The Pirate wrestling team came out of the Region 4 tournament with three regional champions and six athletes qualifying to compete at the Colorado Class 3A championship meet, beginning today, at Denver.
Steven Smith won the Region 4 championship at 119 pounds.
Joe DuCharme is the champion at 160.
Mike Smith took the regional crown at 171.
Caleb Pringle finished fourth at 130, Cole Mastin was third at 140 and Preston Sandoval took third at heavyweight, to complete the six-wrestler state tourney contingent.
The Pirates finished fifth in the tournament team standings, with 146 points. Centauri won the team competition and four of the top five teams in the standings came from the Intermountain League: Pagosa, Centauri, Bayfield and Monte Vista.
Steven Smith dominated his opponents at 119. He won by fall at 1 minute, 15 seconds over Nick Garcia, of Trinidad. In the semifinal match, Smith took a 12-3 major decision over Garreson Ortiz, of Dolores Huerta. He won his final match 13-5 — the closest score he saw at the tournament — over Drew Tucker, of Florence. Smith enters the state competition with a 31-6 record.
“I really like the way Steven wrestled,” said Coach Dan Janowsky. “He was very assertive, very confident. He was on the offense, pushing guys, pursuing the lead and wrestling to win.”
Smith will face freshman Joseph Pridy (10-12) of Olathe in the first round of action today at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
DuCharme continues to punish opponents, and stayed undefeated (26-0) this season through the regional tournament.
The Pirate got a win by default in the first round at regionals then pinned Brenden Harrison, of Bayfield, at 1:01. DuCharme scored 22 points in the first round of his final match at the regional event, against Shelby Edwards, of Platte Canyon — amassing points with takedowns and backpoints, while allowing his opponent to make marginal progress with escapes. A takedown in the second period gave the Pirate the win with a 25-9 technical fall.
“Joe has some good competition in Denver,” said Janowsky. “There are some good one-sixties in the mix, with kids from Dolores Herta and Salida on the other side of the bracket from Joe, and Zach Diaz, of Yuma, is back.”
Mike Smith provided what was arguably the most exciting moments of the regional tournament in the finals — coming back in the last few seconds to tie the match, then winning in overtime over Mario Garcia, of Dolores Huerta. Smith easily beat Conner Pigg, of Rye, in the first round of action — a 28-9 tech fall — and defeated Justin Rogers, of Centauri, in the semifinal, with a 16-6 major decision.
“It was a crazy final thirty seconds in that last match,” said Janowsky. “Mike was down one to nothing, got a reversal (to go ahead 2-1) then got reversed (to fall behind 3-2). The kids went out of bounds and we got a fresh start, Mike was down and got what was signalled as a reversal (which would have put Smith ahead 4-3). They declared Mike the winner, then switched the decision and gave him just an escape. So, the match was tied at the end of regulation time. It went to overtime; Mike got the takedown, and won. You have to give credit to a guy who can do that. To be told you won, then be told you didn’t, and to shake it off and go get the win. ... Mike stepped up to the mark. He could very easily see Garcia again at Denver, and there is another tough kid, from Olathe, on Mike’s side of the bracket.”
Mastin, a senior, came very close to a spot in the finals at 140, losing a close match in the semifinals to a Bayfield opponent, Taylor Swanemyr. “Cole had a terrific match in the semifinal. They were tied four to four with ten seconds left. Cole was on top, but just couldn’t quite get his leg clear, and lost it in the last seconds. He just about had it, and that is a positive sign.
The Pirate strong-armed his other regional opponents however, pinning Tadd Hocking of Colorado Springs Christian (1:08), Alex Boyette of Trinidad (1:53), and Cody Mathewson, of Florence (3:40). Mastin (23-11) will battle sophomore Ronnie Blea (23-7) of University, in first-round action at the Pepsi Center.
Pringle, said Janowsky, “had to work hard in the (130-pound) consolation semifinal. He was down six points and had to gather himself. He did; he settled down, got back in the match, and won.”
Pringle got wins over Justin Shupe of Bayfield (17-5 major decision), Tanner Dalton of Manitou Springs (a fall at 3:08) and B.J. VanSlyke of Trinidad (15-9). Pringle, a senior, now 22-15, faces senior Joe Visconti (36-3) of Middle Park in the first round today.
Sandoval took third place with a 4-0 win over Cody Farrington of Florence.
Sandoval goes to Denver with a deceptive 9-6 record. “Preston brings more to the tournament than the varsity record would indicate. In reality,” said the coach, “he has probably thirty matches, but only fifteen on the varsity. He has ten wins in junior varsity action.”
Sandoval, a sophomore, has his first match at Denver against junior Colton Emich (3-2) of Holy Family.
“I think we have some real quality as we enter this state tournament,” said Janowsky. “We have three regional champs — all veterans at this level — and three strong guys at other weights. You know, we started two freshmen, and four sophomores this season, with four juniors and five seniors. We have made real progress.”