Back on the mat
Palisade's Hannigan, GJ's Trujillo win Jackpot titles in return to wrestling
On a night when School District 51 honored all of its past state wrestling champions, the two who still are in high school had something more to celebrate Wednesday.
Palisade’s Dalton Hannigan and Grand Junction’s Jacob Trujillo took to the mat for the first time this season and dominated their weight classes en route to championships at the Jackpot Tournament. It was the better-late-than-never first step, each hopes, on the way to becoming a two-time state champ.
Hannigan, last year’s Class 4A state champion at 126 pounds, scored a technical fall in the second period of his first-round match at 132 pounds Wednesday. Then, Fruita Monument’s Max McLean scored the first takedown of the final, and the score was 2-2 after one period. From there, Hannigan got more dominant as the match went on, leading 9-4 after two periods and eventually pinning McLean in 5 minutes, 58 seconds.
Hannigan’s first two matches signaled to him he has a lot of work to do to get into peak shape by the postseason. In an ordinary year, he said, he would be in that condition now, but an ankle injury in football kept him out, much to his dismay.
A fiery competitor, Hannigan didn’t like waiting, much less wearing a walking boot for four weeks, but his supporters helped him bide his time until he was 100 percent.
“Everybody said, ‘Don’t come back too soon and re-injure yourself,’ ” Hannigan said, listing his coaches, his mom and his girlfriend among the people preaching caution. “If not for them, I don’t know if I’d be back to where I am now.”
He swam to help stay in shape, but he said it’s time on the mat that ultimately makes the difference in conditioning, and his first full-go practice was the previous Wednesday.
Trujillo can relate to Hannigan’s desire to get back on the mat as soon as possible, but last year’s undefeated 5A state champ at 145 pounds also was told not to return to action until he was 100 percent.
He said he’s there now, and it showed Wednesday with two pins inside of a minute at 160 pounds.
“It was driving me crazy,” Trujillo said of the first half of the season. “I couldn’t stand in the gym and watch the team without me, working hard, and I couldn’t be out there with them. It was killing me.
“It feels good to be back out there, helping the team out.”
Because his injury was to his shoulder, Trujillo was able to run to keep up his cardiovascular conditioning, but now he needs mat time, even if most of his matches end early with pins. Like Hannigan, Trujillo’s first full practice came one week ago, and he was anxious for real matches.
“This is a good place to start the season and see where I’m at,” he said. “I was just hungry to get in there. ... It will take a little bit of mat time (to get in peak condition), but I feel good now. ... I didn’t get too out of shape.”
Fruita Monument won the team title Wednesday with 202.5 points, and Grand Junction was second with 141 points.
The Wildcats also led the way with six Jackpot champions — Daniel Van Hoose (120), Ian Konrad (126), Jared Seely (138), Kaden Fife (152), Ty Taylor (182) and Jacob Seely (195) — and five runners-up.
It was one more step in the right direction, according to Fruita coach Dan Van Hoose, who said everything the Wildcats do is about being their best come the postseason.
“I was pleased with the kids,” he said. “They gave it everything they had and tried their hardest, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Grand Junction had four champions, as Louis Guillen (145), Tyler Zook (220) and Robbie Gonzalez (285) joined Trujillo with titles.
Palisade claimed three titles, as Randen Espinoza (106) and Braxton Stewart (170) joined Hannigan. Stewart had the most closely contested final, edging Central’s Isaac Bair 4-3.
Central had one champion: Riley Garner-Orr won a 4-1 battle over Grand Junction’s Cody Lacy at 113.
One of the best matchups of the night came at 145, where Guillen fended off Fruita’s Isaac Rodriguez, the 5A state runner-up at 145 last year. Rodriguez missed the first half of the season with a football injury and made his return to the mat last weekend.
Guillen got an escape in the third period for a 3-1 lead, but Rodriguez was awarded a stalling point to make it 3-2 with 34.8 seconds left. Guillen then scored a takedown with 17 seconds left for a 5-2 win.
Van Hoose gave Guillen his due when he and Grand Junction coach Cole Allison talked after the tournament. They could meet several more times, the way Rodriguez and Trujillo did a year ago.
At this point, Van Hoose said, Rodriguez is still getting into shape.
“Isaac needs mat time,” he said. “I’m not a bit worried about it. He just needs to get in shape, get the mat time.”