While the other La Plata County wrestling teams are ready for Christmas break, Bayfield High School is entering the holiday season on fire.
The Wolverines placed second at the Panther Classic at Piedra Vista High School in Farmington on Saturday afternoon as they finished with 96 points. The host Panthers won in eight separate weight classes and finished with 205 points, which easily won them the team title.
BHS head coach Todd McMenimen had a lot of positive takeaways after the final meet before Christmas break wrapped up.
“We wrestled really tough again,” McMenimen said. “Things are really starting to come together and they’re buying into what the coaches are trying to teach and preach in the wrestling room. We were put on our back and fought back when we should’ve been pinned, but we had fortitude, grit and a fight and effort ... that I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Bayfield had nine wrestlers compete on Saturday and all nine placed in the top-six, which included two winners. John Foutz won his second tournament title of the season at the 220-pound weight class, while the other champion on the day came from Daniel Pickering (132), who also won his second title of the season.
“Daniel was sick today, but regardless, I thought John stepped up and really took control of the tournament,” McMenimen said. “I mean, we are so stinking tough, it’s unbelievable. We showed tremendous fight out there with all of our guys.”
Foutz pinned his way to the final, and in the championship match, pinned Piedra Vista’s Jacob Bartley in just 50 seconds. Meanwhile, in Pickering’s bracket, he had two technical falls and a pin, including the semifinal matchup, where he pinned Trey Brock of Piedra Vista in just 36 seconds. In the final, he got off to an early lead and defeated Dominique Benally of Kirtland Central, with a 17-2 win, in just 4:49 in the first period.
While McMenimen loved the wins, he said the best performance came from Tre McKee, who took second (145). In the semifinal matchup, McKee was being choked out and was on his back. McMenimen said that “he had just had enough and decided to do something about it.” He fought his way out of a potential match-winning move and went on to get a pin over Gabriel Huerta of Pojoaque with 3:21 remaining in the first period. While McKee would lose the championship match against Kyle Baker of Piedra Vista, who was 19-1 on the season, McMenimen loved McKee’s effort.
“It was phenomenal to see, and he never gave in,” McMenimen said. “It’s effort like his that have gotten us to this point. Our guys are as tough as nails and Tre exemplified that today.”
Also faring well were Colby Baker (138), who finished second, Simon Schneider (113) and James Mars (126), two freshmen who finished in third, respectively. Gerron Goring (152) and Shane Moore (170) took fourth in their respective brackets, while Conner Krug (220) took sixth in his bracket, and was pinned in the fifth-place match by Nic Dan of Mancos in just 52 seconds.
“All of the New Mexico teams had full lineups, and to go out there and give it our all and get the performances that we did, it really said a lot,” McMenimen said. “If we had a full lineup, we really could have pushed PV, and I think that says how strong we are. All of those teams we saw are going to go very far in the New Mexico state tournament, and I think we showed them that Bayfield wrestling is back.”
McMenimen and his Bayfield squad are as confident as ever heading into the first-ever La Plata County Championships.
“That tournament is something that we were able to finally pull together, and coach Larsen and coach Garand were on board and we’re just really excited about it,” McMenimen said. “But today was just a really good day and it puts us in a good position for break and the rest of January.”
The Wolverines will travel to another New Mexico power in Aztec at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 3 at Aztec High School. Two days later, BHS will head to Durango for the La Plata County Championships against the Demons and Ignacio at DHS, with the time to be announced.
“Good things are going for us right now,” McMenimen said. “I can’t wait to see how we respond after the holiday break.”