His left elbow iced, and a bruise-slash-slash over his right eye re-aggravated, Bayfield junior Connor Krug flashed the sort of smile head coach Todd McMenimen would also show after the Wolverines' New Year restart. Krug had been utilized at 220 pounds before Christmas, then at heavyweight Friday evening, Jan. 4, in Bayfield's first action of 2019.
"Against Aztec, I couldn't have asked them to wrestle any harder!" McMenimen said, referring to BHS' 46-21 dual loss against reigning NMAA 5A State Champion Aztec, in which Bayfield won four of the varsities' 10 actual bouts. "Even in the matches we lost, tons of fight, our technique was good - for only having a few practices over break - so I'm really happy with the way we looked."
Including Krug's exciting second-period pin of Tiger big Ty Ashley, McMenimen's men also got a first-period pin from John Foutz over Chance Hoggard at 195 and an 8-3 win by 220-pounder Daniel Westbrook over Caleb Varzeas to effectively own the upper weights, plus a third-period pin by 120-pounder James Mars over Sammy Minton.
And that energy wouldn't dissipate overnight, with the Wolverines eager to challenge both 4A Durango and 2A Ignacio the next afternoon in the first-ever La Plata County Duals, hosted this year by DHS.
"I've been trying to get this together since I got back to Durango, thought it was a great way to bring our wrestling community together - everybody can stay local and come watch all of our local action," said Demons head coach Leo Garand.
"So with Todd on board, totally for it, we'd been having duals with Ignacio - it was just (about) adding that third!"
And it would be left to Durango and Bayfield to decide a county champion, after DHS defeated IHS 32-18. A reinforced BHS, featuring inclusions of Paden Williamson at 182 pounds, Kobe Prior at 152 and CHSAA-cleared transfer Avery Mitzlaff at 106, then prevailed 55-3.
Bobcat senior Dustin Sanchez actually began both duals with wins, pinning Demon 160-pounder Alex Finneseth in 1:23, then hanging on to edge Wolverine 170-pounder Shane Moore 3 to 2.
Clay Campbell then lost by first-period pin to DHS' Austin Albrecht at 182, but the 'Cats picked up forfeit wins at 195 (Cesar Pedregon) and 220 (Jeremy Roderick) to take an 18-6 lead against Durango back into the lower weights. DHS, however, proceeded to win the next four bouts, including two pins and a 17-0 technical fall - by 145-pounder Tyler Woodworth over Tyler Barnes, giving the home side a 26-18 advantage with a punctuating forfeit following for Samantha Vasquez at 152.
And after Moore's near-miss against Sanchez, Bayfield took control of the meet's second clash with Williamson pinning Campbell with only six seconds left in the third and final two-minute period, then Foutz stepping up to pin Roderick in 56 ticks and Westbrook earning a 12-0 major decision over a bumped-up Pedregon.
Krug then received the first of his two forfeit wins at the Duals, and Mitzlaff followed with his first win as a Wolverine, stepping up to pin IHS 113-pounder Isaac Welker in 0:41 and give BHS an uncatchable 28-3 lead.
Albrecht would begin the decisive showdown pinning Williamson in 1:49, but the Foutz-Westbrook-Krug trio closed out the upper weights unopposed, quickly putting Bayfield ahead 18-6. Mitzlaff then lost to Durango 113-pounder Owen Eicher by second-period pin, but Mars and 126-pounder Dylan Pickering each received a forfeit and 132-pounder Colby Baker then defeated Ben Belt 12-5, increasing the lead to 33-12.
"He wrestled really tough; I was hoping and praying I could come out on top. And I did, so I was happy," said Baker, who also pinned Ignacio Shawn Campbell in 1:18 at 138. "There's things I need to work on, but I give props to my opponent."
Durango's Paul Smagacz received a forfeit at 138, and Woodworth followed by pinning Trey McKee 1:24 into the second period. Vasquez then picked up six more points - cutting the Wolverines' lead down to 33-30 - with a forfeit at 152, as McMenimen sought to get Prior a higher-weight test against Finneseth.
But Finneseth would swiftly build up an 11-0 lead after just one period, and earn a 15-0 tech in the second - giving the Demons, missing at least two regulars, a brief 35-33 lead and some semblance of pride before Moore stepped onto the mat unopposed to receive six title-clinching points.
"It feels amazing," said Baker, of earning the inaugural Duals' crown. "I was kind of disappointed when we didn't have practice over Break, but then we got in and I was really pumped to get back to it. We were just ready to go."
"We wrestled great, both days," McMenimen said. "We came out against Ignacio with that exact same intensity (seen against Aztec) and it showed; we dominated that dual. Fell off a little bit against Durango, had a couple spots that I thought we could have wrestled better, but all in all, we wrestled really well coming off break."
"It is what it is, and I felt we wrestled really tough," said Durango's Garand. "They attacked from first whistle to last and that's what I'm looking for at this point in the season. You know, we fill some spots there, we may have a different outcome at the end! I've got no complaints...about their effort."
Up next the Wolverines - and Bobcats - will compete Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Rocky Mountain Invitational in Pagosa Springs.
"That's always a tough, tough tournament," said McMenimen. "I'm real excited to go to Pagosa.and get to see Pagosa twice. Some small things to clean up, but I really do like where we're at, as a team; the support we have for each other is great."