It’s the last practice inside the Ignacio High School wrestling room. Only two boys remain, and they are surrounded by three coaches pushing every ounce of sweat out of the two first-time state qualifiers.
Dustin Sanchez doesn’t miss a repetition during the day’s final conditioning drill. Skieler Grooms grits his teeth through the pain of the last few minutes of practice. The two junior weigh in under what they will need to weigh this Thursday through Saturday when they step on the scales at the Pepsi Center in Denver for the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 2A state wrestling championships.
“It’s pretty crazy, state. I’m excited to get in there,” said Grooms. “Thinking about even just weighing in and seeing all my opponents lined up next to me and seeing all the hard work they’ve put in to get here, too, it’s pretty crazy.”
Grooms and Sanchez are Ignacio’s only two state qualifiers this year. They emerged with third-place finishes at the 2A Region 1 tournament in Delta.
The two boys will visit Ignacio Elementary School on Wednesday morning before making the trip to Denver.
While Grooms admitted to having some nerves built up during this week, Sanchez is calm and collected. This isn’t the biggest show he’s competed at, as he has qualified for the National Finals Rodeo, too.
“I rodeo and have been to a bunch of big shows,” Sanchez said. “I’m used to it a little. Lights, cameras, people. You can’t let the nerves get over the top, it’s just another tournament.”
Sanchez has a 22-13 record this season and will compete at 152 pounds. He is slated to face Fowler’s Chantz Lange (27-10) in the first round of state. He has his eyes on reaching the semifinals and is hopeful for a rematch with Cedaredge senior Colton Hoerr (34-16).
“I lost in the regional semifinals to (Hoerr), the same guy I lost to in the third-place match at the (Butch Melton Invitational in Ignacio),” Sanchez said. “I want a chance to see him in the semifinals and get that match.”
Grooms, who is 17-10 this year, will wrestle at 145 pounds. He is slated to open the tournament against Swink junior Kaleb Fisher (19-9). For Grooms, the first match is key.
“I’m just focused on my first match,” he said. “Getting through the first day and making sure I don’t get on the back side, that’s my focus. My first match will be most important.”
The two boys will be aided in the corner by a strong coaching staff led by Jordan Larsen.
Larsen will try to help the two Bobcats calm their nerves when they first step under the bright lights of the Pepsi Center, and he has the delicate task of trying to keep the boys aggressive while also making sure they don’t make a silly mistake.
“We drill everything perfect and try to make it perfect,” Sanchez said.
“If we take a shot, we have to finish it good. I’ve been disqualified already this year for an illegal slam, so I keep that in my mind to not do anything stupid.”