Mutually understanding each other’s desire to earn a San Juan Basin League individual championship, those inside Dove Creek High School Gymnasium on Feb. 6 did not question that there was a fire burning inside Dove Creek’s Nick Jones and Ignacio’s Lorenzo Pena with the 138-pounders’ title at stake.
Each had opportunities to finish the other, but neither could in a superb six-minute show that ended with Pena visibly disappointed, but also with a “One more round!” buzz circulating around the house.
“Lorenzo performed well against the Dove Creek kid, even though we lost that match,” head coach Cody Haga said of the 15-10 score. “That kid has pretty much stuck it to us all season, and we gave him a run for his money… stuck with him clear through the third period, and that’s what matters.”
Haga said a competitor must make the best of the outcome by taking his mistakes back to the practice room.
“I’m not better than any of these guys,” said junior 170-pounder Blaine Mickey, after going two-for-two to win his division. “I’ve just got to know that I’m working harder, and prove it out on the mat that I’m working harder – than everybody in the state – so I can get on top of that podium.”
A second-period pin of Mancos’ Everett Strazza-Whalen and a third-period stick of Norwood’s Kolby Starks made Mickey the only one of Haga’s eight to leave with No. 1 distinction, but IHS still finished third as a team. Their 90.5 score trailed only Norwood’s 146 and the hosting Bulldogs’ 104.
Dolores was fourth with 51 points, Mancos fifth with 36 and Nucla sixth with 19.
In addition to Pena, four other Cats went 1-1 at the meet, including 106-pounder Stocker Robbins, who began the event with a pin of Dolores’s Tristan Medina, and 220-pounder Josh Gallegos, who ended it with a loss by pin courtesy Norwood’s Blayde Harrigan.
Gallegos had begun with a pin of Nucla’s Anthony Emery, while Robbins was pinned later by Dove Creek’s Colin Hobbs when the finals commenced. Pena’s win – with injured brother Iaasic cheering from the mat’s edge – was an emphatic 10-1 major decision over Dolores’ Guy Wallace.
“Iaasic will be back for the regional tournament,” Haga said of his regular 145-pounder. “He’s having issues with his [left] knee … just trying to rehab it and recover.”
Timmy Plehinger again filled the bill at 145, and bounced back from a loss to Norwood’s Trenton Armintrout to notch a first-period pin of Dove Creek’s Will Bartley. And bumped up from 182 to 195, presumably to get as many matches as possible, Christian Knoll shook off a 10-4 loss to Norwood’s Ethan Barnes to dominate and tech-fall Dove Creek’s Tyler Knuckles.
“Morning practices – working in there, getting that mental toughness … making everybody work hard and start getting over that soreness–helped a lot,” Mickey said. “I think everybody kind of got a little shock of … how up-to-par you have to be … in this state because of how hard our region is.”
To wit, 132-pounder Colton Logan went up against a pair of high-rated opponents – Norwood’s Hayden Harris and Dove Creek’s Chance Randolph – and was pinned in the first by each. And at 126 Ethan Appenzeller had just one match, but against an enemy he’s getting to know quite well in Dove Creek’s Case Baughman.
Prevailing 11-0, Baughman was clearly determined to limit Appenzeller’s opportunities as much as possible, knowing how close he’d come to defeat at the previous weekend’s Butch Melton Invitational.
“The boys performed well,” Haga said. “We’re pushing for regionals; that’s our goal and what we’ve been working for all year. That’s the big show in our eyes. State will come for those who earn it.”
Mickey said as long as he qualifies for State, he wants to go as far as he can without blaming anything on anybody else.
“I want to get up there and I want to work my hardest. Even if I don’t make it, I want to be up there [in Grand Junction] and know I laid everything on the mat this year,” he said.
The CHSAA State Wrestling Championships are set for Feb. 20-22 inside Denver’s Pepsi Center.