It was a heartbreaking start to the final day of the Colorado High School Activities Association State Wrestling Championships for two area wrestlers, as both came up just short of reaching the podium rounds.
Bayfield High School’s Dylan Pickering lost the Class 3A 138-pound consolation quarterfinal to Colton Simonis of Woodland Park (18-6) in a 13-11 overtime decision. Durango’s Ben Belt also lost his consolation quarterfinal matchup, to Max Coddington (32-10) of Vista Ridge in a 5-1 decision in the 4A 160-pound bracket. He was the last DHS wrestler that had yet to be eliminated from medal contention.
Pickering (37-13), a junior, got out to an early 5-1 lead at the end of the first period after he recorded a takedown and a three-point near fall. In the second, Simonis responded with an escape, a takedown and a two-point near fall to take a 6-5 lead after the second. In a frantic third, each wrestler was desperate to win, which would ensure a spot on the podium.
Simonis started with a takedown six seconds in. Pickering responded with a two-point reversal and had back-to-back near falls to take an 11-7 lead. Sibonis had more in the tank, and in the final 20 seconds, recorded an escape and got a takedown with three seconds remaining in regulation to tie the match at 11. In overtime, Sibonis scored a takedown with 34 seconds left to pull off the stunning comeback win.
“It was a tough one and you hate to see it go that way,” said BHS head coach Todd McMenimen. “When you’re at that point in the match, it’s hard to keep up the momentum and we didn’t have enough in the tank. He left it all out there and came a couple seconds short of making the podium. That’s one of those hallways walks that you never like to do, and unfortunately, I’ve been back there a few too many times. He will become a better wrestler for this; there’s no doubt in my mind that he can come back.”
In Belt’s match, it was a scoreless first period. In the second, with Coddington choosing to start on bottom, the Vista Ridge wrestler picked up an escape point and earned a takedown to go up 3-0 after two periods. In the third, Coddington got a takedown before Belt (31-21) answered back with an escape point. Belt tried to fight for more points but time expired.
“I realize at state that everyone for the most part is at the same level as you,” Belt said. “It has to do with how bad you want it and how hard you want to push. I took shots I needed to at the end, and I wish I could’ve scored more. There were a few things that I could’ve done better, but I’m still happy with how I wrestled at state as a sophomore.”
Durango head coach Robert Finneseth wrapped up his first season in charge, and he saw the Demons make plenty of strides. He is eager to get a larger number of wrestlers out for the team next season.
“I was pleased in a lot of ways, without a doubt,” Finneseth said. “The fact that they’re still very interested in what we need to do in the offseason, the amount of kids that are eager to hop into the program, the eighth graders are seeing a bit more momentum. It still takes time, but without a doubt, we built a really good base. We’ll have just one senior back next year in Jacob Rowe, so we’ll still be considered extremely young. But with the experience the kids got this year, it will only help us for the future.”
Ignacio High SchoolWhile the Ignacio High School wrestling team did not have any wrestlers compete on the final day of the tournament, IHS head coach Jordan Larsen was impressed with the way his three qualifiers competed.
“Shoot, at the end of the day, me and coach Boyce are proud of the boys,” Larsen said. “It’s never fun to finish when you don’t place at a tournament, but we still fought really hard. For Randy (Herrera) to make it to state twice after the way his career started, I’m so proud of him. The younger kids, Tyler (Barnes) and Keaton (McCoy), they got to experience state, which will be huge moving forward. ... I hope to get more middle schoolers out next year, and we’re going to do some camps and tournaments. We want to keep building on this.”
Bayfield’s John Foutz will wrestle for the 3A 220-pound championship against Cody Ponce of Eagle Valley at around 8:30 p.m., according to McMenimen. The Parade of Champions will kick off the championship round at 6:30 p.m.