In wrestling circles - proverbially, as well as literally - on the Eastern Plains, the Copeland name is well-known.
Most particularly in the town of Bennett.
Caleb Copeland won two CHSAA Class 3A State Championships at Bennett High and moved on to star at Chadron State College in Nebraksa, whereas older brother and two-time State Champion Elliot became a decorated All-American at Western State Colorado University. Elder brother Isaac also earned a 3A crown.
Ignacio senior Dustin Sanchez never wrestled any of those Tiger greats (Isaac Copeland's title came in 2004; Caleb's last came in '13) at the prep level, but at the Jan. 18-19 Mel Smith Husky Invitational in Florence he may have faced the next.
Squaring off against the fourth and youngest Copeland brother, sophomore Mac, Sanchez's climb up the ultra-competitive meet's podium ended a step shorter than it ultimately could have. But a 10-1 major-decision loss still left the Bobcat anchor with a 3-2 tournament record, his season mark increased to 17-3, and fourth place at 160 pounds.
Owning by far the most wins (29) coming in of any grappler entered at the weight, Copeland (34-4) lost only to 3A Gilcrest Valley junior Jaziah Whaley (23-1), the eventual champ, in the semifinals.
All told, IHS piled up 42.5 points and finished 25th out of 31 teams, helped by junior Cesar Pedregon's fifth-place showing at 182. Wrestling down a division from his regular 195, Pedregon's Invitational began with a loss by pin against 3A Sterling senior Tate Green, but he then recovered to log three straight pins in consolation-bracket work before losing in just 22 seconds to 3A Gypsum Eagle Valley senior Davis Ward.
Far from finished, Pedregon simply schooled 3A Eaton senior Judson Church, winning by 14-1 major and improving to 17-6 overall this winter.
Competing for skipper Jordan Larsen at 195 instead was freshman Jeremy Roderick, who went 1-2 at his first Mel Smith. Down to 170 for the meet, junior Clay Campbell lost immediately to 3A Bayfield's Shane Moore, then was eliminated 9-4 by Colorado Springs-based 3A The Classical Academy's Chris Hinds.
Freshman Tyler Barnes went 0-2 at 145 pounds, as did freshman Shawn Campbell at 132. Senior Skieler Grooms (15-5) went 3-2 at 138 and was pinned one win away from top-6 status by 3A Berthoud junior Brock Leypoldt.
Next on the schedule for the 'Cats will be the Screaming Eagle Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 26, in Paonia.