It was a tough and instructive experience for Pagosa wrestlers competing at last week’s Colorado Class 3A state wrestling tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Pagosa qualified eight athletes for the state tournament, but the squad that made the trip was relatively inexperienced — few of them having walked onto the floor of the Pepsi Center and into the maelstrom that produces one of the most exciting sporting events of the year.
Pirates fighting at state included Andrew Clark, at 125 pounds; Dakota Miller, 135; Will Appenzeller, 140; Ryan Hamilton, 152; Waylon Lucero, 160; Clint Manzanares, 189; Andrew Rice, 215; and Preston Sandoval, 285.
Clark, Hamilton and Lucero are seniors and, thus, fought their last high school matches at Denver.
Several of the Pirates won matches at the state tournament.
Clark secured a victory in a first-round consolation match, defeating Hunter Bell of Bennett, 10-4.
Miller won his opening match, beating Andre Rodriguez of Valley, 18-4.
Lucero started his tournament with a win, pinning Joe Franco of Academy at 4 minutes, 50 seconds.
Manzanares got an opening day win, getting a close 13-11 decision over Walker Gonzales of Valley.
Coach Dan Janowsky lauded his seniors.
“You start with a big pack of kids in junior high and, as the next four or five years go by, many of them eliminate themselves for a variety of reasons. By the time guys are down to their last year, most kids they started with are gone. The guys who hang in there have a special place with me; they’ve stuck with something difficult. I respect each one of them for that.
“In Andrew’s case, he never had a winning season, but he never threw in the towel. It seemed that things clicked for him in the last ten days or so of the season — he really started coming into his own. He put some things together and he battled through to the end.”
Of Hamilton, the coach said, “Ryan meant a lot to us. He’s one of those guys who, in every respect, is as good as our school produces. He is a good student, a good citizen, a good athlete, a guy who is consistently doing good things. He stuck to it, and he ended up at the state tournament.”
Janowsky said of Lucero, “Waylon was so close to placing. He was our guy with the most time spent wrestling, and he’s been on the front line for us since he was a freshman; he started all four years of his career. He had a very good senior season and was an excellent leader for us.”
A good season is what Janowsky will remember of 2009-2010.
“All year long, he said, “we had very little veteran experience in the room. We had two kids who had performed on the floor at the state tournament. That makes a huge difference. When we got to Denver, our guys looked shocked, like kids do their first time there. They get overwhelmed by that environment at the Pepsi Center. Now, hopefully, we will bring back five wrestlers with that experience. There’s a confidence exuded by guys who have been there.
“We had our work cut out for us all year long, and we did well overall,” said the coach. “We had fourteen dual meet wins, we finished second in the IML and we qualified eight for the state tournament.
“We had a good year, on the balance. We need to rebuild a little bit, to where we’re stronger when we get to the big floor at Denver. We have some good junior high kids coming to the program next year and we had a quality freshman class this year. Our sophomores were strong and were starting to push the older guys near the end of the season.
“Overall, we’re headed in the right direction.”