State your business: Craig Middle School, Bad Dogs grapplers fight to finish |

State your business: Craig Middle School, Bad Dogs grapplers fight to finish

From left, Craig Middle School eighth-graders Kaden Hixson, Billy Lawton and Alex Reno display the hardware they won placing at Rocky Mountain Nationals Colorado Middle and Elementary School State Championships.
Andy Bockelman

Craig wrestling results from Rocky Mountain Nationals Colorado Middle and Elementary School State Championships

Weight class, Wrestler — Placement; meet record

Craig Middle School

85, Colt Call; 0-2

95, Brody Wiser; 3-2

140, Memphis Herndon; 1-2

155, Billy Lawton — 2nd; 3-1

160, Blake Hill; 2-2

285, Alex Reno — 6th; 3-3

Bad Dogs Elite Wrestling

• Second- and third-grade

78, Chance Hixson; 0-2

• Fourth- and fifth-grade

89, Koy Weber — 5th; 4-2

100, Orion Musser; 1-2

113, Kolten Vasquez — 6th; 2-3

• Middle school

90, Kaden Hixson — 4th; 6-2

130, Cyrus Goldsmith; 0-2

Hixson, Reno and Lawton are just a few of the surnames that stand out on Craig Middle School’s hall of fame honoring district champion wrestlers of years past.

Athletes bearing those same names have spent the past month, as well as countless hours before that, glimpsing the record board while practicing to gain similar honors.

And the past weekend did not disappoint.

Five Craig grapplers made it to the podium during the Rocky Mountain Nationals Colorado Middle and Elementary School State Championships March 29 and 30 at Denver’s National Western Event Center.

Standing the highest was CMS eighth-grader Billy Lawton, who made it all the way to the finals, before his only defeat during a 19-1 season, the 152-pound title taken by La Junta’s Luke Garner as Billy placed second.

“I never heard of the kid, but I thought I could handle him pretty well heading out there,” he said.

Prior to that, Billy breezed through the opening round with a second-period pin of Manitou Springs’ Wesley Reeves. From there it got tougher as he earned a 10-9 sudden victory over Lesher’s Antonio Perez and an 8-3 decision in the semifinals against Centauri’s Kaleb Anderson.

He finished the official CMS wrestling season with a district championship in Meeker, followed by another first-place finish at RMN’s regional tournament in Montrose.

“There’s a lot more competition at the RMN things. We don’t see the same kids,” he said.

Kaden Hixson also took a district win during the mid-March tourney, though he met his match during the RMN regionals in the form of Gunnison’s Royce Uhrig, who sent him to the consolation rounds and later denied him a shot at wrestling up from third place to second. History repeated itself as Kaden had a rematch with Uhrig for his final bout of the state meet in the consolation finals.

Though it didn’t turn out the way he wanted, Kaden was nonetheless proud he was able to go toe to toe with a strong competitor.

“I was a lot closer this time than the first time. He was super fast and great at defense,” he said.

The eighth-grader ended state in fourth in the 90 weight class, with a 6-2 record for the event. Apart from a 5-1 loss in the championship rounds to La Junta’s Elijah Montalvan, his victories included two pins, one forfeit and three decisions — 8-1, 4-3, and 9-6.

The first loss only motivated him to keep working.

“I knew I still had another day of wrestling left, so I was trying as hard as I could to place,” Kaden said.

Though he competed under the CMS banner for most of the season, he opted to compete for Bad Dogs Elite Wrestling during the RMN tourneys, largely to spend time with his younger brother, Chance, who was in the mix for the RMN second- and third-grade brackets.

In the heavyweight division of RMN, Alex Reno started state with a pin but lost 4-2 in the quarterfinals. From there, he rebounded with a 9-2 win over Greeley’s Jesus Gutierrez and a 5-3 sudden victory against Pueblo West’s Griffin Mooring that secured placement.

“I knew I just had to win those to place,” Alex said.

Though he lost by fall and a 2-1 decision in the subsequent matches, he was happy to take sixth.

The big guy for the Bulldogs went the distance during districts with a quadruple overtime championship bout that eventually went against him due to a holding call to place second. However, he got two pins and an RMN regional win the following week.

With fathers, uncles, cousins and brothers up on the CMS board, future middle-schoolers are also looking to join their families in sports history.

Bad Dogs had a pair of grapplers power through the RMN fourth- and fifth-grade ranks, as Koy Weber fought his way to fifth place in the 89-pound class, boasting three pins in a 4-2 run, all of which came in the first period, with his final round a 34-second fall of Cedaredge’s Ty O’Connell.

Likewise, Kolten Vasquez (113) worked his way to the podium for sixth, the highlight of his weekend a 10-2 major decision over Colorado Outlaws’ Luke Eckroth.

Bad Dogs also were represented at the fourth- and fifth-grade level by Orion Musser (100) and middle school by Cyrus Goldsmith (130). The youth wrestling program will continue its season throughout this month, starting with the Little Panther Invitational Saturday in Rangely.

As for CMS wrestlers, though they didn’t place, Brody Wiser (95) went 3-2 with two falls; Memphis Herndon (140) 1-2 with one pin; and Blake Hill (160) 2-2, one fall; and Colt Call (85) 0-2 with hard-fought matches against Bear Cave and Eaton opponents.

A short but satisfying season is one Alex, Billy and Kaden expect they’ll look back on fondly next year as they become Moffat County High School freshmen, giving kudos to the CMS coaches, including Mark Voloshin, Tyler Seislove and Chad Lawton.

“It’s been a great year, coaches were great, we were all working hard, and our practice partners were always pushing us to do better,” Billy said. “Our whole team came together to get where we were.”

Additionally, they expect the current sixth- and seventh-graders will keep growing in the sport.

“Hope they do a good job leading all those younger kids,” Kaden said.

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