The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire.
And the fire was plenty hot for Pirate wrestlers at Saturday’s Centauri dual meet Tournament.
Hot as in competition against some of the top wrestlers and teams in the state.
This year, Pagosa has a fairly inexperienced team, with many young wrestlers still learning their chops.
One of the best ways to develop techniques and strategies is to compete against the best.
One of the ways to see what you’ve learned is to compete against another team that is in a situation similar to your own.
The Pirates got the chance to examine what remains to be done in order to make their way back to the top of the Class 3A heap when they fought at Centauri Saturday.
They had the opportunity to examine what they’ve learned in a Friday night dual with Monte Vista.
The Pirates won the Friday night dual at Monte by a score of 64-17, receiving a substantial number of points on forfeits.
Andrew Clark won his match at 119 pounds, beating Marcel Garcia, 16-5.
Danny Shahan got a win by fall at 130, pinning Garrett Pacheco.
Will Appenzeller pinned his man at 140, defeating Austin Vance.
Koby Close took the match at 145, pinning Nick Maes.
Ryan Hamilton was victorious at 152, winning with a pin of Matt Medina.
“I thought we fought pretty well,” said Pirate coach Dan Janowsky. “Monte Vista has some good kids, and we both have a fairly young group. When the opponent isn’t overwhelming, you can see how your techniques work. Our kids wrestled well, and won.”
Saturday was a different story, a “mixed bag,” according to the coach, with the team going 2-2 for the day, and competing without four starters.
The losses came to Class 2A power Rocky Ford and to what is arguably the best team in 3A — Olathe.
“You know what you’re doing wrong against those guys,” said Janowsky. “It’s not fun, but it’s useful. We’ve had our turn (as a high-ranked team) and we’ll have another turn in not too long of a time.”
Pagosa lost to Olathe 65-12.
Dalton Gregory pinned Nate Brown, at 112.
Appenzeller got a 10-3 decision over Myles Yarnell at 140.
Waylon Lucero beat Zack Standberry, 11-10, at 160.
Olathe won the tournament, defeating the hosts and reigning state champion Falcons and, in doing so, beat three of Centauri’s returning state medalists.
Rocky Ford beat the Pirates 50-24.
Appenzeller pinned Brandon Dickenson, at 140.
Clint Manzanares got a pin at 189, defeating Tim Gearhart.
Preston Sandoval pinned Jose Tapia at 275.
The Pirates then came back with a 51-30 win over Buena Vista.
Clark beat Lee Cooper at 119.
Lucero pinned Tyler Knigge at 160.
Ty Lovato got a win by fall at 171 over Nate Reed.
Pagosa and Monte Vista squared off a second time in two days and Pagosa prevailed again.
Hamilton earned a 17-2 decision over Matt Medina at 152.
The Centauri tourney featured a “match-up” round, allowing wrestlers to fight a fifth match.
Clint Manzanares pinned Ben Grossman, of Florence, at 189.
“It’s tempting to be negative,” said Janowsky, “and we didn’t hold up like we should. It’s not that we should have won, but we needed to extend some of our matches. We were down four starters — Dakota Miller (injury), E.J. Romero (illness), Andrew Rice (illness) and Jordan Neuleib (illness) — and their absences played a part. We ended up forfeiting Rice and Miller’s weights.
“We plugged in a couple of sophomores — Dane Murdock (125) and Ty Lovato (171) — and they wrestled as hard as anyone on our team,” said the coach. “Lovato was very combative and competitive. He was everything you want a backup to be.”
The regular season ends this week, after which the regional tournament, to be held this year in Trinidad, will be seeded.
Tonight, the Pirates travel to Bayfield for the teams’ Intermountain League dual. Wrestling begins at 6 p.m.
Tomorrow, Pagosa will host a make-up Intermountain League dual with Centauri, with action starting at the high school gym at 5 p.m. Bloomfield, N.M., also comes to town and the Pirates and Bobcats will battle, with JV action starting after the Centauri dual.