Kyle Sand’s first season as head coach of the Grand Junction High School wrestling program has been hectic in a variety of ways.
COVID-19 issues. Viral infections spreading among teammates. Injuries to key wrestlers such as 2020 state champion Kieran Thompson. All have led to a lack of depth that has rarely ever been a problem for the Tigers, resulting in a slew of dual defeats throughout the season.
“It’s been a challenge,” Sand said. “Me being a very competitive person, it’s been hard for me. I don’t take it to heart too much. I just try to control what we can control, mostly our attitude and the technique we’re doing in our room, trying to teach these guys to take control of those things. It’s one day at a time, I guess, but it’s a bit frustrating having to have kids sit out due to illness-related issues and things like that.”
Saturday morning represented a return to form for the Tigers on their home mat. Grand Junction beat Montrose 46-29, Basalt 43-30 and Grand Valley 36-35.
In the first dual of the day between the Tigers and Indians, Grand Junction’s Andrew Leyba, ranked No. 5 at 120 pounds in Class 5A, earned an 8-2 decision over Kamron Alegria, No. 5 in the weight class in 4A. Leyba led 8-0 after two periods and held steady in the third.
“(Winning matches like those) does a lot for me,” Leyba said. “Our team, we focus on the technique and everything. I don’t really focus on rankings or anything like that. I just go out there, wrestle the best that I can and do what I’ve got to do to win the match. … There were a lot of good things out there, but there are some things I can work on, for sure. The key technique for me is always being calm and being confident in my shots.”
Grand Junction also got wins from its other two ranked wrestlers. Tanner Roahrig (No. 7 at 106) pinned Cooper Bradey and Cale Moore (No. 11 at 152) won a 14-2 major decision over Aaron Simpson.
Montrose’s wins came from Dmarian Lopez (No. 2 at 220) earning a 17-2 major decision over Austin Curfman and Kolter Booth pinning James Waegli at 132.
Short on depth, Grand Junction forfeited its matches at 182, 195 and 285. Additionally, although he would pin his Grand Valley opponent, Thompson, No. 2 at 145, didn’t wrestle against Montrose or Basalt.
Wrestling in some duals and not others hasn’t been uncommon for Thompson lately. On Friday, he wrestled against Central and rested against Eagle Valley.
“He had a bit of an ankle injury; nothing that’s really bothering him too bad right now, but something we want to make sure he’s rested up for so he can compete when it matters more,” Sand said. “Kieran, his goal is being a state champion again, and I want to help him achieve that. We just need him as healthy as possible at the end of the season so he can peak at the right time.”
The Tigers hope the storm of injuries and illness will be weathered by regionals, with its top contenders as healthy as possible.
“We’re always trying to stay healthy,” Leyba said. “In the sport of wrestling, anything can happen. I hope our team gets to feeling better. I was sick for a while. Some of our kids were sick. But we bounced back and got our health back up. Hopefully, we get through the season as healthy as we can.”
Montrose won its other duals, beating Grand Valley 48-30 and Basalt 60-15. Grand Valley topped Basalt 36-27.