Having celebrated his birthday just the day before, Bayfield sophomore Trey McKee's spirits appeared still elevated as he stepped onto the mat Tuesday evening, Jan. 15, for his Intermountain League dual match versus Montezuma-Cortez.
Able to fill all 14 weights for the first time in recent memory, Wolverine Wrestling as a whole seemed to be mentally up, particularly with the visitors entering only 10 weights and thus automatically conceding 24 points.
But BHS' grapplers and coaches knew one thing: M-CHS means business.
And after newcomer Xander Dykes lost by second-period pin to Anthony Abeyta starting things off at 138 pounds, it was up to McKee to re-energize the crew's emotional batteries. Working against Ethan Root, McKee took a 4-0 lead through the first two minutes, managed to keep a 6-3 advantage through the second period, and ultimately made the tying pin 0:42 into the third.
"That's a solid, solid kid they've got there," said head coach Todd McMenimen. "I thought Trey wrestled real well for us. He's been nursing a little bit of an injury, but came out real well, stuck through it no problem."
But if McKee re-lit the locals' fire, Montezuma-Cortez had the perfect person to extinguish it in returning State placer Matthew Broughton. He proceeded to educate young 152-pounder Kobe Prior en route to a go-ahead stick in just 69 ticks.
Casen Allmon then followed with a second-period pin of Geron Goring at 160, Kerwin Tom overcame an early Shane Moore takedown and broke a 4-4 tie after two periods to squeak out an 8-6 win at 170, and 182-pounder Swayde Noyes finally put resistant Paden Williamson down 0:46 into the third after leading 7-0 through two minutes and 14-1 through four.
And M-CHS' 27-6 lead would prove too much to erase in a 42-36 defeat.
Bayfield junior John Foutz won by forfeit at 195 pounds, and senior Daniel Westbrook pinned Devan Frost 1:45 into the first period at 220, but after heavyweight Connor Krug won by forfeit-bringing the Wolverines back to 27-24-the lowest weights were unable to put BHS ahead before Dylan Pickering and Colby Baker closed out the event winning by forfeit at 126, and 132 respectively.
But it wasn't for lack of trying.
Newcomer Avery Mitzlaff lost by pin in 0:58 to Kael Buffington at 106, but Simon Schneider nearly put the Wolverines in position to prevail. Facing Panther Jayven Valdez at 113, Schneider nearly notched a pin as the first period expired and went into the second leading 5-0. Nearly pinned himself during the second, he was able to wriggle free and keep a 7-4 lead heading into the third.
But Valdez equalized with only 26 regulation seconds remaining via a three-point near-fall and managed to turn Schneider over once more to squeak out a 9-7 stunner, putting M-CHS up 36-24 with just one actual bout remaining.
"He's missed enough matches here and there due to some weight issues and other things-he was on Christmas Break the entire break, missed all our Break stuff-so the more mat time he gets, he'll be there," McMenimen said. "Had just a couple little issues right at the end there that he and I talked about. They got him in some trouble, but I thought he wrestled a great match. Simon's right there."
Needing any sort of victory to repossess the dual, Wolverine Xander Hovenstine fought Austin Featherman well through one period, but a 2-0 deficit quickly became 4-0 when Featherman scored a fast reversal early in the second. Momentum on his side, the Panther managed to gain position atop Hovenstine and earn a clinching pin with Hovenstine just nine seconds away from seeing a last-chance third period.
"We gave up too many pins, too many bonus points," McMenimen said. "That's something that we've got to work on. Understand the situation in the match where we're at, and be able to contain some of those bonus points a little bit. If two of our guys lose by a decision instead of getting pinned, we win that dual."
"Hats off to them," he said of the Cortez team. "Their lineup...solid all the way through. Just about every one of their kids is a ranked kid, and it shows; they're well-coached."
Wintry weather permitting, Bayfield will next travel east to Florence for the Jan. 18-19 Mel Smith Husky Invitational, looking to apply the lessons learned from the dual loss as well as a fifth-place finish at Pagosa Springs' Rocky Mountain Invite (Westbrook earned the crew's lone individual title) on Jan. 12.
"It's the premier 3A tournament in the state, without question.top to bottom," McMenimen said of the Florence tourney. "All the best 3A teams will be there, so we'll get a good idea where we're at right now. It'll tell us where we need to go, what we need to work on, and how far we've got to go before February and the State Tournament."