For the Dolores High School wrestling team's two seniors, the Colorado State Wrestling Tournament provided a fitting farewell.
For team's two freshman qualifiers, the tournament provided valuable experience.
And for the team as a whole, Colorado's showcase wrestling event provided a preview of things to come.
Upton flourishes in final tournament
Competing in his final high school tournament, Bears' senior Ethen Upton (22-4) put the final touches on a brilliant career, finishing third overall in the Class 2A 182-pound division.
Opening the tournament against Cheyenne Wells High School's Jeremiah Cozart on Feb. 20, Upton was completely dominant, pinning his overmatched opponent with little difficulty.
With the win, Upton advanced to the quarterfinals match against Sierra Grande High School's Jose Cisneros on Feb. 21.
Battling Cisneros for three periods, Upton won in dramatic fashion, scoring three points late in the third period to win a hard fought 7-6 decision.
With the win, Upton moved on to a Feb. 21 semifinal showdown with Swink High School's Brody Wisemon.
Hoping to advance to the state finals, Upton competed with Wisemon from start to finish, but in the end fell short, dropping a 4-2 decision.
Undeterred by the difficult loss however, Upton moved into the consolation bracket where he defeated Fowler High School's Blaine Larson and Hayden High School's Taylor Lewis on Feb. 22 to earn third place.
"It was definitely a great tournament," said Upton. "Coming out of my tough semifinals loss and coming back to take third feels pretty great."
Valdez ends career with fourth-place finish
Wrestling in his final high school tournament, Bears' senior Deano Valdez (33-9) went out with a bang, finishing fourth overall in a stacked 145-pound weight class.
Opening competition against Merino High School's Leon Johnson on Feb. 20, Valdez fought to a 10-4 decision victory.
Not quite as sharp the following day however, Valdez dropped a 4-2 decision to Swink High School's Blake Denton on Feb. 21 in a match marred by questionable calls.
Moving into the consolation bracket, Valdez dominated Norwood High School's Trenton Armintrout 11-3, beat Center High School's Jeremiah Mereno 3-1 and bested Burlington High School's Madison Grinnan 7-6 to move into the consolation finals.
Again matching up against Johnson with third place on the line, Valdez was defeated 8-4, thus placing fourth overall.
Martinez gains valuable experience
Competing in his first high school state tournament, Bears' 113-pound freshman Richard Martinez (31-13) was solid, finishing 2-2 over the course of two days.
After opening with a 16-0 technical fall win over Fowler High School's Gino DeVore on Feb. 20, Martinez was defeated 9-0 by Merino High School's Marcelino Baptista in the second round on Feb. 21.
Martinez then defeated Byers High School's Daldon Eldringhoff on Feb. 21 before being eliminated by Rocky Ford's Jeremy Fraser.
"It was a good experience," said Martinez, reflecting on his state tournament. "I think I could have done better, but the pressure got to me a little bit."
Medina wrestles well to conclude year
Also competing in his first high school wrestling tournament, Bears' 106-pound freshman Tristan Medina (20-16) turned in a solid performance, finishing 1-2 overall.
After being pinned by Akron High School's Tanner Watson to open the tournament on Feb. 20, Medina rebounded nicely, pinning Las Animas High School's Marcos Fernandez on Feb. 21.
Unable to advance further however, Medina was pinned by Lyons High School's William Hickman in the final match of his state tournament.
"It was great being here," said Medina. "I hope to get into the wrestling room over the summer so that I can do better next year."
Overall, the Bears' performance at the state tournament was certainly an encouraging sign for a Dolores wrestling program looking to build.
"We accomplished our goals this year and we will be even better next season," said Bears' head coach Leo Garand. "I'm excited."