Fruita Monument’s Bernal learning to close out matches

Fruita Monument's Bernal learning to close out matches

Fruita Monument’s Dallas Bernal, top, has been woking with his cousin, former state champ Bryan Bernal, on closing out matches. Bernal, a senior, wants to add his name to the legacy of Bernal wrestlers by qualifying for state. Bernal just missed going to Denver last year.

On the hotter days, Dallas Bernal is in a race. As a laborer for Mays Concrete, he flattens the concrete in a raking motion, furiously flattening the “mud” before it hardens. It’s all about the finish.

Likewise, the Fruita Monument High School senior 170-pound wrestler has six minutes to pin an opponent in regulation.

It’s race he’s used to.

So is his father, Paul, a foreman for Mays who placed fourth in state his senior season at Fruita.

Dallas said a cousin, Jordy Bernal, qualified for state in 2004.

On the Fruita Monument gymnasium wall is a banner with the name “Bryan Bernal.” Another of Dallas’s cousins, Bryan won a state championship at 160 pounds his senior season at Fruita in 2003.

Dallas is 15-3 on the season after Wednesday’s loss to Caleb Hendricks.

To be sure, the family did not throw wrestling at Bernal.

“A lot of people think that happened to me,” Bernal said. “Wrestling has always been my No. 1 sport. It’s what I always wanted to do most.”

After placing fifth at regionals last season, Bernal has learned to finish strong. It’s not just a race against a clock like spreading the concrete before the sun bakes it into rock.

The takedown must be turned into near-falls. Then the opponent must be spread flat, into a pin.

He’s getting closer. Dallas often works out with his state-champion cousin, Bryan. Whereas Dallas may be the superior wrestler on his feet, Bryan was perhaps better on the mat.

But family tricks are passed on like hand-me-downs.

“We’ve got a big family and we all pretty much live in the Grand Valley,” Bryan said. “So we have a ton of family support and I always remember Dallas looking up to me. I remember his dad always tried to get him around wrestling in the high school.”

The past couple of seasons and those days working with concrete have hardened Dallas into a disciplined and determined 18-year-old.

“Outside of wrestling, Dallas is just a good kid all around,” Bryan said. “He’s always respectful, never been one of those kids who goes around and is disrespectful. You’ll hear that from anybody you ask about Dallas.”

The second half of the season is here, and as the state tournament Feb. 16-18 at the Pepsi Center approaches, Dallas is burying a shard of his former self.

He remembers giving up points in the final 20 seconds to lose at regionals last season. He started well. He did not finish.

“I had so many overtime losses and losses by a point,” Bernal said. “So now I finish. Go 110 percent. My mindset has changed. What I do is put pressure on the other guy and make him break.”


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