The pre-holiday portion of the season ended for the Pirate wrestling team Saturday, at the John Mall Invitational, at Walsenburg.
A second-place finish at the 18-team event proved a fine send-off for the wrestlers as they head into their Christmas break. Pagosa scored 168 points to finish behind tourney winner Del Norte (212 points).
Dalton Gregory emerged as a tournament champion, fighting his way to the title at 132 pounds. On his way to the top spot, Gregory managed all four of his victories by pin.
“Dalton wrestled like a veteran all day,” said Coach Dan Janowsky. “He’s the one, true veteran we have active on the roster right now. He’s been to two regional tournaments so far.”
Morgan Shelton was the only other Pirate to reach the finals. Shelton took second place at 170 pounds after entering action as the No. 4 seed. His 6-1 decision over the No. 1-seeded wrestler from Taos was a tournament highlight for the Pirate. Shelton narrowly lost in the finals, 7-6.
Danny Shahan (3-1) was the sole third-place finisher among the Pirates. He placed third at 138 pounds.
Cassidy DeYapp (2-2) took fourth at 145.
Cody Snow (3-2) was fifth at 160.
Chris Archuleta (2-2), a freshman, was fifth at 120, and Chase Patane (2-2), a freshman, was fifth at 182.
Cody Kimsey (2-2) scored team points with a sixth-place finish at 113.
Other Pirates won varsity matches at Walsenburg. Weldon Hughes was 2-2 at 103; Austin Courtney was 2-2, at 126; Keith Archuleta (1-2) took a victory at 152; and Alonzo Hernandez was 2-2 at 195.
Janowsky was happy with the way his team ended the 2011 portion of the schedule, but he is realistic about how the squad must improve before it is time for the state tournament.
“We lack the quality right now that it takes to score really big points,” he said. “We have good balance and, at Walsenburg, we scored points at every weight — even with a lot of freshmen in there. Everybody contributed.”
Janowsky said he sees his team at this point in the year, “in the top half of the (Class 3A) pack. But, we’re still not settled in terms of our lineup.”
According to the coach, his wrestlers need to improve technically but, attitude-wise, the athletes are faring well. He also noted the youthful character of his team this season.
“I felt really positive (at Walsenburg),” he said. “We have a really young group, many of them the age of your average junior varsity wrestler.”
The varsity lineup at Walsenburg included but one senior, Shahan, and three juniors — Gregory, Snow and Keith Archuleta. The roster included three sophomores — Kimsey, DeYapp and Shelton — and freshmen Hughes, Chris Archuleta, Courtney, Patane and Hernandez.
“They’re doing a good job and, frankly, the tournament was a lot of fun. You know, guys this age can feel sorry for themselves, or they can attempt to rise to the challenge and get better. They’re getting better each time out. Last weekend we were in a pretty old-school wrestling environment. We were in early for weigh-ins and we didn’t leave the gym until about ten at night. We grew as a team. We have a long way to go; we need to get more finalists and winners. But, this last tournament was fun.”
There are a couple practice “windows” allowed by the Colorado High School Activities Association during the next two weeks, when the athletes can attend voluntary workouts. Regular practices begin again on Jan. 2 and, soon after, competition starts in the New Year. The Pirates travel to Monte Vista for a league dual meet on Jan. 5 then return home to host the Rocky Mountain Duals on Jan. 6 and the Rocky Mountain Invitational on Jan. 6.