Hotchkiss eyes return to power
Hotchkiss is ready to reestablish its wrestling tradition.
The Bulldogs have produced 21 state champions and won two Class 3A titles, in 2000 and 2004.
Then, coach Chuck Pipher moved on to coach at Mesa State College. Longtime assistant Glenn Suppes, in his third year, says Hotchkiss is prepared to make a statement at this weekend’s state wrestling tournament in Denver.
“These kids have worked too hard to not put us back on the map,” Suppes said. “I learned something from Chuck, he always said anything can happen at state. It is who is ready to show up and wrestle there.”
The Bulldogs finished second at the Region 1 tournament, but had six wrestlers in the finals and qualified eight. That group includes four-time qualifiers Leonel Elizaldi and Alex Quinonez.
Elizaldi (112 pounds) finished second at the regional behind Zach Shank of Olathe. Elizadi is looking to make his mark at the tournament after three tough years of not placing.
Quinonez (119) won the regional title and finished with a 38-3 record, following up a fifth-place finish last year at state. Their experience at the state tournament helps the rest of the team, Suppes said.
“Alex and Leo bring that calmness of ‘we are going to get the job done,’ ” Suppes said. “But on the mat, they will go after you again and again.”
Although Elizaldi and Quinonez have the most experience, 125-pound Ryan Spor is one of the more dominant of the group, going 35-6 as a sophomore. Spor flew through the regional, winning his championship match by technical fall 21-12.
“Spor comes from a great wrestling family,” Suppes said. “He was the quarterback of our football team and I never have seen a group of seniors that would shut up and listen, except when Spor would talk to them. He is a great wrestler who has a quiet tenacity.”
The Bulldogs have a three-time state qualifier in Caleb Wyatt (145), who finished second at the regional after making the 15-pound jump from wrestling at 130 pounds last year. Wyatt is in one of the toughest weight classes at state, which also includes Ryan Gallegos, a Class 2A state runner-up for Grand Valley last season.
Suppes said Wyatt has the ability to make a run at state because of his rugged personality.
“Anyone who comes off the mat will say, ‘that kid is tough,’ ” Suppes said. “Wyatt splits wood in his spare time, he guides and traps during the summer; he is just someone who will get after anyone.”
The Bulldogs also expect big things out of their 215-pounder, Michael Beard. The junior finished second at state last year, losing 3-1 to Scott Redden of Gunnison. Beard is determined to prove last year’s finish wasn’t a mistake.
“This year he has been more determined and focused,” Suppes said. “He has gone that extra (step) to prove last year wasn’t a fluke and that he is that good.”
Hotchkiss also has Cody Richards (160), Kyle O’Brien (171) and Kyle Douglas (189) at state.
The Bulldogs aren’t the only school motivated to prove something at state. There are 36
Western Slope wrestlers heading to state, including 11 from Region 1 champion Olathe and seven from last year’s Class 2A team champion, Grand Valley, including Tyler Miles, who won a 2A state championship last season.
The Pirates had Zach Shank (112), Kyle Piatt (152) and J.C. Jimenez (l60) all finish first at the regional. Olathe hasn’t had an individual state champion since 2006.
Cedaredge and Gunnison each qualified four wrestlers and Coal Ridge two each.
“Every kid has the opportunity to be on the mat at the same time,” Grand Valley coach Rick Gallegos said. “All the best are there, from the little town Dove Creek to the downtown Denver East.”