State or bust
Regionals await area wrestlers this weekend
Dusty Sanchez nearly qualified for the CHSAA Class 5A state wrestling championships last year.
The Central High School wrestler placed fifth in the regional but needed to make the top four to qualify for state.
“It was pretty rough, but I knew I had this year,” Sanchez said. “I had to get after it this year. I still have a bad taste in my mouth.”
It’s a taste he doesn’t want again.
Sanchez wrestled a lot in the summer with the intent of qualifying for state in his final year.
“In the summer, we went to a camp at Cornell (University in Ithaca, N.Y.),” he said. “We wrestled all summer. I was worried about football and balancing it out, but I still wrestled a lot. It was pretty much a full season (in the summer). Summer can do you good if you work hard. It comes down to mat time.”
The 138-pound senior has fashioned a record of 20-13 and will get his final chance to qualify for state this weekend in the Class 5A Region 3 tournament in Loveland. Fruita Monument and Grand Junction wrestle in the Region 4 tournament at Standley Lake High School in Westminster. The tournaments begin tonight and conclude late Saturday afternoon.
“If you don’t win, you go home,” Sanchez said. “That’s all it comes to.
“I feel like I can wrestle with almost anybody with how I’ve been wrestling lately. Their record may be better than mine, but I feel like we had the toughest schedule.”
It won’t be easy for Sanchez. Five wrestlers are ranked ahead of him in the On the Mat state rankings in his region.
“He’s got a tough weight, but he’s sitting good in his bracket,” Central coach Laurence Gurule said of Sanchez. “He’s been wrestling well of late. I have every confidence he could qualify for state.”
He wrestled two of them earlier this season. Prairie View’s Luis Bejarano pinned him at the Top of the Rockies, and Rocky Mountain’s Roman Ortiz pinned Sanchez in the Warrior Classic.
“At the beginning of the season, I don’t think I was fully conditioned,” Sanchez said. “Maybe this time will be different.
“It’s my last year. I will leave it all out there so I don’t have to live with regrets.”
Gurule is optimistic the Warriors will have as many as seven wrestlers qualify for state. Senior Caleb Hendricks (170 pounds) and junior Jacob Rubalcaba (126) hope to be returning state qualifiers.
Fruita Monument has four wrestlers looking for at least a second trip to state, including junior Ian Konrad (120), who qualified as a freshman but missed last season with a back injury. The others are Clayton Muller (132), Isaac Rodriguez (145) and Jacob Seely (170).
Grand Junction hopes to send several wrestlers to state for the first time, including Louis Guillen (138) and Jonathan Pauli (195).
“I’m counting on him getting through,” Grand Junction coach Cole Allison said of Guillen. “He’s a good wrestler. He’s just got to clear that mental hurdle. Last year, he was good enough to qualify, but he lost that match to get to the third-place match, and he didn’t get his head back for a chance for a wrestleback.”
“Pauli is a talented kid,” Allison added. “I expect him to qualify. He could place at state. He works hard in the room.”
In Class 4A, Palisade has four seniors attempting to qualify for state for the first time — Armando Cabriales (220), D.J. Gardner (160), Zane Stewart (170) and Eric Wilson (152). Senior Justin Ray is shooting for his fourth trip, and junior Dalton Hannigan is going for his third.
The Bulldogs are wrestling in the Region 4 tournament hosted by Montrose.
“We have seven ranked in the top five in the region,” Palisade coach Brian Rush said. “Some will have to get an upset (to qualify for state). There is no easy ticket. I hope we wrestle as hard as we can. I can live with that.”