In a rare event on their own mat on the DHS campus, the Demons wrestled hard and turned in a mostly dominant performance in a 63-18 dual-meet win against rival Montezuma-Cortez. With the win, DHS retained the traveling trophy at stake whenever the two teams meet in a dual.
DHS saw an early 15-0 lead turn into an 18-15 deficit after Montezuma-Cortez reeled off three consecutive victories via pin, but Durango would win the final four matches of the night, all via pin, to secure a lopsided victory.
“Last year, we could never get it rolling and get points on the board against Cortez,” Durango’s Tyler Woodworth said. “After those three losses in a row, it started the murderer’s row of the Durango train. We were happy to get it going there.”
DHS had six forfeit wins in weight classes in which the visiting Panthers did not have an athlete. Still, Durango won five of the eight matches contested.
“Durango has got some numbers now,” said Cortez head coach Shad Belmire. “It’s good, strength in numbers, for sure. Hopefully, we can match them down the road. They’re just gonna get tougher.”
The first match would be the lone decision of the night, as Beau Brunson of Durango worked past Jayven Valdez at 113 pounds to secure a 4-3 win.
But Montezuma-Cortez would get hot and steal the momentum, as Ryan Pipkin pinned Durango’s Chris McGrath 39 seconds into the third period at 120 pounds to get the Panthers rolling. Austin Featherman followed at 126 pounds, and he would pin Durango’s Chase Mendenwaldt with eight seconds remaining in the first period.
“He ended up getting the takedown, controlled that lead and took it from there,” Belmire said of Featherman. “Our region is tough, but he’s got a chance to make it to state.”
The final Panthers win came at 132 pounds from Caden Cote, as he would pin Preston Sellers with three seconds to go before the first period buzzer.
Everything would change in a hurry once the Demons got into the middle weights.
“We were a little bit rusty, and Durango came out real aggressive,” Belmire said. “Everyone is getting down toward regional time. It’s time to shift the gear. Durango had the gear shifted tonight, and we didn’t match that level of aggressiveness.”
Payson Albrecht wrestled for DHS at 138 pounds, and he would pin Jaquin Laner 1:05 into the second period. Jacob Rowe of Durango would pick up a forfeit win at 145 pounds before Durango’s Woodworth stepped on the mat at 152 pounds to face Ethan Root.
Woodworth, ranked 11th in Class 4A’s 152 pounds in the most recent On the Mat rankings produce by Tim Yount, had struggled with Root in the past, but not Wednesday night. Woodworth would earn a pin victory 1:06 into the second period to give the Demons all the momentum and a 33-18 lead.
“(Root) had beat me twice last year and pinned me with the same move I pinned him with tonight,” Woodworth said. “It was a big win for me in a two-year rivalry. I won’t see him anymore since he’s a senior, which makes me a little sad because it’s fun to have a rival, but the match felt awesome.”
Ben Belt of Durango followed Woodworth with a pin for the Demons. Belt scored three easy takedowns of Montezuma-Cortez’s Casen Allmon before he pinned the Panther with 58 seconds left to wrestle in the third period.
“I’ve been working on my shot for a long time, and I feel like it’s probably one of my best skills in a wrestling match,” Belt said. “I had wrestled (Allmon) before, and he’s really good. I was glad to go out there and wrestle well again against him.”
DHS would secure three consecutive forfeit victories with James Storm (170), Austin Albrecht (182) and Alex Finneseth (195) all unopposed.
The final match would come at 220 pounds, where Durango’s Miguel Stubbs showed plenty of aggression and worked past Devan Frost for a pin 1:26 into the second period.
After the match, the Demons got together for a celebratory photo on their home mat to pose with the traveling trophy.
“It’s a good feeling,” Stubbs said. “I know the entire team, this was one of our rival teams, so it was a big thing for everyone here, and everyone was excited to come out and get that win against Cortez.”
Montezuma-Cortez has one dual-meet left to wrestle before regionals, and that will come Thursday night against Pagosa Springs.
“Some people say, ‘Hey, those teams are tough,’ but I also have tough kids,” Belmire said. “We just gotta keep battling and stay in good positions and not give up silly takedowns. It’s a chess game when you’re going against good, solid kids this time of year.”
The Demons will head to Montrose for the Southwestern League duals this weekend before regionals the following week.
“Those are all gonna be big duals, but we’re ready for them,” Belt said. “Last year, we had a much smaller team with some good guys. This year, we have more people out, and that’s really helping the team out in these duals.”