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La Plata County wrestling coaches reflect on state tournament

Multiple wrestlers placed this past weekend
Durango's Ryan Dugan, right, locks up with Pueblo East's Julian Espinoza during Class 4A, 120-pound consolation-bracket action Saturday inside Ball Arena in Denver. Dugan lost 3-2, but then placed fifth at the weight by injury default. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

After the dust settled after all the action this past weekend in Ball Arena in Denver, Ignacio and Durango High School each had multiple wrestlers who placed at the state championships.

“Overall it was good,” Durango boys wrestling coach Jason Silva said. “We qualified four kids, we had a couple of matches not go our way and that's kind of part of it. There's only really there's only one person happy at the end of that weekend and that's the state champ. Everybody else needs to go back to work.”

Durango’s Cole Pontine and Braxton Waddell failed to place and went 0-2 on the weekend. Riley Belt won his first match at 138 pounds then lost in the quarterfinal and proceeded to go 1-1 in his consolation matches and didn’t place.

Ryan Dugan was the top seed in the 120-pound 4A bracket. Dugan made it to the semifinals but lost in his quest to become the Demons’ first state champion since 2000. He ended up placing fifth.

Silva said in the semifinal match, the match stalled out and both wrestlers stopped trying to score which left Dugan with not enough time to take the shots needed to win the match.

“The biggest thing I think to take away from Ryan is that we cannot let off the gas,” Silva said. “With him and his style, we have to keep going full-bore for six minutes. There was maybe a lapse of about a minute or so where neither of them was really doing much. That was basically the match. It was really two points for that match and one point for the match going for third and fourth. He would be a state champion right now and that's how close it is.”

Silva said it’s tough for some of the kids from Durango to compete with the Front Range wrestlers because they are multisport athletes whereas the wrestlers from the Front Range wrestle and train year-round. Silva did say there’s an infrastructure being built with the club teams, spring wrestling and camps to cut the separation to the Front Range wrestlers.

The Durango girls wrestling team had a similar performance to the boys. Both teams sent four wrestlers and Marie Baker and Lillian Fenberg lost their opening matches and were unable to place. But the girls had two wrestlers place. Hana Maletich won her first-round match at 110 pounds and then lost in the quarterfinals. But Maletich rallied and won two consolation matches before falling in the consolation semifinal and she placed sixth.

Durango's Hana Maletich ties up with Woodland Park's Arial Johns during the 2024 CHSAA State Championships' girls' 110-pound fifth-place bout Saturday inside Ball Arena in Denver. Maletich would lose by pin, but ended up on the podium by finishing sixth at the weight. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Brooke Fenberg won her first two matches at 115 pounds and made it to the semifinals where she lost. She then proceeded to lose her two consolation matches and she placed sixth.

“First off, man I am so stinking proud of them,” Durango girls wrestling head coach Kyle Hanson said. “This is our fourth year of wrestling being a sanctioned sport in Colorado … This year to send four and to have two place I think it just speaks to the fact that there's some great momentum in the program. The girls are building on it, there's nothing static about the way that they are thinking about wrestling or the way that they're approaching it.”

Hanson said there is still a big gap between how long the Demons wrestlers have been wrestling compared to some of the top girls wrestlers in the state. But he also said actions are being taken to create a feeder program at the middle school level and to increase mat time.

“I might be a little bit different from some other coaches in that I really just want them to get as much as they can out of the sport in the time they're able to give to it,” Hanson said. “Because I think no matter what, there's going to be a lot of transferable knowledge and life skills that come out of their time in the sport. They don't have to be a state champion to get it.”

Ignacio’s girls program made history with its first-ever girl to place at states. Larissa Espinosa finished sixth at 190 pounds.

On the boys side, Aven Bourriague finished fourth at 106 pounds in the 2A bracket. Lincoln deKay also finished fourth at 150 pounds after losing in the semifinals. Both boys lost to the eventual state champions in their weight classes.

Ignacio's Aven Bourriague refuses to relinquish the arm of Sedgwick County-Fleming's Cooper Edson during Class 2A, 106-pound consolation-bracket action Saturday inside Ball Arena in Denver. Bourriague lost by ultimate tiebreaker and concluded the 2024 CHSAA State Championships placing fourth at the weight. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Kendrick Nossaman, Kyle Rima and Zane Pontine failed to place for the Bobcats.

“While the tournament didn't end as they had hoped, each of these three athletes battled their hearts out in every second of each match and demonstrated what it means to be a Bobcat wrestler,” Ignacio wrestling coach Jordan Larsen said.

The Bayfield wrestling program did not have any wrestler place. Connor Martindale, Hunter Mars, Keaton Pickering and Logan Valencia all represented Bayfield on the boys side and Leilani Ramons represent the Wolverines on the girls side.

Pickering was the top seed in the 126-pound 3A bracket and was upset in the first round.

“It was good to get some of our guys to go, put some in the top 16 of the state to get to qualify,” Bayfield boys wrestling head coach Adam Mars said. “We had those four and Logan drew a really tough spot. He drew the number one-ranked guy in the state who ended up winning it all, in the first round. Keaton had a tough tournament. I hate to blame it on the official but in his first match there were three questionable calls against him which should have been a six-point difference and he lost the match by one point.”

Mars said he was proud of Pickering’s attitude in defeat and how he took the loss with grace. He’s also excited about the future of the program with Pickering being the only senior of the four wrestlers who made it to state.