Moffat County wrestling team earns 5th at state as 2 placers, plenty more talent ready to return
For the Craig Press
DENVER — Though they’ll be seeing a fair amount of turnover with seniors leaving, Moffat County High School wrestling won’t be hurting for talent in the coming years.
If you don’t believe it, all you need to do is look at their final point count.
When the dust was settled Saturday, the Bulldogs stood at fifth place among 54 3A teams at the state championships at Denver’s Ball Arena, a count that included four athletes on the podium, including seniors Pepper Rhyne and Anthony Duran and juniors Kaden Hixson and Michael Voloshin.
“It was a good day and a good season,” said MoCo head coach Tyler Seislove. “We have an old team, but a lot of young guys coming back. It was a good year, a fun year, fun bunch of kids.”
Third time and counting
After placing fourth as a freshman and fifth as a sophomore, Hixson was looking to improve upon his past performances at state this time, competing in the 120-pound weight class.
Though he got knocked out of the championship round in Friday’s quarterfinals — by eventual title-winner Roberto Estrada of Weld Central — Hixson moved swiftly through the back brackets with a 17-0 technical fall, a pin, and a 2-1 decision to get into the consolation finals.
Matched up with Skyview’s Ezra Herrera for his final go, Hixson was looking to claim the elusive bronze medal, though Herrera came out swinging, driving him into the corner of the mat early in the bout, narrowly missing the coach’s seats.
“I didn’t hit a chair, but it still didn’t feel very good. Hurt my hip a little bit,” Hixson said.
Down 5-0 going into the last two minutes, Hixson came close to finishing off Herrera with a third-period near-fall, but he could only gain an escape after that, losing 9-3 and placing fourth.
While he went 4-2 at state, Hixson said he felt his most memorable match was his initial defeat.
“I think my best match is really the one I lost in the quarterfinals against Estrada,” he said before Saturday’s finals. “He’s a known name and a two-time state champ, and I think I really held my own against him only losing by two points.”
He added that he’s tried to track his progress in technique throughout his 37-9 season.
“I think my takedowns have improved a lot; I’m attacking more and really finishing there. When I’m on top, I’m not letting them up and keeping pressure on them,” Hixson said.
As Hixson looks toward next year’s senior season, he’s planning to return to football in the fall thanks to the secondary sport’s effect on keeping his physique ready for next winter.
“I’m gonna work hard this summer, train, and hopefully get that state title,” Hixson said.
Next year, gold
In his first year at the state event, Michael Voloshin was looking to continue the momentum he had from his regional title and emerge as the 3A 160-pound state champ.
As the only MoCo junior to advance to the semifinals Friday, that goal certainly looked achievable, as Voloshin was maintaining an even score with Resurrection Christian’s Eddie Lemos, only for a literal last-second takedown to send him to the consolation rounds.
Michael bounced back from the defeat by pinning his Eaton competitor to move into the third-place match, but squaring off against Mullen’s Mark Troni resulted in a 9-0 major decision against him.
He took the loss hard, though he could not deny that fourth place in his first trip to state was no failure.
“It’s definitely something to build on,” Voloshin said.
In each of his matches, Michael had father and coach Mark Voloshin in his corner. Mark, a member of the 1985 state champ MoCo team, has been present at many state competitions in one capacity or another, guiding many of the current Bulldog athletes since junior high.
“Those middle school tournaments they go to, it’s all classes, and they would do really well in those. We’ve always been coming to these things and learning how to get better,” Mark Voloshin said.
With the latest state tournament in the books, MCHS coaches are already considering what lies ahead, noting the abundance of the younger competitors who will continue to improve going into next year.
“It was a good experience even for the guys who didn’t place, just getting the experience, being here and being a part of it and seeing how the whole thing’s set up,” Seislove said.
Half of the 10 MCHS state qualifiers will be able to return for the 2022-23 season, including sophomores Eli Fredrickson and Blake Hill, who went 1-2 and 2-2 at state, respectively, while junior Billy Lawton navigated through the 182 bracket with two hard-fought defeats.
Besides those who were on the state floor this year, the roster is packed with younger wrestlers eager to make the cut next time.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who are ready to just step right in,” Mark Voloshin said. “We just want to get some kids at the higher weights like these other teams. There are some huge kids.”
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