It’s Gallegos … or bust at State!

Ignacio 145-pounder Miguel Perez pressing forward against Dove Creek's Dalton Randolph
Ignacio 145-pounder Miguel Perez, despite breathing in a headlock, tries pressing forward against Dove Creek's Dalton Randolph during Feb. 15 action at the 2A-Region I Championships in Grand Junction.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Having already jokingly sparred with Athletic Director Rocky Cundiff as the bleachers around them filled, David Cooper’s last-minute preparations on Friday, Feb. 15 also included “hitting the (imaginary) mitts” held by stable-mate Blaine Mickey.

Quickly shifting his weight from foot to foot like a boxer awaiting the bell, the Bobcat couldn’t have been any more amped to stare down opponent Cole Tracy of Kremmling-based West Grand. All eyes would be upon them in the evening’s opener. The last stretch of road leading to Denver began with two sophomores seeking their first spots at State.

Pressure? More like what-me-worry for Cooper, who used all of 74 seconds to stick the Mustang’s shoulders for the pin — the first of the night’s many short stoppages — and get Ignacio off to a rip-roaring start at the 2A-Region I Championships inside Grand Junction High School Gymnasium.

“It was fun,” said Cooper, Bob Overturf’s 132-pounder. “I didn’t think much of it at the time … just went out there. But being first is good. … You don’t have to watch everyone else getting beat.”

But where CHSAA’s 3A title was brought by Grand Junction’s Tigers 50 years before, Ignacio’s work toward any present-day, double-A honors would rapidly intensify. Cooper’s conquest ended up the team’s only first-round success and he, too, was bumped to the left side of a bracket before the day was done by a 17-0 technical fall courtesy hungry Hayden soph Kent Miller.

Ignacio 195-pounder Javan Webb prepares to lock up with Walden North Park's Adrian Cereceres

Ignacio 195-pounder Javan Webb, right, prepares to lock up with Walden North Park’s Adrian Cereceres during Feb. 15 action at the 2A-Region I Championships in Grand Junction.

Fortunately, with four Pepsi Center berths at stake per weight, and seldom more than seven vying in each, there was room for redemption. Even in Josh Gallegos’ case: His reward for a first- and second-round bye on Day 1 was a semifinal with Paonia star Tony Darling in the five-man heavyweight division.

Losing by pin in just 40 seconds wasn’t a shocker, even to Gallegos — who immediately began recomposing himself to face either Dove Creek’s Tyson Smith or Nucla’s Raphael Spencer. Smith defeated Spencer easily, and then secured his Mile High City ticket with a 9-5 win over Gallegos.

With eventual winner Darling (32-1) facing West Grand’s Stephen Terrazas (15-6) in the finale, there was only one State spot remaining — and the sophomore Gallegos (11-19) needed just 38 seconds to snag it, via a pin of Spencer (2-21) in the bracket’s “wrestleback” match.

As events transpired, only one other Bobcat would have a chance to advance to the final weekend of the 2012-13 season: Sophomore 113-pounder Keith Joosten, entering with an abbreviated 0-6 record.

Pinned in 1:30 of his first match by eventual champ Josh Altman (36-3) of Paonia, Joosten’s first consolation-round match came against DC standout freshman Case Baughman, who’d lost in the semifinals to Meeker’s Tristin Pelloni (now 30-4), and who quickly made personal amends with a pin in 1:27.

Not yet eliminated, Joosten stood in against Rangely soph Heath Peters in the first wrestleback and notched a second-period pin, 90 ticks in. But Hayden soph Tanner Guire (27-16) then administered a 16-0 tech to the exhausted Cat to earn the fourth and final State bid (Baughman, 33-10, took third).

Ignacio freshman Javan Webb (9-23) also had a wrestleback shot at 195 after being pinned by Rangely’s Drew Collins in the consolation semis, but was shoulders-down at 0:38 against Nucla’s Cris Ray — who then lost to Collins (10-10) for fourth and finished 12-13.

As Cooper had done on Day 1, 126-pounder Kyle Bailey (6-18) did on Day 2 — starting things off for the Cats with a pin 0:28 into the third against Dolores’ Luke Muirfield. But he was then pinned in the consolation semis by Meeker’s Aaron Cochran (26-10), and in the first wrestleback by Hayden’s Tate Montieth.

Cooper, after losing to Miller, was eliminated by pin a minute in against Rangely freshman Ryan Barlow, and finished the season 5-20. Sophomore Miguel Perez was pinned 31 seconds into the second by Nucla’s Danny Harris in his lone consolation-rounder at 145, and ended 7-14.

The hardest exit, however, probably went to Mickey. Ignacio’s lone returning State qualifier from last season, his tourney began with a quarterfinal loss by pin in 1:01 to Paonia’s William Austin (24-6), eventually champ among the 170s.

But with three seconds left in the second period against Meeker’s J.R. Crawford, the referee’s hand smacked the mat to declare a pin for the Cowboy senior, and Mickey (18-25) was abruptly out of the mix while Crawford (20-10) went on to take third and reserve a spot in Denver.

Action begins Thursday, Feb. 21 and runs through Saturday night’s finals.


REGIONAL STANDINGS: 1.Paonia 304, 2.Dove Creek 189.5, 3.Meeker 164.5, 4.Nucla 99.5, 5.Hayden 91, 6.Walden North Park 76, 7.Norwood 75, T-8.Dolores/Rangely 72, 10.Oak Creek Soroco 46, 11.IGNACIO 36, 12.West Grand 18.

REGIONAL CHAMPS: 106—Talon Harris (30-7), Norwood; 113—Altman, Paonia; 120—Jesse Reed (19-2), Paonia; 126—Bo Pipher (35-4), Paonia; 132—Cole Baughman (38-2), Dove Creek; 138—Gunner Chesnik (27-12), Paonia; 145—Wyatt Wade (37-3), Dolores; 152—Tray Sickels (33-6), Nucla.

160—T.J. Shelton (29-6), Meeker; 170—Austin, Paonia; 182—Ryan Domson (10-8), Hayden; 195—Tyler Kendall (27-4), Paonia; 220—Joel Simianer (27-10), Paonia; HWT—Darling, Paonia.

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