Knowing that the Pagosa Springs High School wrestling team would present a stiff challenge, the Montezuma-Cortez High School wrestling team took to its home mat on Feb. 8 and did its best to tune up for the postseason.
Among the Panthers wrestlers who figure to play a significant role in that postseason was 152-pound senior Matthew Broughton, who squared off against freshman junior Tay Barker and dominated from start to finish.
After taking Barker down several times throughout the first 40 seconds of the match, Broughton tossed Barker to the mat and pinned him with ease. As his arms were raised by the referee after the final home match of his high school career, Broughton grinned and acknowledged his home fans.
“I’m practicing working on my feet right now, Broughton said. “That’s what I worked on tonight. I feel good with where I’m at. I’m ready for whatever is coming next.”
Also performing impressively for M-CHS in the final home match of his high school career was 182-pound senior Swayde Noyes, who pinned fellow senior Connor Aragon with 1:25 in the third period after a back-and-forth match.
Asked about the keys to his victory over the region’s second-ranked wrestler, Noyes explained that subtle changes in his technique have allowed him to make necessary improvements in advance of the regional and possibly the state tournament.
“I liked (my performance) a lot,” Noyes said. “I changed my stance from being straight-legged in the early season to having bent knees now. I just have to go to regionals and wrestle my match. I have to go out there with 100 percent all of the time.”
Other winners for the Panthers included Kael Buffington, who won a 4-3 decision over Trevor Torrez in the 106-pound match.
Also putting forth an impressive performance was Austin Featherman, who pinned Tommy Barker in the 126-pound match.
“I just went out there ready to wrestle, angry,” Featherman said. “I just need to keep my head up and not get beat mentally (at regionals). My goal is to qualify for the state tournament.”
Among the other notable matches on the evening was a hard-fought contest between M-CHS senior Shawn Higgins and sophomore Brae Bergdolt at 138 pounds. Clearly hampered by a leg injury, Higgins showed great heart before succumbing in overtime and losing an 11-7 decision.
Jayven Valdez, Stevie Fuentes, Ethan Root, Casen Allmon, Kerwin Tom, Kale Hall and Devan Frost also competed for M-CHS and lost their respective matches.
In spite of his team’s loss in the dual however, Panthers’ head coach Shad Bellmire expressed satisfaction with his team’s mindset heading into regionals.
“Regionals is coming up, and we’ve got to get that mentality of it’s not over until the end of the third period,” Bellmire said. “We just need to fight.”
M-CHS will kick off its regional competition in Grand Junction on Feb. 15.