kaden Hixson stepped up wearing a padded facial mask alongside his usual headgear.
“His nose has been getting better, and he wrestles with it off and with it on. I think he just likes the way it looks,” MCHS head coach Tyler Seislove said. “That kid, nothing really seems to phase him or it hasn’t yet this year.”
The intimidation probably didn’t hurt Hixson’s chances against Grand Valley’s Teagan Jacobs — after a takedown and four near-falls, the Bulldog ended the first period up 14-1. Jacobs’ chances of a comeback early in the second faded quickly as Hixison gained a reversal that promptly gave him the win by 16-1 technical fall.
At 126, Alexander ran into trouble against the Cards’ Hector de la Cruz, who gained the pin late in the second period, while Blake Juergens (132) held a 7-0 early lead in a dominating bout over Derrick Medina, gaining the fall about 30 seconds into the middle period.
Freshman Izzac Pierce made his entry into the Bulldog varsity lineup with a tough match against Aydin Fisher that ended with the 138 MoCo kid getting pinned, whereas 145’s Coleman held his own Isaiah Tigert, avoiding getting trapped on his back but ending on the wrong side of a 4-0 decision.
At 152, Caddy was the clear favorite up against Cardinal Conrad Demann — with both ranked in the top four for 3A Region 1 — finishing the first period with a takedown and a near-fall followed by a second-period reversal that gave him the 7-0 lead.
Demann put the pressure on Caddy in the final minute, however, with a reversal that could have put the Bulldog in a bad position had he not kept his head and let time run out for the 9-3 win.
At 170, MCHS’s Michael Voloshin and Cristian Barragan continually went off the mat as both exerted their force against each other, but it was only Voloshin who was picking up points in the highly charged match. While he just missed getting the Cardinal down for the count in a 4-0 opener, he would gain five total near-falls and two takedowns for the win by tech.
Even as the Grand Valley bunch shuffled out of the Dog House, the stands were filling up all the more as Meeker fans showed up to support the Cowboys with the rivalry between the two Northwest Colorado teams at its utmost.
With only one match for the night, Call made the most of it at the 113 slot, leading 5-0 after one round with Ty Goedert and finishing with the 9-2 W.
At 120, Duran, who picked up a JV win against Grand Valley, wasted little time back in the varsity mix against Kaden Franklin, pinning the Cowboy right at the one-minute mark.
Hunter Fredrickson (126) got back into the Dogs’ rotation with Meeker’s Charles Curry, whose proficiency at escapes kept him one step ahead, though several takedowns didn’t hurt either as Curry won 11-6.
Alexander bumped up to 132, facing No. 4 in 2A Region 1 Connor Blunt, who pinned the Bulldog in the second period. Juergens also went up a weight to 138 but had an easier time against Tyson Portwood in an 11-5 victory.
Paired with 145 Cowboy Elijah Leblanc, Coleman kept his distance at first but soon locked up with his opponent in a scoreless first period. Coleman hoisted Leblanc off his feet midway through the second to gain the takedown and swiftly took the win by fall.
“Taylor got a huge pin for us. That really changed the tide,” Seislove said.
Ranked second in 3A Region 1’s 160 class, Rhyne was set up against Dax Sheridan, fourth in his regional standings, with the Moffat County contender holding the lead for most of the match, finishing with the 10-2 major decision, a final takedown giving him an extra point that would prove crucial later in the night.
While Caddy and Voloshin earned forfeits that would put the Dogs ahead at 34-9, Meeker caught up quickly as Billy Lawton (182) faced off against the top wrestler in the state, Colby Clatterbaugh. Two escapes for the Bulldog put him on the leaner end of a 6-2 starting period before Clatterbaugh gained the fall less than a minute into the second round.
At 195, Cruz fought through a bout with Ridge Williams — ranked second in 2A Region 1’s 220 weight — with neither scoring at first until Williams drove up the total with a takedown and two near-falls before finishing the job with 42 seconds left.
The Cowboys gained another dozen points with forfeits going to Tanner Musser and Reese Harvey, and with the team results at 34-33, it all came down to the final varsity match — Hixson versus Trae Kennedy in the 106 slot.
Ranked second in the region, Hixson was well-matched against a Cowboy who currently tops the chart in his own region.
Still, Hixson didn’t blink — or if he did, Kennedy probably couldn’t tell with his foe’s facial apparel — taking a first round takedown.
The two both gained points with reversals in the next period with neither having a definite advantage as both sides of the gym began ramping up their cheering.
Kennedy gained an escape in the third period to narrow the tally to 4-3, but Hixson would allow no more as the pair were at a virtual stalemate in the final seconds.
“It was pretty intense,” Hixson said. “There were some parts of the match where I couldn’t really see. I just want to keep improving until I reach my goal.”
The win over Meeker, the closest single dual they’ve seen, leaves the Bulldogs 7-0 in one-on-one team matches.
“We knew it was gonna be a battle for us, and everybody did their job and we came out on top. If you have to pick out one match every year you wanna win, it’s this one,” Seislove said. “One of our team goals coming into this year was to win all of our individual duals, maybe not the tournament type, and we swept them all.”
Though Senior Night was a success on the mat, it wasn’t without lumps for some athletes who were still recovering from recent injuries and an aura of flu that has affected the MCHS student body.
“We were hoping to have our lineup set a couple weeks and that changes wouldn’t be happening, but it seems like no matter what we try, things keep getting shifted around on us,” Seislove said. “Guys are competitive and they all want to start, so you can’t blame them for that.”
While it was already scheduled that way, Seislove said the upcoming weekend will be beneficial as wrestlers recuperate before heading to Feb. 8’s Rumble in Rawlins, the Wyoming excursion the Bulldogs’ last before the 3A Region 1 Tournament Feb. 14 and 15.
With the program’s biggest events on the horizon, Seislove said he appreciates his athletes’ long-term goals even if they make more immediate planning tougher.
“These guys are really focused on regionals and state, so it’s hard to get them to focus on the week at hand,” he said. “It’s coming up a lot quicker than we thought.”
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Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume saw it as a win-win situation.