Eight area wrestlers punched their tickets to the Colorado State Championships this weekend – and there’s a chance that two of them could go No. 1 and No. 2 in the same division.
On the Mat’s rankings on Thursday placed Mancos senior Richard Martinez at No. 1 in Class 2A’s 120-pound weight class, and Dolores senior Brandon Ward directly behind at No. 2. The Blue Jays are also sending 170-pounder Cameron Fury to Denver, and freshman Zander Eichner will represent the Bears at 113 pounds.
Montezuma-Cortez had four grapplers earn their way to the Pepsi Center in Shawn Higgins, Stevie Fuentes, Matthew Broughton and Josh Ramos.
Starting with Class 2A’s top 120 pounders, Martinez and Ward finished first and second, respectively, last weekend at the Class 2A Region 1 Tournament.
Both opened with a bye and two straight pins to cruise to the regional championship, where Martinez then won by a 10-4 decision. It was the second time the pair met this season, with Martinez taking their previous matchup at the Dawg Fight in Dove Creek in a close 7-6 decision.
“It was another good match,” said Mancos head coach Travis White. “Anytime those two match up, it’s a battle. Richard is kind of winning the takedown game, and that’s where we’re ahead. But Brandon is dangerous on bottom, and that’s kind of one of our challenges with him, is how much do we want to wrestle when we’re on top.”
The two wrestlers know each other well. Martinez attended Dolores High School before transferring to Mancos, and they’ve competed against each other since their pee-wee days. And now, Martinez and Ward have a chance to face off for the third time this season, but this time, in the state championship match.
Martinez has the edge on the year and has compiled a 33-1 season record, but Ward, who is 22-4, may have an advantage when it comes to experience after finishing third the past two years at state.
“The kids are pretty even,” said Dolores head coach Dane Gallaher. “And we got across from each other in the bracket, so we’re really hoping we get to see each other in the finals.”
After going 5-2 at 113 pounds in the regional, Eichner will join teammate Ward in Denver. And while it’s his first year at the state tourney, he’s no stranger to high-profile tournaments.
“He is a freshman, but he’s been to middle school state the last two years, so he’s had some exposure to the bigger stage,” said Gallaher. “But high school is definitely a bigger stage, being in the Pepsi Center with all the people and everything. But we’ll just keep him encouraged and tell him to go out and wrestle hard and let the chips fall as they may.”
Fury, a junior at Mancos, will also compete in the Class 2A State Championships, at 170 pounds. After opening with a bye and then falling in his first match in last weekend’s regional, Fury caught fire and won three straight – including a win by fall over the No. 5 Kaden Murray-Owens of Hotchkiss – to finish fourth.
“That Hotchkiss kid was beating Cameron up pretty good, but a fire finally lit in Cameron’s eye,” said White. “It’s something that we’ve all seen him do before, but he hasn’t competitively brought it to the wrestling mat, and it was unbelievable when it happened. He started wrestling better than I’ve ever seen him before, and if he keeps that fire, Cameron really has a very good chance of doing something at state.”
Mancos freshman Breccen Morelli (138) and junior Kaleb Hargraves (160) wrapped up their seasons with 4-3 records and fifth place finishes at the regional tournament, and the Blue Jays took eighth as a team.
“It was by far our best tournament of the year,” said White. “We ended up in eighth place, and we only had four kids wrestling. So, to me, that was extremely impressive. They put together their best tournament of their year so far, and both Kaleb and Breccen finished fifth place.”
Finishing up the Bears’ season at the regional tourney, Austin Hackney (126) was 3-3 and finished sixth, Cameron Chavez (106) went 2-2, David Schmittel (152) was 1-2, and Josh Petrow (132) went 0-2. Tezman Hackney didn’t compete at regionals after losing in a wrestle-off to Chavez, but Gallaher said that he is the team’s most improved wrestler on the year.
“I’m just so proud of the guys,” Gallaher said. “They worked hard and we had to work through some adversity this year. We lost some kids to injury and we lost some kids to grades, but the seven that finished the season, I couldn’t be happier with them. They just worked hard every day and did what they needed to.”
Panthers send four to stateMoving on to Class 3A, the M-CHS Panthers have nearly a handful of state qualifiers in Higgins (106), Fuentes (113), Broughton (132) and Ramos (145) – with sophomores Higgins, Fuentes and Broughton all reaching the title match in their respective classes at the Class 3A Region 1 Tournament last weekend.
Higgins got a bye and then won two straight before falling to No. 4 Owen Berry of Buena Vista in the championship match to take second. Fuentes opened with a bye and won two consecutive before falling to No. 4 A.J. Serna of Grand Valley in the title match in a 7-3 decision. Broughton also opened with a bye before taking down two ranked opponents to reach the title match, where he fell to No. 3 ranked Anthony Quintana of Buena Vista in a tight 2-1 decision.
“Stevie was wrestling a top-ranked kid and got real defensive against him,” M-CHS head coach Shad Bellmire said. “Especially when you get to state you’re going to see other tough kids out of other regions, and we cant be defensive on our feet, we’ve got to start taking them down.”
“Matt wrestled his kid really tough, but we just came up short,” he continued. “He got the legs in, and we couldn’t get out of ’em. We’ll have to get off the bottom, and we need to start getting takedowns with those type of kids with Matt as well. And Shawn just got put in a cradle and couldn’t get hand control and the guy locked it up and that was it. They did well getting there, but that’s what happened to us in the finals.”
Ramos, a senior, started with a bye but then dropped a 10-6 decision to No. 6 Trevor Bryant of Pagosa Springs. But he bounced back to win three straight – including a 5-4 decision over No. 4 ranked Kole Roberts of Delta – before falling to Bryant 6-2 in the third place match to finish fourth by rule over Roberts.
“That was a tough weight bracket,” said Bellmire. “We knocked off Roberts, and I think he took fourth last year at state, and we beat him to get in. And we were up on Bryant from Pagosa 4-0 and tied it up but got thrown. But beating that Roberts kid was a big match. That was his ticket to state.”
Finishing off their season at the regional tourney were Briggs Durbin (160), who went 3-3 to place sixth, and then Swayde Noyes (170) and Kerwin Tom (182) each went 2-2 and Casen Allmon (126) was 1-2.
“I’m excited for the kids that did qualify for state, but I’m proud of the whole team that finished the season – all my wrestlers,” said Bellmire. “And thanks to my coaches Ryan Daves and Evan Frost for making this happen as well.”
The Class 2A and Class 3A Colorado State Championships begin on Thursday with weigh-ins at 11:30 a.m. and preliminary matches starting at 3 p.m.