Missing their two seniors to injuries and their top junior to a shooting competition, the Dolores Bears wrestling team had every reason to fail.
Obviously, failure is not an option for this year's Bears' team, however, which, as a whole, wrestled extremely well at Dove Creek in the Dawg-Fight Tournament on Dec. 14.
Finishing fifth in the 15-team tournament, the Bears were paced by freshman Tristan Medina, who placed first in the 113-pound division.
Also wrestling well for the Bears were youngsters Brandon Ward and Richard Martinez. Ward placed second in the 106-pound division, while Martinez placed third at 120 pounds.
"The three of them, being as close as they are in weight class, they really push each other," said Bears' head coach Leo Garand. "They put in a great week of practice and it showed."
In addition to the outstanding work put in by young Bears' wrestlers, junior 182-pound freshman Abe Lobato finished third in the 182-pound division. Devon Reed finished fourth in the 195-pound division.
"Abe did well," said Garland. He popped a rib out, but he still had enough wins to finish second."
With the Piedra Vista Tournament scheduled for this weekend, Garand expressed hope that his team would continue to build on its early season success.
"We've got to get people healthy," said Garand. "Getting Deano Valdez (out with concussion) back in the lineup will be big."
Considering the success of the Bears' young wrestlers, a healthy Valdez has to be a scary thought for upcoming foes, who figure to face a stiff challenge from a young and hungry team.