Geno Gallegos has always wanted to be a leader and captain on the Fruita Monument High School wrestling team.
With coach Lucas Archuleta out with COVID-19 this week, Gallegos took on the role of leader during practice.
“I think I’ve always had a strong voice for that. I want to be there for my teammates whether they win or lose. I want to understand their feelings, why they’re crying (after a loss). I’ve been there and it sucks. You feel alone. So I want to be there for them and pick them up,” he said. “With coach out, I really wanted to step up this week in practice and on the mat. Now that I have this opportunity, I’m not letting it go. I’ve been fighting for this.”
At the 2022 Jackpot Duals, the annual battle for bragging rights between the four District 51 schools at Palisade, Gallegos led on the mat to win the 106-pound title.
Matchups were chosen based on chance. Players drew cards and whoever drew white wrestled against each other, and whoever drew black wrestled each other. Winners squared off in the championship.
No trophy was handed out nor did a grand ceremony await them. Just a piece of paper congratulating them, a medal and, most of all, bragging rights.
And brag the winners did.
In his first match, Gallegos faced Central’s JP Espinoza and won after a slow start. In the championship match, he faced Grand Junction’s Dannell Hamilton.
Gallegos opened with a pair of quick two-point takedowns. But Hamilton responded with one-point escapes. Gallegos, who was aggressive throughout the match, scored a third takedown, which led to the title-clinching pin.
“It feels great to be able to win here. I usually wrestle really well against the valley,” Geno said while cracking a charismatic smile.
Since finishing second at 113 in the Warrior Classic, Gallegos has been unimpressed with his own performance. While he certainly hasn’t regressed, he sure as heck hasn’t improved much, he said.
Since the Warrior and finishing third at the Tournament of Champions in Vernal, Utah, last weekend, Gallegos has been fine-tuning his game.
“Literally like two days ago, I changed how I start (in the bottom position). I sit on my feet so I can push up with more strength. The first match was testing that out and I don’t think I wrestled too well but I put it together,” he said. “By the second match, the blood is flowing and you’re feeling it.”
Gallegos was psyched for the win — mostly because he believes it will help him prepare for one of the biggest tournaments of the season: the Rockwell Rumble in Salt Lake City this weekend.
It’s a daunting tournament, but Gallegos thinks he and his teammates are ready.
Fruita Monument scored 131.5 points to win the Jackpot Duals team title. Grand Junction was second with 115, Central placed third with 112.5 and Palisade finished with 60 points.
“It’s a big tournament but we had a great week of practice,” Gallegos said.
Battle at 160
At the Warrior Classic, Central’s Devin Hickey and Grand Junction’s Micah Kenney met in the third round at 160.
Kenney won a 5-2 decision and beat Pueblo West’s Zach Kotteastette for the title. That loss stung Hickey. He thought had he been in Kenney’s place, he would have won.
That loss sat with him for a while and made his overtime win over Kenney at the Jackpot Duals that much sweeter.
“I didn’t really think that other kid should have been there. I think I should have been there,” Hickey said. “This time I needed to not let (Micah) get the advantage.”
After both won their opening-round matches, Kenney (ranked No. 5 in Class 5A) and Hickey (No. 6 in 4A) were ready for the rematch.
Neither wrestler could gain an edge at the start of the match. Whenever one would try to set up a takedown, the other would work himself out of the jam. Kenney appeared to have the advantage when he took down Hickey, who was called multiple times for stalling.
A pair of two-point takedowns for both led to a 4-4 tie entering extra time. When the whistle blew to start the extra session, Hickey was aggressive and scored another two-point takedown seconds into the period for the 6-4 win.
“I figured out what he did (at the Warrior) and fixed what I needed to,” Hickey said. “I was hoping to face him again. Whether it was the first match or the second, I was ready to go. It feels great to win.”
Another upset on the night was at 145 when Fruita’s Dylan Chelewski beat Grand Junction’s Able Martinez (No. 7 in 5A) for the title.
At 220, Central's Javian Hernandez battled Grand Junction's Austin Curfman for the title. After a scoreless first period and a tight second, Hernandez eked out a 3-1 win for the title.
At 113, Grand Junction's Murphy Harris beat Fruita's Michael Leon for the title.