The Demons started fast - very fast.But the Pirates finished faster.
The Durango High School wrestling team, dusting off the rust of the holiday break, powered to a big lead (30-0) in the team dual against Pagosa Springs on Thursday night.
But Pagosa, traditionally one of Class 3A's top wrestling teams, rattled off 37 consecutive points to take the team victory 37-30 in a contest that came down to the final three matches at the noisy DHS gym.
"We got off to a really nice start," said DHS first-year head coach Doug Cuddie. "Some of our younger guys wrestled really, really well."
"Trevor Gillen ... our heavyweight. This was his first match," Cuddie said after Gillen scored a second-period pin over Preston Sandoval of Pagosa Springs to stake the Demons to an early lead in his first wrestling match this season.
"Rudy Peterson ... he did a nice job. And (CJ) Hamby had a nice pin to start," Cuddie said.
Peterson, Durango's 103-pounder, scored the quickest pin of the night when he finished Silas Thompson of Pagosa Springs in 20 seconds.
Hamby followed with a second-period pin of Andrew Clark of the Pirates. The pin came with Hamby leading 7-0.
The team dual started at the 215-pound bracket, and Durango's Justin Whirlow won the first match by forfeit.
With wins from Whirlow, Gillen, Peterson and Hamby, the Demons extended their lead to 30-0 when Ty Penning of DHS won by forfeit at 119 pounds.
Penning was scheduled to wrestle Steven Smith, one of Pagosa's top returning wrestlers. But when Smith did not make the weight requirement, he was moved up to 125 pounds.
Penning got the forfeit victory at 119.
Smith drew a match against Jesse Ollier of Durango at 125.
Smith put the Pirates on the scoreboard when he won their first match of the evening, 9-5 over Ollier.
Dakota Miller of Pagosa Springs followed with a dramatic 14-13 roller-coaster victory over Gabe Crawford of the Demons at 130 pounds.
Miller's final points came as time expired, and Pagosa Springs added three more team points to pull within 30-6.
A first-period pin from Caleb Pringle over Durango's James Ouellette at 135 pounds cut the DHS lead to 30-12.
Cole Mastin of Pagosa decisioned Cory Prentice 9-3 at 140 pounds.
The Pirates then put together two major decision victories (15 points). At 145, Waylon Lucero defeated Dakota Sutherlin 18-3. And at 152, Jeremy Smith of Pagosa notched a 15-0 decision over Brandon Stagner.
With five team points each from the major decisions, the Pirates cut the Demons' lead to 30-25 with three matches to go.
A hard-fought 7-5 win for Pagosa's Garrett Fitch over Joe Ott-Edwards at 160 cut the difference to 30-28.
Then three-time state tournament qualifier Mike Smith of Pagosa Springs picked up a first-period pin of Durango's Trent Scott (171 pounds), giving the Pirates their first team lead at 34-30.
Smith was a state runner-up in 3A last year, falling in the state championship match to Bayfield's Jordan Larsen.
Clint Manzanares of Pagosa Springs (189 pounds) finished the scoring with a 7-2 decision over Durango's Tyler Scott as the enthusiastic weekday crowd cheered every move and every counter.
The final match was tied 2-2 entering the final period before Manzanares prevailed.
"The good thing is we wrestled well," Cuddie said of the Demons. "That's the best we've wrestled all year. It's so nice to be home. The crowd was great. The kids wrestled hard."
Veteran Pagosa Springs coach Dan Janowsky, in his 18th season as the Pirates' head coach, said he was happy to get his team back out on the mats.
"I thought Durango wrestled quite well," Janowsky said. "They were out there showing improvement from when we saw them earlier."
Janowsky said the holiday break is very difficult for high school wrestlers as they try to maintain their weight levels and their fitness levels. That can create lineup adjustments and open weight classes right after the break, he said.
"But those last few guys - 152, 160 - they are some of our younger guys. And they showed they could stay in their matches," Janowsky said. "They had ... to wrestle under pressure."
The Pirates also did not wrestle Joe DuCharme, their starter at 160 pounds. A third-place finisher at state last year, DuCharme is coming off an individual title in the prestigious Warrior Classic in Grand Junction right before the holiday break.
DuCharme is expected back in the Pagosa Springs lineup when the Pirates host the annual Rocky Mountain Invitational Wrestling Tournament on Saturday. Most regional schools are entered, including Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio.