Six wrestlers, five trips to the podium and four state qualifying efforts: Not a bad haul for the Dolores High School wrestling team, which put on a show at the 2A Region 1 Tournament Feb. 14-15.
As a team, the Bears placed fifth overall despite entering only six wrestlers in the tournament.
Leading the way for the Bears, 182-pound senior Ethen Upton (18-3) served notice that he is one of the state's top wrestlers, winning three consecutive matches in route to a regional championship.
Especially impressive was Upton's performance in the finals where he pinned Ignacio's Christian Knoll (24-7) in the third period.
"Ethen went out there and dominated in the finals," said Bears' head coach Leo Garand. "He's been very focused and ready to go. I would not be surprised to see him in the (state) finals."
Upton will begin his state tournament run on Feb. 20 against Cheyenne Wells High School's Jeremiah Cozart (11-17).
Complimenting Upton's performance, 145-pound senior Deano Valdez (29-7) also performed impressively, winning twice before losing a tight decision in the regional finals.
"It's awesome to be going back to state," said Valdez. "Hopefully I'll be able to accomplish my goal of winning a state title."
Valdez opens the state tournament on Feb. 20 against John Mall High School's Adam Serrano-Bobian.
Following the lead of his senior teammates, 113-pound freshman Richard Martinez (29-11) placed third in his first regional tournament, thus qualifying for state.
Wrestling as well as he has all season, Martinez won three of his four matches at the tournament, capping things off with a pin victory over Mancos state qualifier Rudy Archuleta.
"Richard wrestled a phenomenal tournament," said Garand. "I was happy with his performance all the way around."
Martinez will kick off his state tournament run against Fowler's Gino DeVore (19-16) on Feb. 20.
Rounding out the Bears' state qualifiers, 106-pound freshman Tristan Medina (19-14) finished fourth at the regional tournament.
Finishing 3-2, Medina secured his trip to state by besting Dove Creek's Colin Hobbs.
Medina will open the state tournament against Akron High School's Tanner Watson on Feb. 20.
Failing to qualify for state, yet still wrestling well, 138-pound junior Guy Wallace (27-10) finished fifth at the regional tournament.
Clearly disappointed by his result, Wallace can take solace in the fact that he wrestled extremely well throughout the season, inspiring those around him with several top-notch performances. Coaches and teammates fully expect the hard-working junior to qualify next season.