Competing against several larger schools at the Montrose Indian Invitational, the Dolores Bears wrestling team showed itself capable of competing at a higher level.
By the time all was said and done, the seven-man Bears team ranked 10th out of the 13 teams that attended the Jan. 11 tournament.
Directly contributing to the team's success, four Dolores wrestlers made the podium.
Among those who stood on the podium for the Bears was senior Deano Valdez, who, after losing 8-1 to eventual 145-pound champion Travis Myers (Pueblo West), won two matches to finish third in the tournament.
Also climbing onto the podium for the Bears was senior Ethen Upton, who, wrestling in his first tournament of the season, finished 4-1 and earned a third-place finish in the 170-pound division.
"There was a lot of rust to knock off there," said Bears' coach Leo Garand. "(Upton) had been injured, and his workouts had been limited. There was a lot of rust we had to knock off there."
Junior Guy Wallace rounded out the Bears wrestlers who finished in the top four, earning a fourth place finish by virtue of his 3-2 overall record.
Other Bears' wrestlers who performed well, yet failed to make the podium, included freshman Richard Martinez, freshman Tristan Medina, freshman Riley Syra and freshman Brandon Ward.
Martinez finished the tournament with a 2-2 record in the 120-pound division, Medina finished 1-2 at 113-pounds, Syra finished 0-2 at 152-pounds, and Ward finished 1-2 at 106 pounds.
Especially impressive amongst the group of freshman was Syra, who, according to Garand, nearly secured a takedown against top ranked 2A wrestler, Ty Coats.
"(Syra) was the inspiration of the day,' said Garand. "It was awesome to see him go out there and let it fly."
As for his team's overall performance, Garand expressed satisfaction with the young group's development.
"We're continuously getting better," said Garand. "We're improving because we're going to tougher tournaments."
Speaking of Bears tough schedule, Dolores will nest travel to Monticello on Jan. 15 before competing at the Shiprock Tournament on Jan. 17.