Paonia’s Morgan Rieder, left, grapples with a wrestler from Grandview High School at the third annual Paonia Summer Duals Wrestling Camp.
Serious competitors know that off-season matches can make or break a wrestling season.
"Oh, it makes all the difference in the world," said David Falls, head coach at Pueblo West High School.
Photo by Tamie Meck
Nolan Jones of Paonia works to cradle his opponent at the third annual Paonia Summer Duals Wrestling Camp.
"You can't wrestle starting in November and expect to be a state champion in February, you know."
Pueblo West was one of 40 schools represented at the third annual Paonia Summer Duals wrestling camp, held last weekend at Paonia High School. Falls has attended all three summer duals, and this year brought four wrestlers for two days of wrestling. Falls also planned to take his crew fishing and enjoy the scenery and "gorgeous weather... Where else would you rather be on a weekend like this?"
Paonia is the first school to offer the concept of the summer duals. Unlike traditional wrestling camps, which are typically held on college campuses, duals leave accommodations largely up to the visitors, although the school opens its facilities, including locker rooms, and opens the football field to camping.
Campers are also responsible for their own meals. That lowers the cost of the camps, which was a driving force
Photo by Tamie Meck
Wrestling at 106 pounds, Paonia’s Josh Altman works toward a pin over Jacobe Lewis of Hotchkiss at the third annual Paonia Summer Duals Wrestling Camp. More that 400 athletes competed in roughly 4,500 matches during the two-day event.
behind creating the Paonia duals.
"We went to camps in the summer and the kids were paying $350-$400," said Paonia head coach Andy Pipher, whose camp cost $50 per wrestler. While the accommodations were great, bunking in dorms, eating meals in cafeterias, "We just decided to find a little cheaper way to get our kids matches."
While 24 teams attended the first camp, the duals have filled the last two years, with teams coming from throughout the state and as far away as Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Nebraska.
"I think that he is really setting a trend," said Falls. "It's one of the best deals for the money." And it's catching on, he added. This summer, Ft. Lupton, Ignacio and La Junta will host their first duals, and other schools are talking about adding duals to their summer programs, said Falls.
The fact that the event can be a great fundraiser makes the duals all the more attractive. All proceeds from last weekend will go to local wrestling programs, said Pipher.
A total of 30 teams competed in the duals. Not all schools brought a full team, and wrestlers from schools like Pueblo West were either filled with open weights on other teams, or combined with other schools to form a team. Wrestlers competed in 18 weight classes, including all 14 high school classes and four lighter weights, from 85 to 100 pounds. Taking into account byes and other factors, Paonia assistant coach Mark Milner estimated that between 4,500-5,000 matches were held, but results weren't tracked.
It really wasn't about wins and losses, said coach Nick Gagliardi of Cheyenne Mountain, who brought 12 varsity wrestlers, including one from Arizona. Gagliardi said he was interested in competing with teams from the Western Slope and seeing what they were doing. "You know, kids come from all around the region to wrestle because there's good competition," he said.
Each wrestler can expect about 12 duals, which amounts to about a third of a wrestling season. Despite the fact that athletes aren't in their best shape, competition is fierce.
"You try to win every match that you're in," said Paonia sophomore Jesse Reed. "It's still very competitive."