Clayton the hero
Fruita 195-pounder wins final match to lift 'Cats past GJ
The stars don’t usually align the way they did Thursday night for Chase Clayton, a tough, 220-pound wrestler for Fruita Monument.
But a little coaching strategy that dropped Clayton down to 195 pounds, combined with the wrestling dual starting at 220, allowed Clayton to be the finisher for Fruita Monument. And the Wildcats needed him.
Grand Junction used three straight pins at 138, 145 and 152 to take a 33-21 team lead, but Fruita rallied to pull within 36-33 going into the final match. Needing at least a major decision, Clayton delivered a pin in 1 minute, 22 seconds to give the Wildcats a 39-36 Southwestern League win.
Leading 2-1 against the Tigers’ Felix Eneboe, Clayton worked a chicken wing to turn Eneboe, and once he had him over, the referee slapped the mat almost immediately to signal the end.
“I just got him over and got my pressure on,” said Clayton, who could be Fruita’s regular 195-pounder if it wasn’t home to dominating junior Jacob Seely.
“It feels great,” Clayton said of the rare opportunity to wrestle in the final, dual-deciding match. “I just went out there ready to wrestle. I didn’t really think about the team score. I knew we were behind and needed a win, but I just go out there and do my job.”
Fruita coach Dan Van Hoose switched weights with Seely and Clayton because Grand Junction 220-pounder Tyler Zook had pinned Clayton three weeks earlier at the Jackpot Tournament. Van Hoose believed Seely could pin Zook, and Seely did, building an 11-2 lead before scoring the fall in 3:55.
Grand Junction countered with a switch that didn’t lead to more team points, but it allowed returning state champion Jacob Trujillo to drop down one weight class to face one of Fruita’s best wrestlers: returning state qualifier Kaden Fife at 152. Fife made Trujillo work harder than he usually needs to, but Trujillo won by fall in 3:03.
The Tigers also got pins from Tyren Castonguay (106), Isaac Rider (138), Louis Guillen (145) and Robbie Gonzalez (285).
Allowing five pins is too many, Van Hoose said, but Fruita got enough pins of its own to offset the damage. Scoring the five Wildcats’ falls were: Daniel Van Hoose (120), Ian Konrad (126), Jacob Womack (160), Clayton and Seely.
Womack’s pin in 1:04 started the Wildcats’ rally. Then came a match that Fruita lost, but Coach Van Hoose couldn’t say enough about the heart Michael Monahan displayed in avoiding a pin and surrendering only an 8-2 decision to the Tigers’ Shawn Garcia.
Garcia nearly had the pin in the middle of the third period, but he lost the hand control that allowed him to turn Monahan with a half nelson, and Monahan didn’t surrender another point.
“I’m super proud of that kid,” Van Hoose said, adding Monahan is a freshman with little experience and is 15 pounds light for the 170-pound class. “Him battling and not giving up the pin was the difference. ... That was just a gutty performance.”
Grand Junction coach Cole Allison said his wrestlers did a good job, but the freshmen need to learn how to battle harder and smarter when they’re overmatched. They need to find that determination to avoid getting pinned, realizing it’s better to lose by decision for the sake of the team, he said.
“I put a lot of this on us and our effort in the losses,” Allison said. “We’ll adjust. We get to do this again in seven days or so (at the Southwestern League Duals).”