When the Bayfield High School wrestling team took to the mat for its first competitive matches of the season last Saturday at Colorado Mesa University, Bayfield head coach Todd McMenimen said his team was ready to go. Now with the season underway, the Wolverines are eager to prove it.
Bayfield sent two qualifiers to the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 3A state wrestling tournament last year, but McMenimen believes the Wolverines can get up to eight qualifiers if they play their cards right.
“Our motto this year is, ‘success is not owned; success is rented, and rent is due daily,’” McMenimen said. “We got a lot stronger in our middle weight classes, and while we only sent two to state last year in John Foutz and Daniel Westbrook, I think the experience the others gained was huge.
“This year, my goal is to get some of the underclassmen qualified for state and let them get the experience because that helps when you’ve got four or five guys returning to the wrestling room that have been there the year before. It helps breed the environment up there that you need to have every day.”
Of the two that qualified for state last year, both return in separate capacities. Foutz is back after he went 29-6 last year and finished in fourth place in the 195-pound weight class. Westbrook is also returning – as a volunteer assistant coach – and Foutz decided to move up a weight class to 220 pounds – the spot Westbrook occupied last season.
Foutz has not changed his hard-nosed, all-business approach and is striving to be atop the podium at the Pepsi Center in late February.
“My expectations for this year are higher,” Foutz said. “I have higher expectations because I know I can do better than that. I have the same expectations that I’m going to hold throughout the season: Do the best that I can and try and take the gold every time. Definitely being a state champion is always the goal, and that’s what I’m reaching for this year. Even though I moved up to 220 pounds, and it’s entirely new turf, I believe in myself.”
Foutz is not the only returner who can contend for a state title. Four Wolverines are ranked in the top 10 in their respective weight classes, and McMenimen said the Wolverines got a lot stronger in the middle weight section of their lineup.
“James Mars improved immensely, and once he’s off injury, I think he will make a great run,” McMenimen said. “He started hitting his stride at regionals and did a lot of wrestling in the offseason. Kobe Prior at 160 looked really good this weekend, made two little mistakes, but easily could have been 5-0. I expect a lot out of Dylan Pickering at 138, as he has matured a little bit and will give us a good effort. There are a few others that add a lot of speed and depth to our roster and will improve the room a lot.”
The Wolverines have three spots open at 120-, 152- and 195-pound weight classes, but senior Shane Moore said the roster should be filled out once other wrestlers decide to drop weight classes.
“In my opinion, even our younger guys have stepped up, they’re learning a lot and we’re looking really good this year,” Moore said. “We aren’t quite where we need to be with our roster just yet since we have three spots open, but I’ll wait until they drop down, and I’ll fill in at 170. That way we’ll have a full team, and we won’t have any weak points.”
The Wolverines will look to challenge the always-difficult Intermountain League this season, as Pagosa Springs was ranked No. 4 in the preseason rankings in Class 3A, while Alamosa was seventh. Still, McMenimen believes BHS can put together a strong performance in conference.
“Pagosa is probably favored this year, with Alamosa right behind them,” McMenimen said. “Both of them are perennial powers again, but I think we can compete, and we’re poised to make some waves in the IML, and we’ll see what we can do later in the season. The quality of wrestlers in league is always really good, and this year will be no different.”
With depth in the middle and upper weight categories, there’s no reason why the Wolverines can’t have another strong season.
“The way the team has been taking practice in stride, it’s really encouraging for the rest of the year,” McMenimen said. “If we start finding our stride and get rolling, I think we can send seven or eight guys to Denver, and if we can do that, there will be plenty of momentum for the future of this program.”