4A wrestling teams target ’Riders

Talk to the coaches in this weekend’s Class 4A Region 3 wrestling tournament and you’ll get a unified response.

Each of the 17 teams that will converge on Montrose High School for two days of competition has some wrestlers they expect to qualify for next week’s Class 4A state tournament in Denver.

Sixteen of those coaches are primarily concerned about one team.

After running roughshod over the competition in Class 3A over the past few years, Roosevelt has moved up a classification this school year. As luck would have it, the
Roughriders have been put in the Region 3 tournament that includes the 10 Western Slope schools.

Roosevelt won the 3A state team title last year by 61 points and finished second in 2006 and 2007.

There’s little evidence the Roughriders will do anything but the same after moving up one classification this year.

“They’re real solid,” Palisade coach Brian Rush said of the second-ranked team in Class 4A by On the Mat.

Eleven of Roosevelt’s 14 varsity wrestlers are ranked in the top 10 in their respective weight divisions in the latest Class 4A ratings by On the Mat. As a team, Roosevelt is ranked second behind Broomfield.

Two wrestlers, CJ York (119 pounds) and Dan Frank (130), are ranked No. 1. Both won their division at the Warrior Classic at Central in December, helping the Roughriders win the team title.

Roosevelt did get some unfortunate news last week.
Its 189-pounder, Nathan Heuer, who was also ranked No. 1 and won a Warrior Classic title, was diagnosed with malignant tumor in his back.

Heuer felt some back pain early last week, went to the hospital on Wednesday and had tests run. They confirmed a tumor wrapped around his vertebrae. After having surgery, Heuer’s season is over.

On the Mat has spearheaded a campaign to take donations to help defray medical costs. Information will be available during the weekend at the regional tournaments, including the one in Montrose.

Palisade, Montrose and Rifle are all expected to challenge Roosevelt for the race atop the team standings. All four are hoping to qualify the bulk of their teams for the state tournament.

“Everybody’s got some good kids,” Rush said. “It’s definitely going to be a good regional.”

Rush has spent most of his practice time this week making sure his wrestlers are ready to go the distance.

“The kids know they’re going to have to go six minutes (each match),” Rush said.

One of those ready to wrestle for three full periods is junior 215-pounder Nick Stephanus, who’s improved markedly since practice began.

“At the beginning of the season I was real tentative,” Stephanus said. “It wasn’t something I wanted to do. The coaches pushed me into (going out).”

Since the winter break he’s changed his tune.

“I decided to push it, work hard for the team,” Stephanus said. “Things started to click.”

Last week Stephanus won the 215-pound title at the annual Jackpot duals, then pinned his Moffat County and Delta opponents in a triangular the next night.

Stephanus wrestled in the heavyweight division last season, generally giving up a lot of weight to his opponents.

“Last year going to state was kind of far off,” he said. “This year it’s more of a reality.”

The 12-team Class 3A Region 1 tournament is Friday and Saturday at Gunnison High School.

Olathe, rated second by On the Mat, along with Grand Valley (fourth) and Hotchkiss (fifth) are expected to provide the strongest competition.

After winning the Class 2A team title last year, this is Grand Valley’s first year in the 3A regional.


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