Hotchkiss’ Collins hoping to taste state success in senior season

Hotchkiss’ Conner Collins, right, gets the upper hand in his first-round heavyweight match Thursday against Ellicott’s Ben McCaffrey at the Class 2A state wrestling tournament in Denver. Collins pinned McCaffrey in 1:42.

DENVER — Conner Collins’ final season of prep wrestling got off to a rough start.

Now the Hotchkiss High School heavyweight hopes to eliminate three years of frustration.

Collins dislocated his right knee at the start of the season and only got in 15 matches before the Class 2A state wrestling tournament.

But the senior showed in his first-round match Thursday at the Pepsi Center that he’s ready to go for a spot on the podium.

Collins, a four-time state qualifier, pinned his opponent in 1 minute, 42 seconds to move into today’s quarterfinals.

“I’m pretty healthy now, came back about four weeks ago,” he said.

Without a medal in his first three trips to the state tournament, Collins hopes to not go home empty-handed in his final shot.

“I have nothing to lose. Three years without having anything to show for it, fourth year I’ve had the most trouble (health wise), I have nothing to lose,” he said.

Three heavyweight wrestlers from the Western Slope made the quarterfinals, all with first-period pins.

Meeker’s Tyler Ilgen, another four-time qualifier, and Paonia’s Trevor Smith also advanced. Smith pinned his opponent in 10 seconds.

Meeker and Paonia each had good Day 1 showings in the 2A tournament with the Cowboys advancing eight of nine wrestlers, and Paonia seven of eight into the quarterfinals.

Rocky Ford leads the team standings with 37.5 points, followed by Meeker with 30 and Paonia with 28.

Hotchkiss advanced five into the quarterfinals with Landen Mayberry (106), No. 1 seed Sergio Campos (113), Colton Hall (132) and Wade Katzdorn (160) joining Collins.

Katzdorn, another four-time qualifier, said the first day is always about nerves.

“They don’t ever go away,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve been waiting all day to wrestle, so to finally get out there is a relief.”

Katzdorn, the No. 2 seed, got a pin at the end of the first period. The plan is pretty simple the rest of the way.

“Just stay humble and when I wrestle go as hard as I can,“he said.

Joining Smith in the quarterfinals for Paonia are Zeb Etter (106), Gabe Ferguson (120), Eli Etter (126), Sackett Chesnik (138), Clay Campbell (145), and Jaden Miller at 182.

Cedaredge moved three into the quarterfinals: Sean Dale (120), Jered Hulteen (152) and Brandon O’Hern (170).

Senior Tré LaBossiere lost a tough 3-2 decision at 195.

Last year, Meeker won the team title by one point over Rocky Ford.

The Cowboys might not have enough firepower to repeat but they have a number of state title contenders. Jacob Pelloni (113), Tannen Kennedy (120), No. 1 seed Sheridan Harvey (138), Hunter Garcia (152), Casey Turner (170), No. 1 seed Chase Rule (182), Caleb Bradford (22) and Ilgen will be in the quarters.

Turner, who’s battled a shoulder injury faces No. 1-seeded Diego Reyes of Rocky Ford today. Turner won the 152-pound title last year as a junior.

Class 3A

Most wrestlers agree that those Day 1 nerves never go away.

Grand Valley’s A.J. Serna was in a battle, leading only 2-0 at the end of the second period. But the sophomore pulled away to win his first-round 113-pound match 7-1 to advance to the quarterfinals today.

He said there were nerves just like last year when he finished third at 106.

“I just want to get myself loose, get my mind right for the rest of the weekend,” he said. “I just wanted to get out there and get it done and move on.”

He was one of three Cardinals to advance with Jonathan Pena winning at 138 and Evan Hoff at 220.

Olathe pushed three into the quarterfinals including Andrew Godfrey at 126.

The four-time state qualifier and No. 2 seed, cruised to a 9-0 majority decision.

Caleb Jolly at 160 and Justin Mosher at 182 also advanced.

Delta advanced Livan Santander at 182 and heavyweight Logan Church into the quarterfinals.

Rifle advanced Maxx Demann (152) and Alex Cordova (170).


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