Indians surging in 4A team race: With trio of wrestlers in finals, Montrose eyes top-5 finish

DENVER — Kevin Passehl had the sort of dilemma any coach would enjoy.

Passehl, the head wrestling coach of the Montrose Indians, had just settled into his sideline seat to watch 171-pound junior Bryce Gaber compete in the Class 4A semifinals on Friday when, thanks strictly to the luck of the draw, his son, Jordan Passehl, was about to start his semifinal match in the 189-pound division.

The elder Passehl, naturally, migrated over to watch his son attempt to continue his perfect season, leaving Gaber in the capable hands of assistant coach Neil Samples. The Indians have become so efficient under Passehl during his first year at the helm that he barely missed any moment of either bout.

Jordan Passehl quickly recorded a pin against Justin Burns-LaBorde of Pueblo West, allowing his father and coach to return to his other seat in time to witness Gaber complete his victory against Kohlman Scribner of Mountain View.

Add in a quick pin by 215-pound senior Braxten Franz in his semifinal match moments later, and the surging Indians were able to advance three athletes into tonight’s championship bouts at the Pepsi Center.

Montrose is second in the team race with 82 points, trailing first-place Broomfield, which has 108.5 points.

Palisade 119-pound sophomore Daniel Salazar also will be competing for a state title after helping the Bulldogs move into the top 10 in the team race with 41 points, good for ninth.

“That was a good problem to have,” Kevin Passehl said. “This was great for us tonight, but we can’t be happy with it. We’ll just keep talking with them through tomorrow. The goal was to come here and place top-five as a team and get some of these kids in the finals. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this opportunity at Montrose.”

Kevin Passehl clearly has made a huge impression on the Indians’ program in a short amount of time. Gaber was not even on the varsity squad last season and Jordan Passehl, who improved to 42-0 this season, failed to place at state last year. Yet those two and Franz all are only one win away from collecting state championships for Montrose.

Franz improved to 42-3 and earned his state final berth with a pin against Pueblo Central’s Michael Miller.

“The coaches set the bar a lot higher than I even did myself,” Gaber said. “They knew our potential. Together they all know what they are doing and they make us better every day.

“Our practices are really intense. We’ve lost about half our team because the practices are so hard. What we’ve got left are kids that want to be out there and work hard. Those things are paying off for us. I really believe Montrose trains harder than everyone else with our practices.”

Salazar continued his stirring run through the Class 4A 119-pound division, posting a 10-5 win against Pueblo Central’s Alex Baca, the defending state champion, in the quarterfinals and earning a berth in tonight’s championship bout with a 7-3 victory against Frederick senior Caleb Downs.

Salazar will take a 40-4 record into his championship match against Broomfield junior Cortland Hacker, who was the runner-up in the 112-pound class last year.

“He had a great day, but he has had a great year,” Palisade coach Brian Rush said. “Daniel wrestles tough all the time. He’s going to give 110 percent every time he goes out there.

“He’s tough to beat right now. He is going hard and he is going to wrestle his style of match. Nothing shakes him and his conditioning is great right now.”

Rifle’s 140-pound senior, James Martinez, narrowly missed a championship berth after losing a 6-0 decision against Frederick’s Tyler Parker, who recorded all of his points during the final 1:20 of the bout.


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