Knocking on the door: Thompson, Hoffschneider hoping to win state titles for GJ
Jesse Hoffschneider and Dylon Thompson could have sat back and admired their accomplishments.
The Grand Junction High School wrestlers placed second and fourth at the Class 5A state championships last year as sophomores.
Those lofty finishes made them work harder than ever and they’re ready to claim the one thing that has eluded them — a state championship.
“Both of us placing at state last year gave us confidence, but it also gave us the energy and drive to work harder this summer so we can do better,” Hoffschneider said. “We came in here three days a week for open gym and we worked on little things and we added more to our technique through the summer.”
Both wrestlers competed in the prestigious Fargo Nationals tournament, finishing one match away from placing. Thompson trained for a short time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
“You’ve got to keep moving forward, you can’t look to the past,” Thompson said.
Both wrestlers won’t settle for anything less than a state title.
“They were both right there last year,” Grand Junction coach Cole Allison said. “Dylon in his semis match, he got the first takedown. One mistake here or there and he could’ve been a state champion. Jesse could’ve been a state champ as well.”
The duo leads a more experienced Tigers team ready to make some noise in the Southwestern League.
“From the day they stepped in this room, they were naturally leaders,” Allison said.
“As freshmen and sophomores they led more by doing it. This year, they’re more vocal.
“Expectations are higher. When you’re thrown in the lineup as a freshman and sophomore, you’re expected to take some lumps. This year, we’re mostly juniors and seniors. Taking lumps should be over. It’s time to give some out.”
Eight return for the Tigers after gaining valuable varsity experience last season and freshman Robby Gonzales could make a big difference.
For the first time in 30 years, Fruita Monument has a new wrestling coach in Dan Van Hoose. Jim Stockert retired after last season.
Van Hoose is no stranger to wrestling. He coached Gunnison High School for five years and coached the Fruita Middle School program the past six.
“With no state placers back, we have nowhere to go but up,” Van Hoose said. “We are four or five deep in a lot of weights.”
Junior Dallas Bernal (160), junior Austin Douglas (145) and junior Trey Thygerson (189) return with varsity experience.
Central has three returning state qualifiers in Zach Short, Willy Holdren and Anthony Fellar. The Warriors have seven returning wrestlers with varsity experience.
Montrose should challenge for the Southwestern League title again with five returning state qualifiers, including state placers Geordan Hudson, Kordell Bradshaw and Bryce Gaber.
Palisade has the experience to compete for a top-10 place at state with six returning state qualifiers and 10 returning varsity wrestlers.
“I think we can compete real strong in the region,” Palisade coach Brian Rush said. “If we wrestle well and improve like we hope to, by the end we should be pretty strong.”
Junior Daniel Salazar placed second last year at 119 pounds and sophomore Justin Ray took sixth at 112.
Delta has several returning wrestlers, led by state placers Mykal DeHerrera and Rudy Fantin.
Olathe has a core of wrestlers back, including state placers Zach Shank, Brenton Martinez and Kyle Piatt to make another run at the state tournament.
Hotchkiss has three returning state placers, Ryan Spor, Connor Beard and Kyle Douglas, and could challenge for a top-10 finish.
Grand Valley lost its three state placers to graduation, but state qualifier Jerrod Busch returns.
Rifle should benefit from moving down a classification along with having two returning state qualifiers, Keaton Deere and Larry Schmueser.
Paonia will have to look to new faces to lead the Eagles back to state after losing all four of their state placers, including state champions James Drinkhouse and Justin Smith.