Ignacio 132-pounder Dante Sandman refuses to let Norwood’s Cash Joseph kick out of an unorthodox pin during the 2020 San Juan Basin League Wrestling Championships held Thursday, Feb. 6, inside IHS’ auxiliary gym. Sandman made the stick official 1:11 into the third period, earning league-champion status.
Ignacio heavyweight Randy Herrera accepts the referee’s congratulations prior to receiving a forfeit win – and thus, the San Juan Basin League championship for the division – at the 2020 SJBL Championships Thursday, Feb. 6, inside IHS’ auxiliary gym. Herrera was, unluckily, the only heavyweight entered in the tournament.
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
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Grapplers making push for State berths

Two ’Cats earn SJBL Champion status

Perhaps more than any other of his wrestlers, Ignacio head coach Jordan Larsen knew Dante Sandman needed something special Thursday night, Feb. 6, from the IHS-hosted San Juan Basin League Championships.

Coming off a disappointing 0-4 showing at the team’s Butch Melton Memorial Invitational just five days before, in which he was pinned three times and also dropped an 11-0 major decision, the senior 132-pounder stepped onto the mat in the Championships’ sixth overall bout to face Norwood’s Cash Joseph for all the proverbial marbles.

And matters against the Maverick didn’t begin well; Joseph had built up a 7-2 lead on the scoreboard inside Ignacio’s auxiliary gymnasium (a burst heat pipe early that morning, giving high-schoolers an unplanned day off, necessitated the tourney’s slight relocation away from the main gym) early in the third period.

But with time running out, and obviously not wanting another setback prior to the Class 2A-Region I Championships (Feb. 14-15 in Montrose) Sandman incredibly wriggled out from a near-pin predicament, reversed his fortune, and pinned Joseph 1:11 into the last two-minute frenzy.

“Larsen just wanted us to focus on technique, focus on the match,” Sandman said afterwards.  “I just kept pushing, didn’t give up.”

“Super proud of him,” said Larsen.  “I mean … I think Dante seemed a little bit down after the weekend at the Butch Melton tournament.  He had a rough tournament, coming off a week-and-a-half hiatus from wrestling, from things outside his control, so that’s great for his confidence and his head going into regionals.”

Also admittedly unimpressed by his BMMI performance, capped by a loss in the third-place bout to 5A Farmington, N.M., sophomore Kioni Benally – who pulled off a five-point reversal/near-fall combination just before regulation time expired to steal a 6-5 stunner – heavyweight Randy Herrera was also looking for better at the SJBLs.

But without an opponent, the big senior instead earned league-champion distinction simply by walking out to the center of the circle and gaining the referee’s final approval.

Able to save fifth place at 152 pounds at the Melton by pinning 2A Cedaredge sophomore Jory Hoerr 59 seconds into the second period, Bobcat soph Tyler Barnes was unable to find victory at the league meet; despite wrestling with a braced right elbow, resulting from a summertime surgery, Mancos’ Colt Fury constructed himself a 7-0 advantage through two periods and powered through to win a 12-3 major decision and top billing at the weight.

Skipper Travis White’s Blue Jays ultimately won eight of nine total (including one ‘exhibition’ test late) bouts entered and totaled seven individual champs to depart town as the circuit’s superlative squad.

220-pounder Jeremy Roderick was pinned 1:05 into his weight’s first-place bout by Dolores’ Bryan Escarcega, while Isaac Welker’s only test at 138 – the night’s opening exhibition clash, versus Dove Creek 132-pounder Jayden Sanders – ended beneath the Bulldog’s pin after just 48 seconds.

Fifth place at the Melton at 126 pounds, freshman Keaton McCoy was unable to compete at the SJBLs, but the boss was optimistic for the freshman to return and show his skill inside the Montrose County Event Center, joining his fellow ’Cats in making their final bids to qualify for the next weekend’s CHSAA State Championships in Denver.

“We don’t train for opponents; we train for our style,” said Larsen.  “And Barnes’ match was a prime example of that … when you allow your opponent to wrestle their style as opposed to you wrestling your style, they capitalize on that.  And you lose those matches.  So that’s what we’ve been working on in the room.”

“Looking forward to getting after it, seeing how high we can place at regionals and punch a ticket to State!”


  1. Cedaredge 180, 2. Farmington (N.M.) 179.5, 3. Aztec (N.M.) 160.5, 4. Pagosa Springs 148.5, 5. Bayfield 79, 6. Farmington (N.M.) Piedra Vista 55, 7. Montezuma-Cortez 40.5, T-8. Dolores & Gallup (N.M.) 23, 10. Newcomb (N.M.) 21.5, T-11. Mancos & Rangely 19, 13. IGNACIO 18.5, 14. Shiprock (N.M.) 11, 15. Dove Creek 8, 16. Nucla 6.


106 – Bryson Valdez, Aztec; 113 – Lane Hunsberger, Cedaredge; 120 – Erik Wyman, Pagosa Springs; 126 – Trey Geyer, Cedaredge; 132 – Sean Dale, Cedaredge; 138(B) – Heath Fulbright, Pagosa Springs; 138(A) – Dylan Pickering, Bayfield; 145 – Brae Bergdolt, Pagosa Springs; 152 – Cameron Lucero, Pagosa Springs; 160 – Ivan Smith, Farmington; 170 – Cirrail Allison, Farmington; 182 – Zackary Small, Farmington; 195 – David Lopez, Cedaredge; 220 – John Foutz, Bayfield; HWT – Derek Sanchez, Cedaredge; Girls’ sub-150 – Ebony Smith, Farmington; Girls’ above-150 – Lilah Yazzie, Newcomb.

OUTSTANDING WRESTLERS: Lower Weights – Valdez; Upper Weights – Lucero.

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