Saturday's 52nd Annual Hotchkiss Invitational wrestling tournament was a little light on wrestlers. Rifle's football team was playing at the state championship game. Nucla, the smallest of the six competing teams, had eight open weights, and Buena Vista was open in six.
Even the host Bulldogs wrestled only eight. All eight placed in the top three. Bulldog wrestlers who are also football players are still required more practices before they can wrestle, and one football player is still recovering from a foot injury.
The Bulldogs are still lacking most of their higher weights, and finished well in the low and middle weights on Saturday. Jake Hubbell (106) and Garrett Toothaker (113) both won their weight class; Travis Leger (126), Tanner Bizer (132), Jacob Edwards (145), Sam Strickland (152) and Tony Ibarra (160) placed second. Brendon Beck, who returns after missing a season, placed third at 145.
"I still have 11 wresters who haven't seen the mat yet," said Suppes.
Del Norte claimed the team win Saturday, and 3A Basalt, which is fielding its first team in 10 years, placed second.
Head coach Glen Suppes said his team's performance was encouraging. "Every one of these kids, every time they got back on the mat they did a little better and a little better."
Suppes said he expects 12 wrestlers to be on the mat for this Saturday's Delta tournament. Hotchkiss plans to be open at 182 and 195 all season. State qualifying heavyweight Zack Taylor will be out until after the new year. State qualifiers Joe Boyle and Dustin Head, both football players, will also return this season.
Conner Beard, who placed third at state his junior year at 220, is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
"We've got a good schedule this year," said Suppes. Hotchkiss has one home dual, and will host Olathe on Jan. 25. "But we get great opportunities to wrestle at Centauri and Salida and Delta."
The Bulldogs will wrap up the calendar year at the Warrior Classic on Dec. 14-15. That gives the team time to prepare for the long road to state "We're going to work on getting in shape and on skills and try to get better every time we crawl on the mat," said Suppes.
This marks the eighth season for Suppes as head coach of the Bulldogs. Matt Hall and Norm Vincent return as assistant coaches.
Devon Brown, a state champion wrestler for Paonia, steps in as the new assistant coach, and Hotchkiss state qualifier Jake Richards, who graduated in 2010, returns to his alma mater as an assistant coach.