Injuries sideline several of area’s top grapplers
There will be no Dalton Hannigan, no Isaac Rodriguez and probably no Jacob Trujillo.
That’s too bad. They would be contenders for titles this weekend in the Warrior Classic wrestling tournament.
Hannigan, the Class 4A state champ at 126 pounds last season, is definitely out. The same goes for Rodriguez, a Fruita Monument junior who was the 5A state runner-up to Trujillo, who went undefeated last season, at 145 pounds.
Both are out with injuries from football, and neither of their wrestling coaches, Palisade’s Lonnie Tate and Fruita’s Dan Van Hoose, wants to rush them back.
Tate said Hannigan and returning state qualifier Trevor Garcia, also recovering from a football injury, will wait until after the new year to compete on the mat.
“The important part of the season is getting to the state tournament and placing there,” Tate said.
Van Hoose echoed the sentiment for Rodriguez, saying he wants his 145-pounder fully healthy, rather than competing at less than 100 percent and risking re-injury.
“We’re shooting for after the (holiday) break,” Van Hoose said of Rodriguez’s return. “It’s better to be ready for the second half of the season than to wrestle in December. ... What’s important is the last half, not the first.”
Grand Junction coach Cole Allison applies the better-safe-than-sorry refrain to Trujillo as well. However, he left the door ever-so-slightly ajar for the possible return of Trujillo at the Warrior Classic.
Tuesday night Allison said, “There’s still a shot, but at this point he’s not ready.”
Allison added, “I told him if he’s 85 percent right now, he won’t wrestle. I won’t wrestle him until he’s 100 percent.”
Seely seeks second crown
The absence of those premier wrestlers diminishes the pool of School District 51 wrestlers who have realistic chances to win Warrior Classic titles.
Aside from Trujillo, Fruita’s Jacob Seely was the only other District 51 wrestler to win a Warrior championship last year. Seely claimed the crown at 170 pounds, and he bulked up for his senior season and now wrestles at 195.
Watching him wrestle a week ago in a dual against Paonia, Seely looks like a man not to mess with at the higher weight.
“He definitely put on some extra pounds of muscle,” Van Hoose said.
If Trujillo can’t go this weekend, Allison thinks the Tigers have several wrestlers who could place high at the Warrior.
Sophomore Cody Lacy is off to a good start at 113 and finished fourth at the Warrior at 106 last year. Senior Louis Guillen III is 13-0 at 145 pounds, where he’s ranked fourth in Class 5A. Kohlby Wells placed sixth at 113 in the Warrior last year. And heavyweight Tyler Zook, a junior is his first year competing for Grand Junction, has flashed great potential.
“I’d be surprised if (Zook) doesn’t find his way onto the medal stand,” Allison said.
Loves Warrior competition
Grand Valley teams don’t shy away from tough tournaments, and neither does Arvada West, Class 5A’s top-ranked team. The Wildcats recently wrestled in the 2013 Walsh Ironman, an 84-team tournament in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. They placed 30th there.
Now, the Wildcats come to the Warrior Classic, which Arvada West coach Ron Granieri said he’s been taking teams to for about 20 years because of the tough competition and how well Central High School staff and coach Laurence Gurule run the tourney.
Last year, scheduling allowed Arvada West to compete in the Warrior Classic, then the Christmas Classic on the Front Range.
This year, the Wildcats couldn’t make it to both December tourneys, and Granieri said his choice was easy.
“I love that tournament,” Granieri said of the Warrior.
Watch out next year
Granieri said he’s waiting until after the holiday break to learn whether some wrestlers who moved to Arvada West during the off-season will be eligible to wrestle for the Wildcats this season.
His team, which has just one senior starter, will be stronger with each newcomer who’s cleared by CHSAA to wrestle this season. And the they’re all juniors, he added.?“So next year, we’ll be really good,” Granieri said.
Tougher than state
Saying the Warrior Classic is a tougher challenge than the state tournament for some wrestlers is no exaggeration.
Rocky Mountain is a great example. Last season, the Lobos’ Danny Murphy (126) and Tony Martinez (285) were runners-up in the 5A state meet, but Murphy placed fifth at the Warrior, and Martinez was third. Murphy, now a junior, defeated two-time Warrior Classic champion Payton Tatwater of Arvada West 6-1 in the state semifinals, avenging a 1-0 loss to Tatwater at the Warrior.
Pueblo South’s Isaac Naro won the 4A state title at 132 pounds last year as a freshman. He lost his first-round match at that weight at the Warrior. And South’s Marcus Martinez was the 4A runner-up at 120 pounds as a junior last season. He was third at the Warrior.
Uintah’s Aaron Dick was the Utah Class 3A state champ at 220 pounds. Two months earlier, he placed fourth at 195 at the Warrior Classic.
Had to leave the gridiron
Paonia junior Jesse Reed, a two-time individual champion in 2A, began a wrestling season healthy for the first time in his career because he chose to run cross country this fall instead of play football.
The switch meant he was not part of the Class 1A state title that Paonia’s football team claimed.
“I love football, but I got hurt the last two years. Maybe I was too small for the sport” Reed said. “I just did what I needed to do to stay healthy for wrestling.”
Returning state champs
In addition to Reed, Trujillo, Naro and Dick, Monte Vista’s Diondre Garcia (106 in 3A) and Uintah’s Cole Mair (285 in Utah 3A) are returning state champions. Each took first at the Warrior last year, too.
They’ll make room
Paonia and Arvada West will warm up for the Warrior with a dual tonight in Paonia. Pipher hopes the matchup between the top-ranked teams in 2A and 5A will fill the Paonia High gym, which has a capacity of 1,500 people. And if more people than that come, Pipher promises to accommodate them.
“We might have to pull in some extra seating or bust out a wall,” he said. “We’ll get them in.”