Call it rough.
Call it a learning experience.
Call it what you want, but the Colorado Class 3A wrestling tournament was anything but a great time for Pirate competitors.
From the start, the hill was steep for the three Pagosans — Dalton Gregory, Cody Snow and Morgan Shelton. Each of the three had finished fourth in their weight class at the previous week’s regional tournament and that set them up for a difficult first match at state, each facing a top-ranked wrestler.
And, while the three Pirates lost their first-round contests, they acquitted themselves well, wrestling to the end of three periods.
Gregory, a junior (27-10), was paired against Derrick Adame, a senior from Lamar with a 34-2 record at 126 pounds. Adame controlled the match and took the win with a 12-0 major decision.
In a consolation match Friday morning, Gregory was defeated by Alex Kingsley, of Berthoud.
Snow (18-21), a junior, squared off at 145 against Zeb Harvey (34-4), a senior from Lamar. Harvey got the victory with a 19-3 technical fall. Snow, at one point, had Harvey on his back and was in a position to complete the upset with a fall, but Harvey was able to get out of the ring and avoid disaster.
Snow lost his consolation match to Nick Fleegal, of Berthoud.
Shelton, (13-8), a sophomore, battled Austin Trujillo (41-0), a Valley senior at 170. Not only did Shelton take on an undefeated veteran, but he did so with a shoulder injury that effectively took his right arm out of the picture. Trujillo got the win with a 17-0 technical fall.
On Friday, Shelton lost to Emmanuel Tobon, of Sheridan. Shelton led in the match, but was forced to withdraw due to his injury.
“We’re disappointed,” said Coach Dan Janowsky of the experience in Denver, “but we never gave up.”
Rather than dwell on the state tournament results, the coach looks ahead to next year, mindful of the difficulties that beset the program this season and last.
“We’ve had two years with all kinds of misfortunes and setbacks,” he said. “We’ve been hit with injuries, and freak accidents have impacted our lineup. At times, it’s been hard to keep spirits up. But, we didn’t stop wrestling, even though we never got a moment of relief from January to the end of the season.”
Janowsky noted some observations he made in Denver and said he believes an upgrade in the quality of wrestling statewide is having an effect.
“I think the quality of wrestling is improving noticeably,” he said. “It used to be the sport was dominated by a few programs, but there’s now wider access to coaching information and it is contributing to making the sport more competitive and, for the moment, tougher on us. I like to see it, though. If we can put things together, parity should work to our advantage. But, we have to improve before we get there, and we have a plan to do that.”
Part of that plan is to continue to stress certain values to the athletes.
“You play the hand you’re dealt,” said the coach, “and you figure out how to make the most of it. That’s the only way to set up improvement. The kids who hung in — you love them the more for their loyalty in difficult circumstances.
“It won’t always be like that. You have to want it and you have to work for it. We expect to be back.”