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Grapplers take fighting spirit to regional tourney

Despite a team record lacking in wins, the Pagosa Springs High School wrestling squad will head into this weekend’s regional tournament with a number of highly seeded athletes.

The squad continued its team woes last week with losses to number-one-ranked Alamosa High School and Bloomfield High School.

Facing Alamosa on the home mats of the Mean Moose Thursday, the Pirates fell short as a team by a score of 61-16, but a disappointing score does not always make for a disappointed coach.

“They’ve (Alamosa) been beating all of their 3A opponents by similar scores, so we’re not alone in that by any means,” Coach Dan Janowsky said. “In fact, I think we did a decent job of competing against them to the best of our ability.”

Janowsky said he stressed with the team before the dual to force their opponents to earn points, versus giving the points away because a match may be deemed lopsided.

“As long as you’re making them earn it and you’re not giving it to them, then that’s the best that you can do,” Janowsky said.

Three Pirates bettered their personal records on the day, with Dakota Miller, Koby Close and Ty Lobato tallying wins over their opponents.

Miller, wrestling in the 135-pound class, defeated Chris Reveles in a 20-10 decision, Close gained a fall over Gavin Palmer in 1:43 in the 171-pound weight class, and Lobato beat Nick Jones in 3:38.

Other Pirates — Will Appenzeller and Danny Shahan — put forth strong efforts despite coming home on the losing end, Janowsky said.

Janowsky said the featured match of the night was Appenzeller facing Pablo Ortiz — a match that will likely take place again at this weekend’s tournament.

Appenzeller lost to Ortiz in a 19-4 decision, but Janowsky hopes changes will be made in time for a different outcome this weekend.

Janowsky also pointed out Shahan’s efforts in a match he lost to Alamosa’s David Heredia in a 4-3 decision.

On the heels of the tough Alamosa dual, “disaster struck again” as the team traveled to Bloomfield, Janowsky said, with two of the team’s three seniors out with the flu that plagues much of the school district (and community).

“We went into that dual minus our two best wrestlers, if you go by the records,” Janowsky said. “That would be tough in any sport, in any program.”

While not able to take pride in a winning record, Janowsky said that, in spite of the team’s setbacks this season, he’s been able to “take a certain amount of pride in when one guy goes down, we have another guy.”

“There is a continuity there — that we continue to put a fairly full lineup on the mat and the kids are competing even when they’re sometimes mismatched; they’ll still struggle to do the best they can,” Janowsky said.

Although without Appenzeller and Miller, four Pirates recorded victories in the last regular season dual.

Cody Kimsey defeated Jacob Spencey 12-3 in the 112-pound class, Close gained a fall over Jerome Abeyta in 3:50 in the 171-pound class, and Ty Lobato similarly defeated Jared Alcon in 3:50 in the 189-pound class, while Preston Sandoval earned points for the team through a forfeit.

With the regular season in the bag, the Pirates will welcome competition back to the PSHS gym in the form of the regional tournament this weekend.

The three Pagosa Springs seniors are all pre-seeded going into the tournament, as are a number of other Pirates.

Miller will head into the weekend seeded number one in his class, while Sandoval and Appenzeller earned number-two seeds based on their individual season records.

“The individual always has an opportunity,” Janowsky said of the trio’s seedings and performances thus far in the season. “We have very high hopes and aspirations that they’ll continue that.”

In addition to the seniors, Close and Lobato will head into the tournament at the number-three seeds in their weight classes.

“I think they can wrestle to that seed or better,” Janowsky said.

Beyond that, Dalton Gregory is seeded fifth, but has victories over opponents seeded above him, leading Janowsky to “know he’s a contender.”

Janowsky added that other Pirates were seeded out of the top five, but are capable of placing at the tournament.

The top four in each weight class qualify for the state tournament Feb. 17-20.

“There are so many upsets and so much emotion going into that day that anything can happen,” Janowsky said.

Hosting a regional tournament is also a semi-rare treat and the last chance for fans and supporters to root on the Pirates at home this season.

“About once every 10 years we get to host this event and it’s a very intense, emotional, drama-packed day,” Janowsky said. “It is very fun to watch.”

Action begins Friday at 2 p.m. and continues Saturday at 9 a.m.