Hannigan wins first crown for ‘Dogs in 10 years
DENVER — For the first time in a decade, a member of Palisade High School’s wrestling team is coming back to the Western Slope with a state championship.
Junior Dalton Hannigan became the first Bulldog to earn state glory since Travis Bounds in 2003 on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center. Hannigan dominated the Class 4A title match at 126 pounds from the get-go, using four takedowns and a near fall to post a 12-4 major decision over Cheyenne Mountain’s Bobby Amond.
“We’ve had a lot of kids close; we just keep getting better here,” Palisade coach Brian Rush said. “We’ve had a lot of kids place high and had a few in the finals but just haven’t quite got that (title).
“Dalton did a fantastic job tonight. I’m very proud of him; he wrestled as well as he could.”
Hannigan was coming off a pair of close decisions Friday, but an early takedown set the tone in the finals. Amond flipped Hannigan and nearly had a reversal and back points before Hannigan pushed him off.
From there, the junior notched a second takedown and back points to go up 6-1. Hannigan credited teammate Trevor Garcia, who has a similar style to Amond, for avoiding a rough situation.
“He wrestles just like that kid does,” Hannigan said. “(Garcia has) a lot of throws and stuff, and practicing with him throughout the season helped me learn how to get out of situations where I end up on my back and arching and bridging out of it.”
Hannigan increased his lead to 9-1 going into the third period, and despite a late reversal, avoided making a crucial mistake down the stretch.
“I heard the second ref counting down from five,” he said. “I was down on his legs and I felt him just give up. That last whistle, a rush of just everything went through my body.”
Rush said Hannigan’s conditioning was better than anyone he wrestled throughout the tournament.
“He was on a mission,” Rush said.
For his part, Hannigan’s thoughts were with former Bulldogs who came so close, adding that it was an honor to bring home a state title.
The next challenge: becoming the first multi-champion since Dan Burke, who won three titles in the mid-1990s.
“Winning a title this year is really going to make me push twice as hard next year to hopefully bring home another one,” he said.
Broomfield won the Class 4A team title with 140.5 points. Palisade was 12th with 40.5.
Palisade senior Justin Ray capped an impressive prep career with a fifth-place finish at 132 pounds. After opening Saturday with a pin of Rifle’s Coy Zang, he dropped a one-point decision to Pueblo West’s Travis Myers.
Ray rebounded to pin Thompson Valley’s Tanner Williams in 56 seconds.
“I’d love to have a state title but it doesn’t always work out,” Ray said. “Honestly, just coming here and being a three-time state placer and four-time state qualifier is quite the feat. Most kids don’t get to even experience it.”
Williams had edged out Ray by a point in the finals of the regional tournament last weekend, but Ray caught him Saturday and earned the pin.
“I was more patient than I was last time,” Ray said. “Last time I was rushing my shots; I wasn’t finishing them, so he was able to scramble on me.”
Montrose junior Jesus Casillas also placed fifth, taking a 4-2 overtime victory against Broomfield’s Austin Harris at heavyweight.
Casillas opened Saturday with a victory by decision before getting pinned in the third period by Silver Creek’s Tuli Laulu.
“It was a good match all and all,” Casillas said. “It was a good weekend.”
The junior was the only Montrose wrestler to place, but the team returns four of its five state qualifiers next season.
“I’m hungry for gold. That’s all I’ve got to say,” Casillas said. “I’m going to come back next year and get first place. That’s on my mind right now.”