Eighteen different teams and over 200 high school wrestlers saw action in Pagosa Springs over the weekend in a series of wrestling meets that culminated in the annual Rocky Mountain Invitational.
The action began Thursday with a dual meet against the Monte Vista Pirates in which Pagosa fell prey to their fellow Pirates, namely in the lower weight classes.
“Monte Vista is pretty strong in the lighter weights,” said Head Coach Dan Janowsky.
In fact, Pagosa failed to see a victory until Will Appenzeller in the 145-pound class, who defeated Garret Pacheco in 1:21.
Also at the Thursday meet, Cody Snow recorded a 5-3 victory in the 160-pound class and Preston Sandoval defeated his opponent in the 215-pound class 12-2.
“We were missing some key people, which could have made a difference,” Janowsky said, clarifying that a number of the team were out for various reasons. “So, we put together the best lineup we could three days after Christmas (vacation).”
Despite the absence of a portion of the varsity team (three athletes saw varsity action for the first time at the dual) and some team members wrestling at higher weight classes than normal, one match could have ended the night in Pagosa’s favor.
Friday welcomed the Rocky Mountain Duals to the gymnasium, with Air Academy High School, Bloomfield High School, Espanola Valley High School, Taos High School and Pagosa competing.
The Pirates first faced Taos and collected points on a number of forfeitures in open weight classes.
Pagosa then continued to win six of eight matches wrestled, with Kimsey Cody, Haylen Mead, Dalton Gregory, Keith Archuleta, Appenzeller and Ty Lobato tallying those victories.
Pagosa defeated Taos 66-12 in the dual.
Pagosa then turned to a much fuller team — Espanola — against whom the team finished 5-5 in matches. During the dual, Lane Chavez, Cody, Gregory, Appenzeller, Dakota Miller, Snow and Lobato recorded wins.
An advantage in forfeits (forfeiting one, while receiving three forfeits) tipped the scales in Pagosa’s favor, ending the meeting with Pagosa up by 17 points.
Rounding out the Pirate action and the Duals, Pagosa fell to Bloomfield by a final score of 55 to 24.
Bloomfield, “far and away the strongest of the three teams,” according to Janowsky, held the Pirates to only three wins — Sandoval, Lobato and Appenzeller.
“I wouldn’t say our lineup was full strength and we did the best we could, but their lineup was stronger than ours,” Janowsky said, adding, “Our kids put out the whole weekend, but there are some things you can’t make up for on short notice.”
With little rest, action for the Pirate wrestlers continued Saturday with the annual Rocky Mountain Invitational, which saw Pagosa place ninth among the 16 teams welcomed to the meet.
“This is a tough tournament and it’s got some really quality varsity wrestlers in it,” Janowsky said, noting that with the lineup issues continuing to plague the team, Pagosa entered JV wrestlers into the tournament.
To make matters worse, minor injuries forced more lineup changes throughout the tournament.
“By the end of the weekend, our whole lineup was completely different. It was a real war of attrition,” Janowsky said, adding that, though minor injuries caused the changes, “I like the fact they battled hard.”
Despite the lineup issues, four Pirate wrestlers finished in the top five as individuals.
“Our bright spot was Will Appenzeller, who was our lone champion,” Janowsky said.
In his quest for champion in the 140-pound class, Appenzeller beat Hafid Valencia of Taos in 53 seconds.
Appenzeller then fell Monte Vista’s Pacheco in 1:52, followed by a fall of Aztec’s Rio Escojeda in 5:04.
Rounding out his victories, Appenzeller beat C.J. Cordasco of Monticello High School — Utah’s defending state champion — by a score of 7-1.
Also with an impressive finish for the Pirates was Lobato, who defeated three of four opponents in the 171-pound class.
Lobato fell Center’s Jose Macias in 4:45, followed by a defeat of unattached wrestler Mike Trujillo in 37 seconds before falling prey to Bayfield’s Jon Roberts in 4:53.
Rebounding to finish with a win, Lobato then defeated unattached Jordan Trujillo in a 5-1 decision.
At the tournament, Sandoval placed fourth in the 215 class, with a win in 1:16 over Centauri’s Tylen Pavlovsky and a defeat fall in 4:46 of Monte Vista’s Isaac Medina.
Rounding out the top five placers, Gregory finished fifth in the 125 class with a fall of teammate Blake Roman in 1:49, a fall of Antonito’s Louis Duran in 4:59, a fall of Del Norte’s Robert Gonzales in 3:31, a fall of Air Academy’s Dillon Dombaugh in 39 seconds, and a second fall of Blake in 1:49.
Although placing only ninth, Janowsky was not overly disappointed with the Pirate finish at the tournament.
“It isn’t what you shoot for, but you play the hand you get and I think we played it as good as we could have,” he said.
The Pirates continue their tough schedule tonight against Bayfield — the top finisher at the Invitational — in Pagosa’s final home meet before the regional tournament.
“They won the tournament. ...They’re going to be a clear favorite,” Janowsky said, adding that he’s keeping his fingers crossed for the return of key varsity wrestlers by the dual.
Janowsky hopes the team will face the intense challenge Bayfield brings in front of a nice crowd.
“We’ll accept that challenge and see what happens,” Janowsky said.
Pagosa’s wrestlers will then head over Wolf Creek Saturday for the Alamosa Tournament, hopefully with a strong and healthy varsity squad.