It was a banner day for Ignacio High School wrestling, as the Bobcats will send six matmen to the Colorado High School Activities Association’s Class 2A state tournament next week at Denver’s Pepsi Center, after IHS finished tied for seventh with 94.5 points at the 2A Region 1 tournament at the Montrose Event Center.
Ignacio’s six qualifiers came from a variety of weight classes, some will be making their first appearance, while others will be returning. Randy Herrera was the Bobcats’ highest finisher with a second-place finish in the 285-pound weight class. After he secured his spot to state, he came off of the mat in tears of joy.
“It’s something that he’s been working so hard for,” said IHS head coach Jordan Larsen. “We wrestled harder today than we did all year. We’ve had some great performances, but we came to wrestle for a chance to go to state, and we did that.”
Five other qualifiers included Hunter Robbins (126), who finished fourth after he already beat his opponent in an earlier round, Skieler Grooms (138) advanced to state for the second consecutive year after he took third with a sudden victory over Tytus Coombs of Rangely – it was the first win in four tries against Coombs this season, which included a quarterfinal loss on Friday.
Dustin Sanchez (160), who took third, pinned Eli Houston of North Park at the 3:20 mark of the match. Clay Campbell (170) took fourth, Cesar Pedregon (182) pinned Kesston Hoobs of Meeker, while Herrera ended the show with his emotional finish to reach state.
“Their performances really speak for themselves,” Larsen said. “You had guys like Clay really came out of nowhere and just had a great tournament and he found his stride at the right time to punch his ticket. Cesar has been wrestling so hard since his turning point after Florence. Skieler had himself a day, fighting back the way he did, and that just stemmed into Dustin, who took care of business. It kept rolling down the line and we took 10 and had six qualify and seven place.”
It was the highest number of wrestlers the Bobcats have qualified for in the Larsen era.
“We don’t just train for regionals,” Larsen said. “We train for state.”
Bayfield High SchoolThe Bayfield High School wrestling team will also be sending members of its team to state after a successful weekend at the 3A Region 1 tournament at the Montrose Event Center, as John Foutz (195) and Daniel Westbrook (220) qualified for the 3A state tournament in impressive fashion.
Foutz, the No. 3-ranked wrestler in the regional On the Mat rankings, dominated his way to his first state appearance as the junior took down back-to-back top-10 opponents, in No. 7 Gauge Lockhart of Delta in the semifinals and No. 2 Caleb Janowsky of Pagosa Springs in the championship match. In the fourth clash in the series this year, Foutz evened up the season score at two apiece with a pin at the 3:01 mark of the match.
“Honestly, it feels unbelievable,” Foutz said. “Last year, I missed out on going to state by one match after I lost to Lockhart, and I’ve been motivated ever since. I was never in the same weight class as Caleb until this season, but we’re buddies. We have so much mutual respect for each other, and he really is a great opponent for a regional final. He’s got nothing to hold back because he’s a senior, and overall, he just helps me in every way. Today, I got him with a good move, but it’s been back-and-forth all season, so maybe we will see each other next week.”
BHS head coach Todd McMenimen gave Foutz a message heading into the final match: his state matchup.
“Coach told me that if I win, I get a fourth-seeded guy at state,” Foutz said. “I took that to mind because while a fourth seed can still be tough, it’s a lot better of a matchup than a 2-3. ”
McMenimen was impressed with his entire squad.
“We wrestled really tough all weekend and this is a region where you really have to prove yourself,” McMenimen said. “You’ve got top-10 guys and teams everywhere you look, and year after year, it proves to be a top region in the state. John and Daniel had great days, while James Mars challenged himself, same with Kobe Prior and Dylan Pickering.”
Mars (120) finished in fifth, Pickering (126). sixth, lost in a major decision to Mikhail Garcia of Gunnison, while Prior, also sixth, was pinned by Dillon Tiffany of Rifle. All three are underclassmen.
BHS’ second qualifier, Daniel Westbrook, shook off the rust of not having wrestled in two weeks, after his final two bouts of the regular season were forfeit victories. He lost to Alamosa’s Austin Trujillo, the No. 8 wrestler whom Westbrook was supposed to take on during his senior night, but the Mean Moose never had Trujillo, or another 220-pounder, face Westbrook that night. Trujillo stunned Westbrook in a sudden victory in overtime of the championship match, after Westbrook was able to tie up the match with just five seconds remaining in regulation.
“I thought that Trujillo’s takedown at the end of the first period which he got points for was real questionable,” McMenimen said. “But Daniel kept fighting back ... I know an awful lot of guys who have come out on the short end of the stick and end up wrestling better at state when they take second at regionals, so I’m not worried.”
Westbrook had someone in mind who also had the same fate at a regional tournament: His brother and Ignacio head coach, Jordan Larsen.
“I’m not too worried about losing because I remember in 2008, my brother lost in regionals, and he ended up winning state,” Westbrook said. “I’m honestly feeling pretty good about it and I’m not going to back down from a challenge, that’s for sure.”
Durango High SchoolThe Durango High School wrestling team beat all of the odds and will be sending two to state after the Demons finished ninth as a team with just six members at the 4A Region 2 tournament at Discovery Canyon High School in Colorado Springs.
Paul Smagacz (138), the senior captain, will be going to the Pepsi Center after he qualified with a fourth-place finish, while freshman Tyler Woodworth (145) will be a first-timer for state after he also finished in fourth and was beaten in a 7-3 decision against Logan Robb of Widefield in the third-place match.
“I’m super proud of our guys,” said DHS head coach Leo Garand. “We had two make it and had four of six get on the podium, and while the two that made the podium just missed out, they still wrestled really well all weekend. Our guys did better than what was prognosticated, and they fought in every match.”
DHS was without two key wrestlers, Alex Finneseth and Owen Eicher, who both sustained late season-ending injuries. Jacob Fenberg, who weighed in at 92 pounds, filled in for Eicher at the 106-pound weight class and finished in seventh. Meanwhile, Jacob Rowe, a sophomore, finished in fifth after he won an 11-8 decision over Garrett McCasland of Canon City.
“Honestly, to have the performances that we had after the things we’ve gone through this year was amazing to see,” Garand said. “We have a lot of middle schoolers coming up through the ranks, and our underclassmen performed exceptional today and this season. It’ll be exciting to keep working with Paul and Tyler.”