Salazar redeems himself with opening win

Rifle’s James Martinez pins Fort Morgan’s Derek Gray on Thursday night during the Class 4A 140-pound match at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

DENVER — Daniel Salazar admits he was a victim of the combined effects of youth and stage fright last year.

One year wiser and markedly stronger, Salazar prepared all season to make sure he would not have a repeat disappointment at the state wrestling meet. The Palisade High School sophomore safely navigated that hurdle Thursday, turning in perhaps the Bulldogs’ top performance during opening-round matches of the Class 4A state meet at the Pepsi Center.

It was a day of mixed results for Palisade, as only three of its 10 competitors recorded first-round victories to advance to today’s quarterfinal round. Quarterfinal matches begin today at 1 p.m., with consolation matches to follow.

Montrose, which boasted seven entrants, advanced four competitors into today’s quarterfinals, including 189-pound senior Jordan Passehl, who improved his record to 40-0 with a pin of Mesa Ridge junior Alex Kazee.

Passehl led the Indians to seventh place in the team standings after the first day with 13 points. Palisade is tied for 12th with 10 points.

“This was a lot better than last year. Last year, I came in with the same ranking but got knocked down,” said Salazar, who improved to 38-4. “Freshman year, I looked a little too much at the lights. I was really shocked when I came in last year. This year, I mean to take care of business. Just having that one extra year of wrestling helps a lot.”

Salazar, who placed sixth in the 103-pound division last year, highlighted the Bulldogs’ day by recording a fall at the 4:29 mark of his 119-pound first-round match against Antonio Alarid of Fossil Ridge.

The other Palisade wrestlers to advance to the quarterfinals were 145-pound senior Wesley Shingleton, who posted a 3-2 decision against Marc Guerrero of Pueblo West, and 215-pound senior Nick Stephanus, who pinned Mesa Ridge junior Dushawn Williams.

“We’ve got a couple wins, a couple losses, but the kids that lost, they have to come back and wrestle hard tomorrow,” Palisade coach Brian Rush said.

“A lot of them had some real tough matchups with the number one draws in those brackets. Those are tough ones to get. But they went out and wrestled hard.”

Passehl began the final step of his quest for a perfect season with a dominant effort against Kazee, recording a pin at the 3:57 mark. The Indians successfully advanced four of their eight entrants to the quarterfinals — Passehl, 125-pounder Drew Schumann, 171-pounder Bryce Gaber, and 215-pound senior Braxten Franz, who recorded his 40th win of the season.

“I try not to think about (the perfect record),” Passehl said. “I’m trying to take this tournament the way I have taken every tournament all season — just go out and do my stuff and don’t look back. The first match is always the most important. This has been my goal since I was a little kid, since my dad started coaching at Montrose.”

Other area athletes who advanced to today’s quarterfinals include Delta’s 103-pound junior, Mykai DeHerrera, who earned a 7-2 win against freshman John Becker of Prairie View. Rifle advanced two of its four entrants, getting victories from 130-pound junior Larry Schmueser and 140-pound senior James Martinez, who improved to 35-2.


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