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The state wrestling tournament proved a tough experience for five Pirate athletes, but their participation signals yet another step in the eventual ascension of the program to the top of the 3A ranks.
Weather and injury conspired to make last week’s trip to the mats at Denver’s Pepsi Center more difficult than usual. None of the five Pirates who competed this year earned a medal for a top-six performance, but all acquitted themselves well, with three of the five primed for a return to the event next year.
As was the case at the regional tournament the week before, the Pirates started slow on the first day of competition. Each of the Pirates faced rough opponents, only one of whom did not go on to place at the tourney.
One Pirate won a match on Thursday. Creede Wylie, wrestling at 285 pounds with a shoulder injury he suffered the week before, earned a 3-2 decision over Oscar Soto, of Brush. Wylie lost his second match of the tournament to a wrestler from La Junta, then lost his final match 1-0 on a stalling call.
“Creede’s injury limited his wrestling,” said Coach Dan Janowsky. “In the two matches he lost, he was in them. He’s there in a lot of ways and shows real promise for next year. He was also wrestling with stress fractures in his feet, so he overcame a lot of obstacles.”
Morgan Shelton (170) lost his Thursday match to an eventual placer from Ridgeview. In his second match, Shelton got takedowns early, but his opponent tied the match to send it into overtime where a single point put Shelton out of the competition.
“Morgan has been there (the state tournament) two times now,” said the coach. “Technically, his skills have developed. Now, he needs to believe more in himself.”
David McRee (182), like Wylie, went 1-2 at Denver. McRee lost his first match to an athlete from Lamar and suffered an injury to his sternum in the process.
“He came back the next day,” said Janowsky. “He was sore, but he wrestled well and had a good, solid performance in his second match.” A loss in his third match put McRee out of the running but, said Janowsky, “he showed a lot of courage getting in there and finishing.”
The two seniors on the roster — Dalton Gregory and Cody Snow — ended their high school careers with 2-2 records at state.
Gregory, fighting at 138 pounds, lost his Thursday match to the eventual third-place finisher from Sterling.
“Dalton rose to the occasion on Friday,” said the coach. “He had two major decisions on Friday, against Sheridan and Bayfield. The guy from Bayfield had beaten Dalton at regionals. In winning two on Friday, he got to the top eight before he lost Saturday to the kid from Salida, who finished fifth. He lost to good kids, so there are no regrets. He fought hard and well. Finishing in the top eight is proof of your toughness. At regionals, the weak are weeded out. At state, the strong are weeded out. He was eliminated by strong opponents.”
Snow (150) lost 5-1 on Thursday to the eventual champion, John Lopez, of Buena Vista. On Friday, Snow defeated an opponent from Strasburg 8-7 then pinned a Hotchkiss wrestler to advance to the consolation quarterfinal, which he lost Saturday to the eventual fourth-place finisher from La Junta.
“Cody was in the lead,” said the coach, “but made a couple of strategic errors and had to take chances. The fact that he, and Dalton, both made it to Saturday matches is impressive.”
Janowsky was upbeat following the tournament.
“In one sense,” he said, “I am ready to get on with it. I’ve looked at the past two to three years, and it was hard to get some of the performances we did this post-season. We’ve broken through that a bit; our guys are clearly getting better. You don’t always get what you want, even when you put a lot into it. Others are putting a lot into it as well. We’ve learned things, accomplished things. I am pretty pleased. Last year at state we lost six matches, with no wins. This year, we were extremely competitive. With the guys who were there, the level of motivation was high. They want to get better at the sport. It takes time to get the fever; now, the guys who are coming back have seen the big picture. They’re excited, and I’m ready to start again.”