A tough mid-season tournament gives a wrestling team and its coaches a chance to evaluate where they stand, and what remains to be done prior to end-of-the-schedule qualifying and championship events.
Such was the case for the Pirates at last Saturday’s Alamosa Invitational — traditionally one of the most difficult regular-season tourneys of the year.
The Alamosa team lineup contains very few weak links, and usually includes several of the toughest 4A and 5A programs in this state and others. This year was no different, and the final team scores reflect that fact, with the hosts and Fountain-Fort Carson running away with the point totals.
Behind the two frontrunners was a pack of teams locked in a battle for places in the standings. One or two athletes in the finals made all the difference between a mid-pack placing and a spot lower in the standings.
Pagosa failed to place a wrestler in the finals and, as a result, took 11th place.
Several Pirates, however, did well at Alamosa.
Jordan Neuleib kept alive the momentum he established at the Rocky Mountain Invitational, capturing third place at Alamosa at 171 pounds. Neuleib won three of four matches, getting his first victory by pinning Stewart Pino of John Mall at 1 minute, 16 seconds.
Neuleib’s only loss came in a 9-0 decision to Philip Rhosed, of Mesa Ridge.
The Pirate came back strong against Mark Ray of Thunder Ridge (an 8-4 victory) and in the third-place match, where he crafted a close 2-1 decision over Joe Ott-Edwards, of Durango.
Will Appenzeller took fourth place at 140.
Appenzeller won four of five matches and was forced to forfeit the third-place match due to a rule limiting a wrestler to five matches in a day.
Appenzeller started the tournament with a win by fall — at 2:44, over Jacob Pino, of John Mall.
Appenzeller’s only loss came in the second match of the day — a close 17-13 decision against the eventual tourney champ, Dakota Curtis, of Alamosa.
“Will had a good tournament,” said Pirate coach Dan Janowsky. “He was the only guy to score on the tournament champion.”
The Pirate came back with an 11-6 decision over Doug Tourtillott, of Thunder Ridge and a 14-7 decision over Angel Ramos, of Rocky Ford. In his final competition of the day, Appenzeller beat Keith Cays, of Mesa Ridge, 11-7.
Clint Manzanares finished in fourth place at 189.
Manzanares beat Lucas Sinnig, of Durango, pinning the Demon 50 seconds into the match.
A loss to Tanner Kelly, of Fountain-Fort Carson put Manzanares on track for the third place match, which he gained pinning Ben Smithey, of Rocky Ford, at 3:21. The Pirate lost to Alex Kazze, of Mesa Ridge in the battle for third.
Dakota Miller was fifth at 135.
Miller earned fifth with two victories in four matches, beating Chris Robinson, of Rocky Ford (8-5) and Elliot Salazar, of Durango (4-3).
Waylon Lucero was fifth at 160. The Pirate earned fifth by pinning Derek Williams, of Payson, Ariz., at 5:01 and earning a 3-1 decision over Adam Schofield, of Piedra Vista.
Andrew Rice was fifth at 215, beating Ryan Veneman, of Alamosa, 8-7.
Andrew Clark won a match for Pagosa, but did not place. Clark defeated Zach Lopez of Alamosa 2-1 in a match at 119.
“We wrestled hard,” said Janowsky. “Generally, when a match was over, I thought we had wrestled well but came up short. We wrestled tough kids all day long, and by the end of the day we won more matches than we lost. In these big meets, we’re just not quite there; we’re close, but we’re not there yet. We were inconsistent. At times we wrestled very well, but we need to wrestle consistently well.”
With the halfway point of the season behind this team, Janowsky sees promise.
“We’re getting better,” said the coach. “I have a lot of optimism. I think we have a shot at qualifying (for the state tournament) at a lot of weights. We can probably place most of our guys at the regional tournament (finish in the top six in a weight class). Our top weights are pretty solid, and this week we will probably shake out our final lineup. From that point, we can bear down on those guys. We need to put a lot of time in on our feet. Saturday, we were staying in front of people too often, trying to shoot straight on. We need to improve how we work on our feet over the next few weeks, improving the way we set up our shots.”
Pagosa takes on Monte Vista today in one of the Intermountain League dual matches that determine the league champion. The teams clash at 5 p.m. at Plachy Hall at Adams State College, prior to the Adams State College match.