Moffat County wrestling squads crown 5 regional champs, while 14 Bulldogs qualify for state (w/photos)

During the weekend’s regional tournaments, Moffat County wrestling earned five championships and locked in 14 grapplers for the state tournament.

For MoCo seniors Kaden Hixson and Michael Voloshin, the title “regional champion” is nothing new but always welcome. During the two-day 3A Region 2 tourney in Glenwood Springs, the pair went undefeated, each taking home a championship for the second time. Hixson was last on top of the regional podium as a freshman.

“I came up short and got second the last two years, so it felt really good to get it again senior year,” he said.

Hixson got two pins in his early rounds before a 6-2 win in the 126-pound semifinals. He was next expecting to see top-ranked Brock Fry of Gunnison — a state runner-up last season — but instead was paired with Pagosa Springs’ Colton Lucero, who upset Fry in the semis. The bout was largely even, but Hixson won in a 3-2 decision.

“He was probably one of my toughest matches all year,” he said. “I got a one-point escape with two seconds to go, so it was a close match. But it was a fun match, too.”

For Voloshin, he was looking for a second consecutive regional title. He recorded three straight falls in the 165-pound bracket before being matched with Bayfield’s Deegan Barnes, whom Voloshin beat 11-2.

“The competition was good and set us up perfect for state, but we’ve got a big test ahead of us,” he said.

The Moffat County boys wrestling team displays awards won during the 3A Region 2 tournament.
Payton Voloshin/Courtesy photo

At the same time, Bulldogs Eli Fredrickson and Zach Hedman picked up their first regional titles.

Fredrickson, a junior, got an early bye round and won two matches in 9-5 and 5-0 decisions. Matched with Alamosa’s Donovan in the finals, he scored two takedowns to win 4-1.

Hedman, a sophomore, took two first-period falls to advance to the finals and pinned Salida’s Jase Young midway through the second period.

“Hedman was a fourth-seed, but we knew he could win, and he knew it too,” said Moffat County coach Mark Voloshin. “They all did excellent as planned, and they’ll continue to work the plan and make it work for them.”

As the boys team was dominating Saturday in Glenwood — winning second place as a team — the girls were in Edwards at their own regional event.

Facing off in the finals for the 170-pound classification, Moffat County senior Makaela Simpson lifts Grand Junction Central junior Adalee McNeil. Simpson won the regional title with a 3-1 decision over McNeil at the CHSAA Girls Region 4 wrestling tournament on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, in Edwards.
Eli Pace/Craig Press

Leading the fifth-place team was senior Makaela Simpson, who won the regional championship in the 170-pound class, gaining a fall and an 11-0 decision before a 3-1 victory in a rematch with District 51’s Adalee McNeil.

Moffat County took three runner-up honors as juniors Adrianna Price (100), Blake Hill (175) and Kenleigh Pubanz (235) each made it all the way to the finals. There were two wrestlers who took the bronze, overcoming early defeats before cruising all the way through the consolation brackets.

Sophomore Kaeden Martinez fell by major decision in the boys 138-pound class, but ultimately went 5-1 in the tourney with three pins leading up to a 4-2 overtime victory against Alamosa’s Sage Rockcastle to claim third place.

Likewise, freshman Kayla Deaton lost her first bout in the girls 130-pound bracket before taking four straight wins, including three falls.

In order to qualify for state, athletes must be among the top four in their regional event, a spot which can be up for grabs.

Junior Aron Aguilar (150) went 3-2 and Cyrus Goldsmith (215) 2-2, and freshman Cydny Witherell (135) 2-2, with each placing fourth, but they all hung onto their placement after they had already defeated the fifth-place winner.

Fighting for a spot at state, senior Billy Lawton took advantage of the wrestle-back opportunity in a small, uneven 190-pound bracket. After being upset in both the semifinals and the consolation finals, Lawton proved his season wasn’t finished as he claimed fourth place by pinning Montezuma Cortez’s Hunter Goodall.

Coach Mark Voloshin noted that while not everyone gets to state the same way, everyone who earns a spot there can make things work for them.

“Anything can happen, that’s why they have the tournament, and we are ready to take advantage of it and do some big things there,” he said.

The MoCo girls team saw two of its athletes gain regional placement while being just short of state.

Sophomore Raegan McMillan placed sixth in the 110-pound class with a 2-2 day, while sophomore Mikah Vasquez was 2-2 to place fifth in the 115-pound weight class, only to be denied a wrestle-back after being paired with the District 51 opponent who beat her in the opening round.

“Everyone fought extremely hard,” Moffat County girls wrestling coach Ashleigh Seely said. “I told them win or lose, as long as they fought to the very last whistle we’d be proud, that is what they did with extreme heart.”

Moffat County’s Kenleigh Pubanz battles Breanna Johansen of Liberty Common at the CHSAA Girls Region 4 wrestling tournament on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, in Edwards. Pubanz won with a pin in 30 seconds.
Eli Pace/Craig Press

Seely is pleased to take half of the varsity lineup to state, especially because it’s such a new program.

“Each athlete has come so far in such a short time,” Seely said. “We all should hold our heads high.”

The CHSAA State Championships take place this Thursday, Feb. 16, through Saturday, Feb. 18, at Denver’s Ball Arena.

Hixson is the only member of the MoCo boys team who has qualified for state all four years. Though he’s placed every time, he’s never gotten past the championship quarterfinals, which he plans to do this time.

“My career is coming to an end, so now I want to give it my all and go out on top,” he said. “I’ve been looking at my bracket, and I really have a good shot of making it all the way to finals. If I just wrestle how I’m capable, I think I can.”

Michael Voloshin went as far as the semifinals last year, losing at that stage to the eventual state champ. Needless to say, his goal is to make it further.

“That’ll be a big bridge to cross, but we’ve been working on that all season, and when we get there we’ll be prepared,” he said. “My dad will be right by my side, so I’ll know what to do and we’ll be prepared and ready.”

Coach Mark Voloshin likewise expects big things from all the athletes.

“We’ll continue to work hard and make our corrections,” he said. “One match at a time, because at that level everyone is tough.”

Moffat County’s Aron Aguilar (150) wrestles Santos Nunez of LaJunta in the second round of the regional tournament Saturday, Feb, 11, in Grand Junction. Aguilar took fourth to qualify for state.
John Stroud/Post Independent

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