Stepping onto the mat at the Warrior Classic wrestling tournament in Grand Junction, Dec. 15-16, the Montezuma-Cortez High School wrestling team knew that it would be up against high-level competition.
Several Panthers acquitted themselves well in the 42-team tournament, however, as five of seven team representatives wrestlers picked up wins and the team finished 34th overall. M-CHS’s spot in the standings was made sweeter by the fact that Durango placed 38th.
Among the most successful members of the M-CHS team at the Warrior Classic was 145-pounder Matthew Broughton, who won three of his five matches and narrowly missed out on the podium.
Broughton’s day opened on a high note as he pinned Denver East’s Trevor Hayes and scored a technical fall victory over Monticello’s Tyler Draper before being pinned by Thompson Valley’s Jay McLaughlin in the semifinals. Broughton then defeated Central High School’s Tiga Lundin before losing his final match of the tournament to Pueblo Centennial’s Cole Hernandez.
“(Matthew) has been there before, so he knew that it was a tough tournament,” said M-CHS head coach Shad Bellmire. “He was wrestling some bigger kids, and he did well. He didn’t wrestle flawlessly in the quarterfinals, and it cost us the match.”
Also enjoying a solid tournament for M-CHS was 120-pounder Shawn Higgins, who opened with a pin victory over Battle Mountain’s Nate Sandoval and a major decision victory over Pueblo Centennial’s Leo Casavilla. Higgins’ tournament came to an end however, after a pin loss to Meeker’s Jacob Pelloni in the quarterfinals and a loss to Rocky Moutain’s Lucas Hefner.
“Shawn gave it everything that he had, and he didn’t quit,” said Bellmire. “He wrestled well. He made a mistake in the quarterfinals, but he will learn from it and continue to improve.”
Other wrestlers picking up victories for the Panthers included 126-pounder Anthony Abeyta, who finished the tournament 1-2; 132-pounder Wes Atcitty, who finished 1-2; and 182-pounder Kerwin Tom; who finished 1-2.
Failing to win a match, but gaining valuable experience, were 152-pounder Thorin Howell and 106-pounder Kael Buffington.
“Our freshmen gain valuable experience,” said Bellmire. “They know that it’s a tough tournament, and it’s good for them to get there and absorb that. They had bit of a deer in the headlight look, but this tournament is something that they can learn from.”