The Mancos Blue Jays and Dolores Bears combined for three individual league titles at the San Juan Basin League Duals in Norwood last Thursday.
Mancos senior Richard Martinez, freshman Breccen Morelli, and Dolores sophomore Cameron Chavez all cruised to 3-0 finishes to take home league championship honors in their respective weight classes.
Martinez got a win by fall over Norwood/Nucla’s Ty Carver and picked up forfeit wins over Ignacio and Dolores at 120 pounds. At 138, Morelli won by fall over Norwood/Nucla’s Michael Pfifer, came away with a 4-2 decision over Dustin Sanchez of Ignacio and won by forfeit against Dolores. And as the sole 106-pounder, Chavez got three forfeit victories.
The Bears went 1-2 in duals, and the Jays finished 0-3, but their opponents benefited from forfeits, as each of the squads filled just five of 14 weight classes.
Norwood/Nucla got six forfeits in a 48-18 win over Mancos and in its 54-6 victory over Dolores, and then Ignacio got four forfeit wins in a 36-18 win over Dolores and three in a 30-15 win over Mancos.
After getting four forfeit wins apiece, the Mancos and Dolores dual came down to the 132-pound class, with Dolores sophomore Josh Petrow defeating Mancos freshman Andrew Ruatti by fall to give the Bears a 30-24 win.
Overall, Dolores was led by Chavez at 3-0, and then Zander Eichner (113) and Austin Hackney (126) went 2-1 and Petrow (132) and David Schmittel (145) finished 1-2. Senior Brandon Ward rested to try and heal up from a rib injury prior to the regional tournament.
“The kids are working hard, and I feel like we’ve got a couple of them that are definitely peaking right now,” said Dolores head coach Dane Gallaher.
Along with 3-0 finishes by Martinez and Morelli, Kaleb Hargraves (160) and Cameron Fury (170) each went 2-1 for Mancos and Ruatti (132) finished 0-3.
“They’re coming on at the right time, which is the most important aspect,” said Mancos head coach Travis White. “A couple of kids avenged some earlier losses in the year, which is always a good thing. So I’m feeling really positive about the way they’re wrestling heading into regionals this weekend.”
Dove Creek did not attend after freshman Cade Curtis was ruled out for the year in December due to illness and junior Derek Kibel was later ruled out for the season due to a concussion sustained at the Butch Melton Invitational on Jan. 28.
“It was a rough first year,” said Dove Creek’s first-year head coach Eric Stiasny. “Just having one for the majority of the season. But I enjoyed getting to know Derek a little bit more in the wrestling room and seeing him develop from the beginning of the year to when was unable to wrestle anymore. He’s a hard worker and a pleasant kid to be around, and I really hope he’s back next year.”
The Bears and Blue Jays now turn their eyes to the postseason, as they’ll head to the Class 2A Region 1 Tournament hosted at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction beginning on Friday.
There, the top four finishers in each weight class will advance to the Colorado State Championships at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Feb. 16-18.
The squads have a tough road ahead of them, with five of the top 10 Class 2A teams competing in the same region (No. 2 Meeker, No. 3 Hotchkiss, No. 4 Norwood/Nucla, No. 5 Paonia, No. 9 Ignacio).
But Mancos heavyweight Casey Orange is ranked No. 8 in Tim Yount’s On The Mat Rankings, and he has him fourth in the region. Martinez is currently the No. 1 ranked 2A wrestler at 120 pounds with Ward on his tail at No. 2. – so both Gallaher and White are hoping to send a couple of grapplers to Denver.
“I’d really like to get two guys on to state, and maybe squeeze a third one in,” said Gallaher. “I was really hoping to get four this year, but losing Logan Fuller and Skieler Grooms – they were a couple of guys that probably had a good shot at qualifying – so it’s going to be a little tougher to qualify more than two this year.”
“We want to send as many kids as possible to state, but the region we wrestle in is so difficult that it’s always a challenge,” said White. “We’d love to send the whole team up there, but that’s just a fantasy. The way the kids are wrestling though, they have a great opportunity, and I’d like to see two to three kids qualify this year.”