GRAND JUNCTION - At this point in the season, there are few surprises on the mat.
But on Saturday, Dove Creek's Dalton Randolph surprised almost everyone when he moved from 152 pounds down to 145 for the Class 2A Western Regional Tournament.
Wyatt Wade of Dolores was ready and undaunted.
As the state's second-seeded Class 2A 145-pounder, Wade faced Dove Creek's Randolph in the finals.
It was a matchup pitting two of the better class 2A wrestlers. Randolph came into the tournament ranked fourth at 152 pounds.
After a 2-2 first period, Wade took over and controlled the second but the score remained tied at 2.
In the third, the stocky Dolores senior went up 5-2 before Randolph cut the lead to 5-4.
That's when Wade rolled Randolph onto his back earning the pin with 1:04 remaining in the third.
Wade pumped his fist in the air after scoring the victory. After a frustrating junior season where Wade struggled with health issues, the win was a satisfying return to the top of the podium.
The match was a battle of strength at times, with both using power to try and gain an advantage.
"It always comes down to technique but when it comes down to two guys who are just as good at technique, sometimes it comes down to who can muscle their way through it," Wade said.
Wade finished third at regionals last year and fourth at state.
Randolph placed fifth last year at 138 pounds. He decided that 145 pounds was a better fit for himself.
"I've been weighing in at 145 for most of the year and I felt that I had a better shot at 145 going in," the Dove Creek senior said.
For Dove Creek coach Shane Baughman, it was a frustrating finals for Randolph.
"I thought he had a great semifinal match, but I thought he wrestled not to lose instead of wrestling to win," he said. "And give credit to Wyatt, he wrestled a great match."
The loss by Randolph capped a disappointing afternoon for Dove Creek. Even tough the Bulldogs qualified nine wrestlers for the state tournament, they only had one regional champ.
Senior Cole Baughman notched his second-straight title with a dominating 11-3 win over Meeker's J.C. Henderson in the 132-pound finals.
He's now focused and on track to battle for a state title. Last season, he placed second at state while wrestling at 120 pounds.
Dove Creek wrestlers picked up four second places, three third places and a fourth place.
Paonia continued to be the main rival and tormentor for the Bulldogs. Three Dove Creek wrestlers lost to Paonia opponents in the finals, and Paonia finished with eight regional champions and will send 13 wrestlers to the state tournament.
Chance Randolph faced the defending state champion Jesse Reed of Paonia in the 120-pound final, but came up on the short end, 6-2.
The two sophomores were locked in a tight match throughout with Reed taking a 2-0 lead before Chance Randolph tied the score with a reversal.
Reed was methodical, taking a tactical approach to the match wrestling the edge of the mat, forcing Chance Randolph to be the aggressor. The strategy worked with Reed scoring an escape and takedown to pull away for the win.
"I don't think I wrestled as good as I thought I could," Chance Randolph said.
Tyler Ebberts, who broke his nose a couple of weeks ago and now wears a protective mask, also came up a little short against his Paonia opponent.
Ebberts fell behind 4-0 after the first period to Gunner Chesnik. Ebberts just missed a couple of chances and the score stayed tied after two. The Dove Creek senior twisted his way to a reversal halfway through the third to cut the lead to 4-2, but Chesnik held on to take the 138-pound title.
Nick Jones picked up a second place at 126 pounds for the Bulldogs, losing to Paonia's Bo Pipher. Tyson Smith placed third at 285 pounds with a pair of freshmen also earning third-place finishes: Colin Hobbs at 106 and Case Baughman at 113.
Wyatt Applin was the final Dove Creek state qualifier at 170, but he had to earn his fourth-place finish in the wrestleback round.
For Dolores, Ethen Upton claimed third-place at 182 pounds to join Wade as the school's two state qualifiers.
Paonia was a runaway winner for the regional team title with 305 points. Dove Creek finished second with 187.5 points.
Shane Baughman was disappointed that only one wrestler earned a regional title, but he was still cautiously optimistic about state.
"Any one of those guys have a chance to do well at state," he said.
The state tournament begins Thursday in Denver at the Pepsi Center.