Five of the top 10 teams in state 2A rankings will compete in the 2A Region 1 wrestling tournament, which opens at 1 p.m. Friday the Colorado Mesa University Brownson Arena in Grand Junction. Saturday's semifinal and consolation quarterfinals begin at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The tournament promises to be highly competitive. Of the top-ranked teams in 2A Region 1 competition, "Four of them are in our region," noted Paonia head coach Andy Pipher. Five Western Slope teams are also among the top 10 teams in the state in the latest On the Mat rankings, including No. 2 Meeker, Hotchkiss at No. 3, Norwood/Nucla at four, Paonia at five, and ninth-ranked Ignacio.
Hotchkiss has momentum heading into the regional tournament after winning the team title Saturday at the Norwood Invitational, said head coach Richard Flores. The team won all but two of its tournaments this year, and posted a 11-3 dual record.
Bulldogs wrestlers are ranked in the top four in the region in eight weight classes, including Landen Mayberry (106), Sergio Campos (113) and Colton Hall (132). Chris Lovato (126), Colton Deluzio (138), Wade Katzdorn (160), Parker Katzdorn (182), Devin Curtis (195), Joseph Nault (220) and Conner Collins (285) also have a shot at a qualification. Some are sitting on the edge in the No. 5 spot in the rankings. Flores said they will do everything they can to get them to state. "Only the top four go, not the top five."
Paonia has six returning state qualifiers on the roster, six of whom placed at state in 2016, including Eli Etter (126), Trevor Smith (285) and juniors Clay Campbell (145), Jaden Miller (182), and Cyrus Malek-Madani (220); and sophomore Sackett Chesnik (138), who placed fourth as a freshman. Senior Gabriel "Gabe" Ferguson (120) is looking for his first state qualification.
Zeb Etter (106), Grey Neal (132), Jesse Burns (160), Anthony Felice (170) and Poncho Lopez (195) are also heading to regional competition. The 113 and 152 weights will be determined this week.
Pipher said he thinks his team will do just fine. "Just go wrestle hard, that's all we can ask."
Cedaredge has top-four ranked wrestlers in 12 of the 14 weight divisions in the region. The team has put in a lot of work over the last two years, said third-year head coach Cutter Garrison. They bought into the coaches' philosophy, have put in the effort and time and summer programs. "They are committed to the program."
The 2A Western Slope Region 1 is definitely the toughest in the state, said Garrison. His wrestlers have faced some of the top kids in the state and have done well.
"We're a pretty balanced team all the way around," said Garrison. Three Bruin freshmen, one sophomore, four juniors and five seniors make up the varsity roster and all in a position to qualify for state. Juniors Alex McCracken (126) and Colton Hoerr (145), seniors Zach Anderson (160) and Tre LaBossiere (195) are seeking a return trip to state after qualifying in 2016. For Anderson, a state qualification will mark his fourth time at state
"I think the team will do fine," said Garrison. "It all depends on who's there, who shows up, and who's ready."
In Class 3A Region 1 competition, the Delta Panthers have six wrestlers ranked in the top four in On the Mat regional rankings, including Logan Mayberry at 113 pounds, Kole Roberts (145), Chance Dillingham (152), Drake Horn (160), Livan Santander (182) and Logan Church (285). In all, Delta has at least six wrestlers poised to qualify for state, and a handful of others who are coming on strong at the end of the season. "Now it all comes together for them," said Curtis. The team returns to its normal routine after completing two-a-day practices. Curtis said Santander is among several other wrestlers who are starting to come on strong as the regular season winds down.
"It's easy to get wound up and lose focus this time of the season," said Curtis. Keeping a routine helps wrestlers maintain their focus. "We'll just keep doing what we do. We have a lot of guys we know that we can get (to state). It's just a matter of them deciding that they're going to go."
The tournaments can be followed live at trackwrestling.com.
The seventh annual Eckert Crane Days, the annual viewing of the sandhill cranes migrating north from New Mexico through Colorado's West Slope, will be March 16-18. Representatives from the Black Canyon Chapter of the Audubon Society (BCAS) will be at the viewing site east of Eckert at Fruitgrowers Reservoir, 9 to 11 a.m. each day, to answer questions and provide binoculars and spotting scopes.