With regional title in tow, Moffat County wrestling looks to shake things up at state

Andy Bockelman
For the Craig Press


Members of the Moffat County High School varsity wrestling team gather around their championship plaque from the 3A Region 1 Tournament. Back row, from left: Caden Call, Pepper Rhyne, Ryan Duzik, Michael Voloshin, Anthony Duran. Front: Blake Tupa, Kaden Hixson, Colt Call, Billy Lawton, Eli Fredrickson, Blake Hill. Not pictured, Kalub West. The Bulldogs had four individual champs (Caden Call, Duzik, Voloshin, Rhyne) and will take 10 total athletes to the state meet in Denver.
Andy Bockelman / For Craig Press

While last season saw smaller numbers all around at the Colorado High School Activities Association state wrestling tournament, Moffat County High School athletes are coming back this year in full force.

With a two-day performance that earned them their first regional team title since 2017, Bulldog grapplers qualified 10 of their roster for the 3A state event, which takes place Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Denver’s Ball Arena.

The 3A Region 1 event held this past weekend in Gunnison saw four individual champs in addition to 11 of the 12 wrestlers taking the podium and adding to the point count that kept the Dogs elevated against some fierce competition, scoring 237.5, well past runner-up Alamosa’s 203.

“We started off the season higher up in the rankings and then fell down a bit, but we’ve wrestled a lot of tough competition this year,” said head coach Tyer Seislove. “I told them, ‘We’ve been at tougher tournaments than this, so let’s go take care of business.’ They did. We beat guys that we thought we wouldn’t, we started out high in points, and the guys didn’t take their foot off the gas after that.”

“Proud of them for putting in the time and effort, and we’ve got some young guys that made some real noise there too.”

Golden boys

Going undefeated for the event were seniors Caden Call (138 pounds), Ryan Duzik (152) and Pepper Rhyne (170), plus junior Michael Voloshin.

At the 160-pound weight, Voloshin not only won every bout but did so by pin against opponents from some of the biggest contender teams, including Gunnison and Pagosa Springs, which won four weights between them.

He noted that in his final round, he was aware of a recurring tactic by Pagosa’s Heath Fulbright.

“I just knew the kid liked to shoot from distance, so I just kept my distance from him,” Voloshin said.

He added that collecting the 3A Region 1 plaque was an exciting moment for the group to cap off the weekend as the Bulldogs move on to state.

“That was very special, and we’ve just got to keep that momentum going,” Michael said. “It’s the end of the season, so we’re all prepared for this. We’re all ready.”

Michael’s father and coach, Mark, said the coaching staff is pleased to be able to bring a larger amount of wrestlers to the big time after last year’s COVID rule limited competitors to two from each region rather than four.

“There were six guys who placed third last year, so if things had been normal, we would have taken 10 to state then too,” Mark said.

Call and Duzik were among the Bulldogs who barely missed their shot at state in 2021, and Duzik wasn’t about to miss it again this season after enduring a rocky road.

“I tore my labrum, and I’ll be getting surgery after this season. I’ve been wearing a shoulder brace for that. Sophomore year, I blew my knee out, so it feels good to finally win at regionals,” Duzik said.

Duzik started the tourney with a pin of Steamboat Springs’ John Bene and ended with a 22-7 technical fall over Gunnison’s Josh Brockschmidt. However, he felt most challenged by his semifinal against Bayfield’s Deegan Barnes, a win by major decision which was also a rematch.

“That kid beat me at the Warrior Classic, but I beat him this time 15-6,” he said.

Call took two first-period pins to start regionals, then won by fall in the second period of both of his subsequent matches.

This will be the second time at state for him, qualifying as a sophomore and making it to the podium.

“I’ll take everything that I’ve learned in the past and take it into the future,” Call said.

Rhyne will head to state for the third consecutive year, gaining his regional championship after three pins, followed by an 8-2 finale against Kobe Prior of Bayfield.

He has also maintained one of the best records on the team, 25-1, bouncing back after a pre-season injury.

“While I was out, I was keeping up with cardio and everything, so I was never really out of it,” Rhyne said. “I lost to a kid from Roosevelt in Arvada, that was the only one this year. They’re a 4A school, so I won’t be seeing him again.”

Rhyne said he’s already looked into his potential opponents at state, some of whom he’s met before.

“First couple rounds look pretty good. There’s a tough kid from Mullen I lost to at state last year, and I’ll probably see him in the semis if I get there,” he said. “The kid that’s seeded No. 1 in my bracket won it his sophomore year and got second last year, so he’s tough too, but nobody’s unbeatable. Wrestle tough for six hard minutes and do everything you can.”

Keep on fighting

MCHS wrestling had seven total wrestlers in the regional finals, with senior Anthony Duran (126) and juniors Kaden Hixson (120) and Billy Lawton (182) ultimately placing second.

Duran will make a third trip to state, denied a regional title after being pinned in the championship round by 36-0 Royce Uhrig of Gunnison, though he amassed three pins himself before that.

Seislove noted that some weights were more disproportionate than others for the Western Slope. For Hixson — a regional champ as a freshman and a state placer the past two years — a lot of talent was awaiting him.

“Hixson had a region where he had the No. 3, No. 4, and No. 7 guy in the state, and he was No. 5, so it wasn’t easy,” Seislove said.

Hixson earned two pins and a 5-2 victory before the 11-7 loss to Gunnison’s Devin Gomez (28-2) in the finals.

Lawton likewise had a daunting final opponent in 23-1 Drew Johnson of Salida, whom he lost to by pin after felling Steamboat and Basalt competitors.

For the Bulldogs who took early losses, a battle through the back bracket still resulted in state qualification for third-place finishers, senior Kalub West (145) and sophomore Blake Hill (195), as well as sophomore Eli Fredrickson, finishing fourth at 132.

After a fall over Cortez that took all of 18 seconds, West was pinned by Delta’s Tim Horn in the quarterfinals. After three wins — one pin, one injury forfeit and a 7-2 decision — he was paired with Horn again in consolation finals, this time defeating the Panther 11-5.

Hill lost via fall in the semis to eventual regional runner-up Logan Garcia of Alamosa, though he was on the good side of three pins before and after that, all of which came before the end of the first period.

Hill went to state as a freshman but had a difficult go.

“I didn’t place last year. Lost to the No. 1 kid in the state and the second No. 1 kid in the state,” he said.

He added that the scope of state was intimidating for him.

“It was a problem last year, but I’m going in with a lot more confidence,” Hill said.

For Fredrickson, a 5-3 loss to Pagosa in the quarters made for a long stretch, though he emerged victorious with 9-2 and 8-2 decisions and a pin before he fell again to the same opponent in the fight for bronze. However, Fredrickson’s place at state among the top four was secured thanks to already defeating fifth-place finisher Luca Rizzo of Summit, who was denied a wrestle-back.

MCHS had two freshmen in the mix at regionals, with Blake Tupa stepped up at the 106 weight in an 0-2 run, while Colt Call went 1-3 to place sixth, claiming a pin against Basalt to stay alive in the consolation rounds.

New challenges

As the Bulldog boys were busy in Gunnison, their schoolmates were doing the same at the Girls Region 1 Tournament in Grand Junction.

Under CHSAA rules, female wrestlers have three regional events, with no size division among schools.

As part of the Soroco Rams girls team, MCHS freshmen Mica Vasquez and Victoria Deporto, and juniors Hannah Frink and Makaela Simpson were looking for their own shot at state.

With Soroco teammate Larhae Whaley going 3-0 for a regional crown in the 100-pound bracket, MoCo girls were putting up just as much of a contest, often against opponents from much larger schools.

Vasquez went 2-2 in the 111 class and Deporto 1-2 at 118, all of their wins by pin. Frink had a tougher go in the 136 rounds, taking two losses, both times making it into the latter minutes of the match.

Simpson had the best result among Craig girls, placing fourth in the 185 bracket to make it to state. Katie Macfarland of Mountain Vista proved a formidable foe, pinning her in the quarterfinals and again in the consolation finals, but Simpson earned three falls of her own in the meantime, the quickest being 39 seconds into the action.

One last weekend

The state event kicks off for 2A, 3A and girls teams at noon Thursday on the floor of Ball Arena, and the MoCo seniors in particular are prepared to make their final days in the sport count.

Rhyne said he’s looking forward to the atmosphere that traditionally makes the state meet the best of the season, though last year’s event left something to be desired.

“I’m hoping it’s the same as sophomore year, because that was the last time everything was kind of normal. Last year there wasn’t the crowd or the lights or anything like that,” Rhyne said.

Caden Call credited the current coaching staff — Seislove, Mark Voloshin, and Chad Lawton — as well as former head of the program, Dusty Vaughn, with helping him for build a foundation starting in his freshman year.

“These coaches are all great. Our coach my first year, he helped me out a lot. It was a big step coming out of middle school to high school, and these coaches have really helped all of us,” Call said.

While younger wrestlers have the prospect of additional state meets ahead of them, the eldest members of the team intend to make this weekend memorable after an enjoyable senior season.

“We’re having a lot of fun as a team, the coaches have been great and Senior Night was really fun,” Duzik said. “I’ll miss this; winning, practicing, hanging out on the bus with all my friends. But it’s time to move on.”

Moffat County High School wrestling state competitors

Weight — Wrestler, Season Record (Regional Placement); First State Opponent/School, Record

120 — Kaden Hixson, 33-7 (2nd); Orlando Whatley/La Junta, 15-8

126 — Anthony Duran, 33-7 (2nd); Daniel Hall/Severance, 25-11

132 — Eli Fredrickson, 25-12 (4th); Noah Linares/Mullen, 39-6

138 — Caden Call, 33-6 (1st); Riley Tuck/Brush, 12-11

145 — Kalub West, 24-8 (3rd); Kyle Owen/Elizabeth, 29-9

152 — Ryan Duzik, 25-8 (1st); Tade Reddin/Conifer, 27-14

160 — Michael Voloshin, 38-7 (1st); Austin Sisk-Metzger/Brush, 14-15

170 — Pepper Rhyne, 25-1 (1st); Nehemiah Whaley/Valley, 13-9

182 — Billy Lawton, 27-13 (2nd); Eli Broady/Middle Park, 25-6

185 — Makaela Simpson, 22-8 (4th); Camy Hogan/Palmer Ridge, 14-9

195 — Blake Hill, 21-13 (3rd); Chris Hinds/The Classical Academy, 39-6

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