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Eight wrestlers qualify for Colorado Class 3A tournament

Eight Pirate wrestlers will fight another week.

In a performance that exceeded many expectations, Pagosa wrestlers turned around what began as a lukewarm regional tournament at Trinidad, picked up steam on the second day of action and took fifth place in the team standings — with eight members of the team finishing in the top four in their respective weight classes and qualifying to compete at this week’s Colorado Class 3A tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Pagosa finished behind tournament winner Florence as well as Centauri, Trinidad and Bayfield. The Pirates, however, tied for second with Centauri in the number of athletes qualifying for state.

“We dug ourselves a hole in the first couple of rounds,” said Coach Dan Janowsky. “Our guys wrestled pretty tight at the start. The coaches worked to settle them down and they rebounded real well in the second half of Saturday. They started to wrestle well and score points. By the end, we had placed 11 of 14 (top six in the weight class) and we qualifed eight. If we had started strong, I think we could have finished third in the team standings.”

Andrew Clark, a senior, will compete in his first state tourney, at 125 pounds. Clark took third at Trinidad. He pinned Haden Strauss of Manitou Springs in the first round of action at Trinidad then lost to Joe Zink of Bayfield. Clark qualified on the basis of two more wins — 14-6 over Hansel Garcia of Monte Vista and 6-3 over Nick Garcia, of Trinidad.

“Andrew was three and one,” said Jnowsky. “Overall, he wrestled very well. He came back after that semifinal loss and steadied himself.”

Dakota Miller will go to Denver at 135, after finishing third at the regional event. Miller decisioned Jace Stephens of Colorado Springs Christian 6-2, then lost in the semifinals to Kahlen Keyes, of Centauri. Miller roared back, pinning Ronnie Mascerenas of Monte Vista, then defeated Austin Reed of Florence, 16-4.

“Dakota had the best tourament of all our guys,” said the coach. “Clearly, we saw a lot more composure from him; he was pretty dominant in three of four matches.”

Will Appenzeller took it to the wire to qualify with a fourth-place finish at 140. The Pirate pinned B.J. VanSlyke of Trinidad then lost to Brandon Padilla, of Rye. A second loss, to Austin Vance of Monte Vista, put Appenzeller on the edge of ending his season. He recovered, beating Jaurex Vasquez of Dolores Huerta, 16-9, then won a place on the bus to Denver with a wrestle-back win, 23-8, over Justin Shupe of Bayfield..

“The forties were a tough weight,” said Janowsky. “Against the kid from Rye, Will got into a huge hole, but he wrestled well in the second half of the match. I like the way he responded in the wrestle-back; he was confident and poised.”

Senior Ryan Hamilton will end his high school career at the Pepsi Center. Hamilton took fourth at 152. Hamilton began action with a 10-7 victory over Skyler Kepley, of Florence, The Pirate then lost to Iver Sandoval of Centauri, but came back with a 4-3 decision over Dylan Rhodes, of Trinidad. Kepley got his revenge on Hamilton as the two met a second time, Kepley getting the win.

“Ryan wrestled a good tournament,” said Janowsky. “He’s going to state because he won two matches, both gritty battles. He got into trouble, but he wrestled his way out and figured out how to win.”

Senior Waylon Lucero took third at 160. Lucero lost his first match at Trinidad, 8-5 to Brandon Harrison of Bayfield. He then won three in a row, pinning Josh Solano of Dolores Huerta and getting the fall against Stephen Bowman, of Trinidad. Lucero came back to beat Harrison in the final match of the day, getting a takedown in overtime and a 5-3 win.

“Waylon wrestled too tight in the first round,” said the coach. “He wrestled defensively. But, he responded well and won three in a row, getting that takedown in overtime. It was tough, and he did it.”

Clint Manzanares will make the trip to Denver following a third-place finish at 189. The Pirate lost his first match 14-10 to Alex Arujo of Bayfield, then fashioned two wins: by fall against Ben Grossman of Florence and with a 16-6 decision over Arujo.

“Clint got behind the eight ball in the first round,” said Janowsky. “But then he got more aggressive, and wrestled confidently on Saturday.”

Andrew Rice has made steady progress all season at 215 and the junior took fourth place at the regional event. Rice began action by pinning Brian Gorman of Colorado Springs Christian. He followed a loss to Platte Canyon’s Jesse Kirby by pinning Jose Gurule of Centauri. Rice lost his final match to Josh Martinez of Florence.

“Andrew had a nice tourament,” said Janowsky. “He’s come a long way and has picked things up in the last two weeks that have helped him. He works hard and improves every week.”

Preston Sandoval returns to Denver to compete at 275 (he fought his way to the state tourney in 2009). Sandoval took fourth at Trinidad, pinning Dustin Woodward of Platte Canyon and Drew Slavkoff of Manitou Springs, losing to Vincent Chacon of Centauri and William Dunn of Trinidad.

“Preston gives up a lot of weight (Sandoval weighs 205),” said the coach, “and he does a good job. The two guys who beat him each weigh about two-sixty.”

Other Pirates who placed at Trinidad were E.J. Romero, with sixth place at 119; Koby Close, sixth at 145; and Jordan Neuleib, sixth at 171.

“We’re coming into the state tournament with some momentum because of how we did the second part of Saturday at Trinidad,” said Janowsky. “We have two kids with state experience (Appenzeller and Sandoval), but this is one of the few years we have not had a state placer or two to make the trip. Considering that, we’ve grown a lot this season. At the state tournament, it will be a matter of poise in a new situation. Our guys have to focus on what they’ve trained for, using holds that got them there. If they manage to do that, they have a chance for some medals.”

First round action at the Pepsi Center begins at 3 p.m. Thursday. Championship quarterfinals are Friday at 10 a.m. with first round consolation immediately after. Second round consolation is at 5:45 p.m. with semifinals at 7:15. Third round consolation is at 11 a.m. Saturday with fifth-place matches begining at 2:30 p.m. and third-place matches immediately after. The Parade of Champions is at 6:30, followed by championship matches.