The wrestlers at Hotchkiss High School are off to a great start.
Two weeks into the campaign, the Bulldogs are up to No. 5 in 2A in a recent poll and have seen several individuals put up some big wins at duals early in the season.
Local fans got their first glimpse of the Bulldogs this past week when Hotchkiss hosted a Tri Meet against Moffat County and Rangely at the high school last Friday night.
Missing a couple of key wrestlers because of injury, Hotchkiss prevailed against Moffat County 46-28 and then beat an undermanned Rangely squad 81-0.
"We've come a long way in a week," Hotchkiss coach Richard Flores said. "We are missing some kids. Our 152-pounder is out for the year with a shoulder injury, we lost our 182-pounder after he dislocated his elbow, and we don't have a 220 so we bumped some kids up tonight and they wrestled pretty tough."
The Bulldogs were paced by a sizzling start after the Three Coltons put them in front for good against Moffat County.
Colton Cordova (120), Colton Hall (126) and Colton DeLuzio (132) got the Bulldogs on the board at 16-0 with their big wins. Cordova and Hall won by pinfall while DeLuzio won his match against John Peroulis 9-0.
"That set the tone," Flores said. "Cordova's match was fantastic. He's our 113 and we bumped him up to 120 and he wrestled a really tough kid from Moffat County and he looked great."
Normally the Bulldogs would have a fourth Colton, this one Colton Peebles at 152 pounds, but the sophomore is recovering from an injury.
"We usually carry four Coltons," Flores said. "And that fourth one is tougher than nails."
Bulldogs sophomore Chase Hiatt was pinned by a tough competitor in Issik Herod at 138 pounds, and Moffat County cut the Bulldogs' lead to 16-6.
Three Open weights for Moffat County helped Hotchkiss along as Owen Mattison (145), Austin Todd (152) and Wade Katzdorn (160) all collected wins for the Bulldogs, who saw their lead upped to 34-6.
The visitors would not go down quietly, however, and Moffat County reeled off three consecutive wins by pinfall to make it 34-24.
Mikinzie Klimper pinned Kale Litzelman at 170, Hugo Hernandez put Kayden Owens on his back at 182 and Stelious Peroulis pinned Bulldogs sophomore Devin Curtis at 195 to keep the dual in doubt.
Hotchkiss turned the tide in the match of the night at 220, when Bulldogs junior Jared Cantrell moved up a weight to beat Moffat County tough guy Trevor Kuhn 10-4.
"I was real impressed with Jared Cantrell filling in at 220," Flores said. "He only weighs about 183, 184 and he filled in and did a really good job."
Heavyweight Connor Collins won his match by pin and Hotchkiss led 43-24.
A hard-fought and entertaining match at 106 saw Hotchkiss freshman Sergio Campos beat Karson Cox 6-4 to provide the final three team points for the Bulldogs.
Chris Moschetti provided the final margin when he won 12-3 over Bulldogs freshman Presley Pene at 113 pounds.
"We're down some kids, but you focus on what you have and what we had today wrestled real tough," Flores said. "As a team we looked pretty good. I was happy with it."
Hotchkiss continued its hot start a day later with a second-place finish at the Delta Invitational at Delta High School.
The Bulldogs posted 188 team points, second to the host Delta's 200.
DeLuzio, Campos and Cordova all made it to the finals before falling just short of their individual titles.
Hall was the champion at 126 when he defeated Durango's Tristan Martinez 12-9 in the championship.
Todd was the champion at 152 after his 11-3 major decision over Buena Vista's Jackson Baroni.
Wade Katzdorn was the third Hotchkiss individual champ when he beat Meeker's Chase Rule 4-3 to claim the title at 160.
Flores is thrilled with the strong team start for the Bulldogs, but he knows that they still have a long way to go before February and the state tournament get here.
"By the end of the year, we should see aggression," Flores said. "Just an all-out swarm of attack. Guys who are light on their feet, always attacking, always attacking. When a guy puts pressure on you like that, it's real hard to beat a guy who is constantly in your face."