Two boys from Bayfield and one from Ignacio advanced to the state wrestling quarterfinals. All six boys from La Plata County will brace for a long Friday.
Preliminary matches were held Thursday to open the Colorado High School Activities Association state wrestling championships. Ignacio's Dustin Sanchez roared from behind to win his first match in Class 2A's 152-pound bracket. Bayfield's Garrett Beebe scored a strong upset in the 3A 138-pound bracket, and Daniel Westbrook gave the Wolverines a second boy in the quarterfinals with a pin victory in the 3A 220-pound bracket.
Here's a closer look at Thursday's matches:
Bayfield High School
Beebe, a senior, had the tough task of facing the No. 2 seed in his bracket Thursday. Beebe didn't back down, though, as he beat Jefferson's Nick Gallegos in a 2-0 decision. Gallegos (44-6) and Beebe (36-10) wrestled through a scoreless first period. Beebe chose the down position to start the second period, and he scored a quick reverse for the match's only two points.
"It's all about believing in yourself," BHS head coach Roy Westbrook said. "Beebe went out there against the two-seed and kind of worked a little bit. The kid came out wrapped up and injured a bit, for sure, and wasn't wrestling his match, but Beebe definitely showed up to wrestle and got one out of the way. It's a whole lot easier path to place at state when you win that first match."
In the same bracket as Beebe, Montezuma-Cortez's lone state qualifier, Matthew Broughton (28-9), also scored a win. He beat Salida's Alex Kimmons with a pin 13 seconds into the second period. He will take on top-seeded Austyn Binkly (35-5) of Berthoud in the quarterfinals.
Daniel Westbrook (33-11) used great take-down defense to earn his pin victory Thursday. The Bayfield junior pinned Alameda's Jacob Segura (25-19) 1:05 into the second period. He will advance to face Centauri's Bennie Chacon (31-6) in the quarterfinals. Chacon earned a 5-1 decision win in the first round.
"He came out strong just like we thought he would," coach Westbrook said of Daniel Westbrook. "He controlled the kid really well. The kid took a shot right off the bat. Daniel stuffed it and got around behind him and turned him to his back as time expired in the first. Daniel stuffed another takedown in the second, took his back and stuck him.
"He came out, won and let the nerves settle."
Bayfield suffered one loss Thursday, as senior 145-pounder Jake Sandrey dropped a 7-3 decision to Eaton's Hayden Gavette. Gavette led 2-0 after one period. He chose the bottom position to start the second period, scored a quick escape point and then another takedown of Sandrey to build a 5-0 lead.
A late Sandrey escape cut the deficit to 5-1 going to the third period, but Gavette was too much for Sandrey to overcome. Sandrey will face Skyview's Tristan Eskridge (21-9) in the first round of the consolation bracket. A second loss would eliminate Sandrey, but he can still place as high as third if he wins out.
"Like any kid, he was down that he lost," coach Westbrook said. "It was a tough one for us. We thought he would come out and win that match. But it's one of those things, and wrestling is an unforgiving sport. He's perked back up now and ready to go and take care of business in the next match."
Ignacio High School
Ignacio's coaching staff had the tough task of watching both of their state qualifiers wrestle at the same time Thursday.
Skieler Grooms was first on the mat, and Sanchez quickly followed. Grooms found himself in an epic back-and-forth, while Sanchez found himself in a quick 5-0 hole.
Sanchez (23-13) went down 5-0 after one period against Chantz Lange (27-11) of Fowler to open the 152-pound bracket. But Sanchez rallied in the second period with a takedown and a pair of 3-point nearfalls to take an 8-6 lead after two periods. He continued to score in the third period, as he earned a 14-6 major decision win.
Sanchez, a junior, will face Strasburg senior Dayne Hines (15-11) in Friday's quarterfinals.
"I didn't say anything to him. It was a look more than anything," IHS head coach Jordan Larsen said of his exchange with Sanchez after the first period.
"It was, 'You came up here to do something, what do you want to do?' We chose neutral in the second period because the kid had ridden us out on top. We went after him from there. That first period, it was nerves more than anything. He figured out what it's all about, realized he could wrestle with the kid and found his groove."
Grooms (17-11) wasn't as fortunate in his first match against Swink junior Kaleb Fisher (20-9). Grooms scored an early takedown and held a 2-1 lead after one period. He scored a quick two points for a reversal to start the second period but gave up an escape point and a takedown that tied the match at 4-4. A Grooms reversal again gave him a 6-4 lead going to the third period.
But, in a frantic third period, Fisher's takedowns were too much, as he went on to win an 11-9 decision. Grooms now will face Dolores Huerta's Xavier Mendoza (10-10) in the first consolation round Friday.
"He wrestled a tough match against a tough kid," Larsen said of Grooms. "The chips fell the other way. Skieler has a good head about it and is looking forward to getting back on the mat in consolations and pushing back toward the big matches on the backside."
Durango High School
Durango's lone state qualifier, Rashaad Liggins, had to wait all day to wrestle his first match at the state tournament.
The Durango High School senior didn't get onto the mat until 9:30 p.m. Thursday. When he finally stepped on the mat, he had a tough showdown with Widefield senior John Underwood (27-6).
Liggins (11-10) trailed 2-1 after one period. Underwood chose the bottom position to start the second period and reversed Liggins, who trailed 4-2 after two periods thanks to one escape point. Liggins was able to score two more escapes in the third period, but it wasn't enough to outpoint Underwood, who claimed a 6-4 decision win.
Liggins now will face Montrose's Cole Simmons (27-18) in the first consolation round Friday.