Not every coach beams with pride after his wrestler loses a big match, but on Saturday night, as the 82nd annual wrestling tournament was winding down, Hotchkiss head coach Richard Flores had nothing but praise for his wrestlers. And none made him more proud than senior 195-pounder Devin Curtis.
In the championship match, Curtis gave up some early back points, but he never quit in his 7-2 loss to Dahlton McGee of Fowler. McGee was undefeated and seeded first going into the tournament. Curtis was seeded third. Had he not given up those early points, "He probably would have had a different mindset going into the final period."
Despite being down, Curtis stayed calm. Anything can happen at state, and it's easy for kids to freak out, said Flores. A wrestler from Merino who was ranked first all year didn't even place. "For him to place, I'm really proud of him," said Flores. "For him to be in the Parade of Champions was awesome."
Unlike many top wrestlers in the state, Curtis didn't start wrestling until eighth grade, said Flores. His junior year he wrestled at state, but didn't place. This year he was the Region 1 champion and the state runner-up.
"For him to make it here just lets you know how hard he worked," said Flores. "He earned every bit of that second place. Hard work. Extra time. He never slacked off."
All four years Curtis gave his all to the sport, said Flores. This year, he emerged as the team leader. "He got everybody going, and he kind of ran the show. As far as anyone who's slacking, if someone wasn't wrestling up to their potential, he kind of let them know. Everybody needs one of those guys."
Curtis was one of three placers for Hotchkiss. At 132 pounds, freshman Traycer Hall placed fifth. Hall, who was seeded fourth, opened with a pin over Sierra Grande and won in sudden victory in the quarterfinal round against Highland. In semifinals Hall lost by a 9-2 decision to the No. 1 seed from John Mall. In the fifth-place match, Hall pinned the No. 3 seed from Cheyenne Wells in the third period.
At 126, junior Presley Pene (27-16) opened with a 6-2 loss to junior Brendyn Nordyke of Holly, then advanced to the placing rounds on three consecutive wins, placing sixth on a 7-3 loss to Mountain Valley.
Hotchkiss's seven state qualifiers scored 51 points to place 10th in Class 2A. "I was happy with it," said Flores. Every wrestler also won at least one match, including freshman Robert Cochran (113), sophomore Jace Peebles (145), and first-year senior heavyweight Nolan Egging. At 220, freshman Kevin Chavez was 2-2 for the tournament. One little mistake resulted in a one-point loss to the kid who went on to place third, said Flores. "That's wrestling."