Hotchkiss scored 198 points to place third at the 2A Region 1 tournament at Colorado Mesa University, just four points off of the first-place team.
Head coach Richard Flores said he's happy to send nine to state, but lamented a couple of heartbreaking finishes by seniors. "They put in the work; they put in the time. This is not an easy sport," he said. At the regional level, "Every kid wants to go to state, so every match is important. There are a lot of head games at this level. I think if they would have just wrestled their match," it would have been different.
Looking at the successes, sophomore Sergio Campos and seniors Colton Hall and Wade Katzdorn won regional titles. Katzdorn won at 170-pounds. He was awarded a stalling point late in the third round to upset the top-seeded senior from Ignacio, 8-7.
Campos maneuvered his way out of a painful near fall situation early in the match to defeat second-seeded junior Jacob Pelloni of Meeker, 6-3, for the regional title. "I just thought to myself, I can't lose this one. This one's really important," said Campos.
A two-time state middle school champion with an undefeated eighth grade season under his belt, Campos (113) is now 34-5, with most of his losses going to 3A and 4A wrestlers. He was aiming for an undefeated season. As the No. 1 seed at state, he has another goal: a shot at the finals.
At 132, Hall upset the No. 1 seed from Ignacio to claim the regional title. "I'm right where I need to be," said Hall after his win. The three-time state qualifier has been ranked No. 1 in state all year, but was seeded second at the tournament due to seeding criteria that favors state placers from the previous year.
Hall also has years of good coaching behind him, including from dad Matt Hall, a former wrestler and assistant coach for Hotchkiss. Hall and Katzdorn, who wrestles at 160, have wrestled for Flores for almost 14 years. Having the consistency and support has contributed a lot to his career, said Hall.
Katzdorn and Hall were in kindergarten when Flores started coaching them. When they went to high school, Flores, the former middle school coach, made the jump to high school. "It's fun to see them through," said Flores.
Sophomore Landen Mayberry (106), and senior Chris Lovato (126), Joseph Nault (220) and Conner Collins (285) all won their third-place matches, with Collins wrapping up the tournament by pinning Tory Wilson of Cedaredge in 51 seconds.
Nault won his final match in a sudden-victory overtime against Paonia junior Cyrus Malek Madoni. That's the second time this season they went into overtime, said Nault. He called it the best match of his four-year career. Against Malek Madoni, "It's kind of a toss-up every time. He's a heck of a tough kid."
Nault is hoping to do better at state this year after falling in his first match last year to the top wrestler from Buena Vista. He's been working closely with assistant coach Curtis Hintz, who works with the upper weights. "We joke and say that Hintz is more like the mom because he takes care of all the little stuff. Flores is just here to wrestle."
Nault started wrestling in eighth grade, but two weeks into the season he broke his leg.
In his freshman year Flores took over as head coach at Hotchkiss. "It kind of seemed right to stick with him," said Nault.
Flores said he wasn't surprised at how close the team scores were throughout the tournament. "I thought it was going to be tight between three teams," said Flores. "We were prepared for it."
Hotchkiss has won four state titles, the last in 2004, when they claimed the 3A title under head coach Glen Suppes, who also won the 2002 title. Taking nine into state gives Hotchkiss a shot at state, said Flores, but it's going to take work. "It's whomever wants to win the most."