Bayfield sophomore Hunter Mars certainly had a tough act to follow.
Stepping onto the mat immediately after heavyweight Jordan Cundiff brought BHS’ backers to life with a second-period pin of Pagosa Springs’ Antonio Quesada, and probably sensing that the final dual of Friday’s quadrangular inside BHS Gymnasium hinged upon his own performance, the 106-pounder appeared understandably disappointed after giving up a third-period pin to Anthony Manzanares.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Mars said afterward. “Just need to work on conditioning a little bit – I’m a little out of shape – but other than that ... It was a good opportunity to see other wrestlers, and see what we need to work on in the room. But I felt a little tired out there by the third.”
On the adjacent mat, Ignacio 106-pounder Aven Bourriague scored a 16-0 technical-fall defeat of Piedra Vista’s (New Mexico) Enrique Dominguez.
With the volume inside the venue still increased, the Wolverines went out on a high note when sophomore 113-pounder Payton Montgomery concluded the meet with a first-period pin – shrinking PSHS’ margin of victory down to 46-35 as the Intermountain League rivals sized each other up for the first time in the 2022-23 season.
“That last dual with Pagosa was intense; everybody was into it, both teams were into it – it was great,” Bayfield head coach Todd McMenimen said. “Our kids wrestled really well for our first week out, and the crowd was great; I thought that, for our first weekend, the excitement in the gym … was as good as we’ve had around here in a while.”
“I’m very pleased we could come out and wrestle some of these guys too,” said IHS head coach Jordan Larsen. “I didn’t know what to expect coming in – Pagosa, Bayfield and Piedra Vista, all bigger schools – but …. I’m just really, really pleased. Brought five freshmen and two sophomores today, and they didn’t all get a ‘W’ but they all battled in every match. There’s a lot to work with there.”
“I was trying to work my stuff, trying to get better every match,” said Bourriague, who scored the Bobcats’ last five points in a 44-17 loss to PVHS, which had a point deducted. “My first two didn’t go the way I wanted; I wanted to finish strong.”
Ultimately, Pagosa Springs finished strongest as a unit and posted a 3-0 event record – defeating Ignacio 67-10 and Piedra Vista 48-32, in addition to holding off BHS by 11 points. The Wolverines finished 2-1, able to edge PVHS 38-33 and defeat the ’Cats 48-14.
“I was pleased,” McMenimen said. “We’ve got a lot of freshmen trying to fill some holes right now, and I saw tons of good things out of all of them. Our weights aren’t where they need to be … right now, and they’re still battling and competing. And that’s all I can ask of them, to come out and compete every time.”
“I agree,” said junior Keaton Pickering, who went 3-0 – including a technical fall and a forfeit – at 126. “I felt good for my first time out … but I’ll just keep on going in the wrestling room, keep getting that intensity up. I think we’re going to be good.”
Senior Deegan Barnes began his final season going 3-for-3 at 165 pounds with three pins. Sophomore Logan Valencia went 2-1 at 120 with two pins, Mars ended up 2-1 and Montgomery also finished 2-1.
Freshman Reese Appenzeller notched a pin against Piedra Vista in his very first prep-level match, and also claimed a forfeit to finish 2-1 at 132 pounds, and classmate Caelan Ramos went 2-1 at 175 with two forfeit wins. Fellow freshman Zayden Cundiff finished 1-2 at 144, with a third-period pin during the seesaw battle against Pagosa.
“We’re going to be seeing them a lot this year,” Pickering said, “and just seeing where everybody’s at, all of our new guys … and how (Pagosa’s) doing, I think we wrestled really great.”
For Ignacio, sophomore Kendrick Nossaman went 2-1 at 165 with two pins. Classmate Asher Gallegos also pinned two opponents – including PVHS’ Isaak Polanco in just 25 seconds – in going 2-1 at 150.
“My first match, I definitely feel like I could have done better; my knee was pretty bruised up,” said Gallegos. “So I just said, ‘screw it; I’m not going to have any more excuses’ and went from there.”
“Honestly, you’ve just got to go after it early; you can’t really care who you wrestle – it’s either you or him.”
Freshman Lincoln deKay earned a 13-0 major decision against Pagosa Springs at 144, and pulled out an 8-6 win over Zayden Cundiff to also go 2-1 at the quad. Freshman Zane Pontine went 1-2 at 138 with a 17-0 tech of BHS’ Cael Blount (0-3). Bourriague also finished 1-2.
Freshmen Joshua Kerrigan (113) and Dillon Brann (120) each went 0-3, though Kerrigan lasted the regulation six minutes, or longer, in each of his matches – an 8-6 overtime loss against PSHS’ Gabe Ramirez, a 5-0 loss to Montgomery and a 5-1 loss to Piedra Vista’s Adrian Nevarez Soliz.
“Our freshmen and sophomores stepped up; they’re going to be OK,” Larsen said. “Wrestling’s something that takes a long time, so if we can keep these kids out all season – and for the next three years – we’re going to have a team full of studs.”