Packing up his gear, relatively clean and untouched following Bayfield’s 39-27 dual win at Monte Vista back on Jan. 31, Daniel Westbrook beamed over a performance most in attendance may have missed.
“Did you see me wrestle Casper?” he joked, gesturing and grinning at an unknown – and as it turned out, invisible – opponent, cleverly camouflaged against the Pirates’ winter-white mat.
Of course, the senior 220-pounder was joking; he had no foe and won by forfeit.
Disappointed by a second-place result at Ignacio’s Butch Melton Memorial Invitational two days later – though 2A Cedaredge’s Taj Van der Linde is ranked No. 2 – Westbrook shook hands with Alamosa’s Austin Trujillo during varsity introductions Feb. 8. It came on senior night moments after on-edge mother Kirsten was at his side during the pre-dual recognitions, father Mark having relayed an inspiring verse for the moment while working in Wyoming.
Westbrook was ready to wrestle, with an expectant fan base ready to roar. He was stunned by Trujillo’s ghostly disappearance inside BHS Gymnasium when the time came for the highly-rated pair to shut down the show.
Again, Westbrook played it cool, though anyone could sense a growing frustration.
“I just want to wrestle somebody. Somebody,” he said afterwards, still in disbelief that his wish to wrestle was initially granted then unceremoniously (the word “cowardly” was also overheard) denied.
Another six-point forfeit win wasn’t what he’d trained for.
“Just looking at the crowd, looking at my mom, hearing my dad talk about me like that was really nice,” said Westbrook, looking at the positive. “Seeing the team smile at me, you know, giving looks and stuff, and the crowd was laughing, smiling. I really think that helped bring the team together.”
Now, no enemy can hide. Seven days after rallying from a 37-0 deficit against vaunted Alamosa and falling by a more-acceptable 49-30 margin, a hungry Westbrook will lead the Wolverines into the 3A Region 1 tournament on Feb. 15-16 at the Montrose Event Center in Montrose, with a trip to Pepsi Center and the CHSAA state championships in sight.
And, as the highest-ranked entrant at his weight set to compete inside the Montrose Event Center, the third-ranked Westbrook doesn’t seem to care whom he faces to get to Denver, including No. 8 Trujillo.
“You know, I think we’re right where we need to be, sitting right where we need to sit,” he said. “Going into regionals and state, I think we’re going to do really well.”
Including Alamosa, joining Bayfield will be fellow Intermountain Leaguers Pagosa Springs and Montezuma-Cortez, along with Craig-based Moffat County, Parachute Grand Valley, Olathe, Delta, Rifle, Steamboat Springs, Basalt, Glenwood Springs, New Castle Coal Ridge and Gunnison, making for a talent pool fairly deep at some of the leading Wolverines’ weights. Other Intermountain League foes Monte Vista and Centauri will be at John Mall-hosted 2A Region 2 in Walsenburg.
“I think a great portion of the team is getting to their peaks physically, which is really good,” said Geron Goring, who scored an unexpected pin against Alamosa while filling in at 145 for the injured Trey McKee. “That’s where we want to be right now, and I think everybody’s just ready to go and kick some butt in Montrose.”
Depending on whether Pagosa’s second-ranked Caleb Janowsky is healed enough from a knee injury sustained at the Melton, No. 3 John Foutz of BHS could be the chief contender at 195 pounds, though No. 6 John Slowey (Steamboat Springs) and No. 7 Gauge Lockhart (Delta) should be in the mix.
Bayfield’s Dylan Pickering, however, will have to work through one of the region’s most rugged brackets. The 19th-ranked sophomore will seek top-four status at 126 amongst not only No. 1 Joe Chavez of Alamosa, but potentially three other top-10s and four more ranked between Nos. 12 and 18.
Still, Bayfield head coach Todd McMenimen’s bunch knows their state fate ultimately rests in their own hands.
“Whoever steps on the mat, I’m here to wrestle; it shouldn’t really change anything,” said 170-pounder Shane Moore. “Mentally, I think we’re strong enough to where we can push our opponents, get where we need to be.”