Win for Chad: Hayden wrestlers honor late coach, loved ones at regional tourney
MONTROSE — A new set of uniforms for the Hayden High School wrestling team say it all.
With the word “overcome” running down the side of their singlets, complemented by an American flag with orange and white stripes, the Tigers are looking to move past grief and work toward future successes.
And, they’ve already made a great start.
Hayden placed sixth among 15 teams at the 2A Region 1 Tournament, complete with two individual championships and six total state qualifiers.
Penny for your thoughts
Dylan Zimmerman was already guaranteed a spot at the 2A CHSAA State Championships going into the final round of the 113-pound bracket Saturday, but the Hayden freshman felt like he had a little something, or someone, extra in his corner for his fourth straight regional bout.
He said he was warming up with his older brother and fellow wrestler, Drake, when Drake felt something graze his temple.
“He thought it was me, but then we looked down and saw it was a penny,” Dylan said.
The brothers weren’t sure where the copper coin came from, but they did see it as a sign.
Their late cousin, Levi Weber, had a habit of playfully flicking pennies at them, and the two felt like they sensed the sudden presence of the relative who had helped nurture their love for wrestling.
“He was there with me,” Dylan said.
After two pins Friday and a third Saturday morning, Dylan was already the favorite to finish in first place with the 2A 113 top seed already out of championship contention.
He didn’t disappoint in his final match with Paonia’s Reagan Todd. It wasn’t a quick fall, like he had racked up throughout the weekend, but a 6-1 decision against the Eagle was just as satisfying in a match he controlled pace-wise in its entirety to get the title.
At 34-4, Dylan — who lives in Craig and opted to compete for Hayden this year — will remain highly ranked going into the last week of the season, and he will be a high seed at state, which comes as no surprise to Mark, his father and coach.
“He’s been training extra hard, pretty proud of him,” Mark said.
Gone but not forgotten
Levi Weber wasn’t the only Northwest Colorado wrestling name being remembered during the 2A Region 1 Meet.
In the 182 weight class, Hunter Planansky had coach Chad Jones on his mind as he found himself in the championship round.
Jones served as the head coach for Tiger wrestling from 2012 to 2018, until he unexpectedly passed away in September.
The loss devastated the Hayden community and especially the athletes who were like family.
Still, those who knew him best were also determined to make him proud.
Planansky was in one of the sparsest weights of the tourney, with only six grapplers vying for state. Seeded second in the bracket, he began with a bye round and moved to the finals when Paonia’s Anthony Miller was forced to forfeit.
Facing top seed Will Gabriel of Nucla, he knew it would be a challenge, and getting any points proved to be exceedingly tough for both athletes throughout the first two periods.
“We’ve wrestled twice before, and it’s been like that both times,” he said.
Locked up tightly as they were, Planansky gained an escape from Gabriel to get on the scoreboard in the third period, which ultimately allowed him to finish with the 1-0 victory to move to a regional title and a 32-5 record.
Nick Planansky, Hunter’s father, took over as head coach this season following Jones’ passing, but wrestlers have not forgotten who worked with them in years past.
It’s hard to forget with the new singlets — donated by a Hayden alumnus — but more so because of what their old coach meant to them.
“Chad was always there for me. He was just like a second dad,” Hunter Planansky said.
Going all the way
With seven wrestlers at regionals, six of the Tigers qualified for state.
While Taylor Pittser (126) sustained two straight pins against him to miss placement, at 106, Kyler Campbell took a pin of Paonia’s Damon York in the quarterfinals and a 7-5 decision over Meeker’s Ty Goedert.
Campbell was a single point from a regional championship, fighting until the final moment against Norwood’s Jerret Sinks, taking a 5-4 loss by decision.
With two falls in his favor and one against him, Wyatt Murphy (132) was set up for success in the consolation finals, gaining a 7-0 win to place third against a fellow Routt County wrestler, Soroco’s Gene Bracegirdle.
Daylon Frentress (120) had one fall and a 23-10 major decision to his credit when he lost 5-2 in the back end of the bracket to Hotchkiss’s Robert Cochran.
Even so, the MD he earned against Paonia’s Ethan White guaranteed he would take fourth place by rule when paired with White again.
At 195, Hunter Hatcher had the same scenario, pinning two opponents and getting pinned twice, only to take fourth ahead of Teagan Sommer of Hotchkiss.
Shooting video of every Tiger match she could was Christene Planansky, who noted the bittersweet nature of the day.
“It’s been a very emotional season for us all,” she said. “I think every boy here made Chad proud. I think that was their goal, to make him proud.”