With just two real after-school practices remaining before departure for the Mile High City and this weekend's season-ending spectacle, Bayfield boss Roy Westbrook had to decide how to maximize his men's last moments in the practice room.
And he called in some special guest grapplers to help him do so.
With three Wolverines having survived a powerful Region I Championships in Alamosa, and the CHSAA Class 3A State Championships (Feb. 15-17) in Denver on the horizon, Westbrook contacted Ignacio skipper Jordan Larsen and set up a co-op training rumble with Larsen's State-bound pair.
"Two of our guys match up really well with two of their guys, we're allowed two scrimmages post-season, and so we decided.. 'Let's get together and have a nice, intense practice leading into State!'" Westbrook said Monday night.
"You match up other kids from other schools with your guys for practice, and neither kid wants to lose, you know, to the neighboring schools!" he continued. "So it makes for an interesting practice; you see a lot more intensity in it versus kids practicing together that have been practicing together all year."
At Alamosa High School for the Feb. 9-10 regional, BHS senior Garrett Beebe lost 6-0 to Rifle's Colt Rohrig in the third-place match at 138 pounds but snagged a State spot state via a by-rule default win over Parachute Grand Valley's Jonathan Pena, with fourth at stake.
Finishing the meet 4-2, Beebe improved to 35-10 this season and will first face Edgewater Jefferson sophomore standout Nick Gallegos (44-5) inside Pepsi Center. The winner will then see either Craig-based Moffat County sophomore Daniel Caddy or Brush junior Oswaldo Nunez.
Bumped up to 145 pounds rather than his normal 138, IHS junior Skieler Grooms went 3-1 at 2A-Region I in Delta and placed third. Losing only to eventual champ Clay Campbell of Paonia in the winners' semifinals Grooms bounced back to ultimately defeat Norwood senior Riley Wilson 3-0. He also scored second-period pin of Hayden senior Jake Planansky.
Having improved to 17-10 overall before arriving in Denver, Grooms' first State opponent is Swink junior Kaleb Fisher (19-9). Awaiting the winner would then be either Merino senior Remington Canfield (the Region III champion) or Pueblo Dolores Huerta Prep freshman Xavier Mendoza.
Bayfield senior Jake Sandrey lost 3-2 to AHS' Kolten Hillis in his third-place match at 145 but took fourth-by rule over Delta's Brendon Starr, whom he'd already pinned in the consolation semis. He finished the meet 3-2 and improved to 31-12 overall going into his first-round test inside Pepsi Center versus Eaton senior Hayden Gavette (also 31-12).
The winner advances to challenge either Manitou Springs junior Jacob McCarley or Thornton Skyview junior Tristan Eskridge, both of whom come to Denver with between four and ten fewer wins than either Sandrey or Gavette.
"I think Jake and Garrett will be fine," Westbrook said. "Both have got some tough brackets, but the thing is they've been there before and haven't placed. And I think that just fuels them even more. I really think this year they're going to stand out and push to make the podium. Having not made the podium before...fuels a fire inside you and makes you drive harder."
As expected, Ignacio junior Dustin Sanchez was tough at 152 and earned his ticket to Denver after going a third-place 2-1 in Delta. Losing to Cedaredge senior Colton Hoerr early on Day 2 after getting a first-round 'bye' on Day 1 into the semifinals, Sanchez recovered to pin NHS freshman Broc Joseph with five seconds left in the first period and then Meeker sophomore Jacob Shelton 1:31 into the second.
Standing 22-13 overall, Sanchez will first meet Fowler senior Chantz Lange (27-10) at State. Another encounter with Hoerr could happen in the semifinals, but Sanchez would also need to defeat either Stratton senior Dayne Hines or Ordway-based Crowley County senior Ryan Rivera should he get past Lange.
"They both had some outstanding regional tournaments, were able to show their ability to compete against tough opponents and come out victorious," Larsen said of Sanchez and Grooms. "Our focus this week is on not being satisfied."
"We will be competing against the other best 15 wrestlers in the state, and that means that we are on an even playing field with those we come up against," he continued. "The boys are working hard, and it is in their hands as to whether or not they take advantage of this rare opportunity."
With 35 team points, Ignacio finished 12th out of 15 at 2A-Region I, while Bayfield totaled 73 and placed seventh out of 14 at 3A-Region I, with the largest chunk of points provided by junior Daniel Westbrook, the 220-pound division's king.
Going 3-for-3, he began by pinning AHS' Logan Thompson and then clipped Gilcrest Valley's Jesus Garcia 1-0. His State berth already assured, Westbrook kept rolling and flattened Basalt's William Rivera in just 58 seconds.
Westbrook (32-11) will start his quest for the top prize against Lakewood Alameda International senior Jacob Segura (25-18), with the winner advancing to meet either Broomfield Holy Family senior Cade Carter or someone Westbrook knows well in Centauri junior Bennie Chacon (30-6 going in).
"It would be awesome," said Roy Westbrook, addressing the possibility of his man completing a rare one-year trifecta of sorts: a 2A State Football Championship, a 3A wrestling regional title, and a 3A State Wrestling Championship.
"I mean, he's set himself up perfectly to try," said Westbrook. "He's talked about it all year, and I think he's put himself in a really good position. He's got a lot of confidence after the regional.and I think he's going to make a real big push."
"His location on the bracket is excellent for us. He drew the number-four seed, and I think we'll beat that kid. We should have a real tough quarterfinals match, but I really think we're totally capable."
3A-REGION I (ALAMOSA) TEAM STANDINGS: 1.Alamosa 251, 2.Pagosa Springs 218, 3.Gilcrest Valley 198, 4.Buena Vista 129, 5.Delta 122.5, 6.Rifle 86, 7.BAYFIELD 73, 8.Olathe 71, 9.Parachute Grand Valley 66, 10.Basalt 63, 11.New Castle Coal Ridge 56, 12.Montezuma-Cortez 54, 13.Gunnison 28.5, 14.Frisco Summit 24.
2A-REGION I (DELTA) TEAM STANDINGS: 1.Cedaredge 228, 2.Paonia 209.5, 3.Hotchkiss 178, 4.Norwood 121, 5.Meeker 119.5, 6.Oak Creek Soroco 83, 7.Hayden 79, 8.Mancos 62, 9.Dolores 50, T-10.Dove Creek/Kremmling West Grand 39, 12.IGNACIO 35, 13.Nucla 26, 14.Rangely 14, 15.Walden North Park 6.