It was a solid opening day at the Colorado High School Activities Association’s state wrestling tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver for Bayfield and Ignacio, as each school got two boys into the state quarterfinals. Six others from the county will brace for a long Friday through consolation brackets.
Ignacio High School went 2-4 Thursday and pulled off an upset along the way. Bayfield’s dynamic duo of John Foutz and Daniel Westbrook had an impressive first round, as they each picked up wins via pin. In the evening session, Durango went 0-2 in Class 4A.
Here’s a closer look at how the first-round matches went on Thursday at state.
Bayfield High SchoolFoutz pinned No. 14 Enoc Macias-Castilo of Arvada at the 16-second mark of the second period. Foutz, seeded No. 3 heading into the Class 3A 195-pound weight class, made the most of the first state match of his career after he narrowly missed out last year. BHS head coach Todd McMenimen said it took the junior a while to get going, but once he did, he looked like his usual self.
“John controlled him all the way through, but it was a little bit of the nerves in the beginning,” McMenimen said. “This is his first time he’s even been in the Pepsi Center, and he’s never seen a basketball game or a hockey game in person, let alone wrestled here. I’ve seen a lot of outstanding wrestlers come here and take a bit of time to adjust once they get here just because of how big the stakes are. The coaching staff and I have been getting the boys to just stay relaxed. He’s had a great mindset going into it, and once he got going, he was fine.”
Foutz will wrestle the sixth-seed, Mitchell Peabody of La Junta (10-11), in the quarterfinals on Friday.
In the other match for the Wolverines, seventh-seed Daniel Westbrook made quick work of his first-round opponent in the 220-pound bracket with a pin over No. 10 Casey Harvey of Bennett at the 1:56 mark of the first period.
“I think Daniel knew what to expect coming in just based off of last year,” McMenimen said. “He was extremely excited to get rolling again, and he did just that. He didn’t waste any time to get going and had a great first match. He knows now what to expect going forward and just wanted to get off to a strong start.”
Westbrook will face No. 2 Atsamaz Pliev (29-1) of Sierra in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
“Daniel actually got advice from Eli Smith of Salida, who lost to this kid in the regional finals last week,” McMenimen said. “Eli was trying to give Daniel tips because he hasn’t seen him this year. Apparently, (Pliev) is extremely strong, and we got a bit of a scouting report and will plan for it. I really do think if Daniel stays composed and lets the wrestling take care of itself, we’ll see both him and John in the semifinals on Friday night.”
The quarterfinals will begin at 9 a.m. for both Class 2A and 3A.
Ignacio High SchoolThe Bobcats had the most qualifiers in the area with six, all of whom competed hard on the first day of the Class 2A tournament. The IHS wins came from senior veterans Skieler Grooms and Dustin Sanchez.
Grooms scored an upset in the 138-pound weight class when he took down No. 5 Michael Gutierrez of Burlington with a pin deep into the final period. Grooms, seeded 12th and 25-11 on the season, pinned Gutierrez (15-12) with 1:01 remaining in the third period after it was back and forth throughout.
“It took Skieler that first period to wake up, but after that, he came to wrestle,” said IHS head coach Jordan Larsen. “He was down heading into that third period, and we just told him what we always tell him, which is to wrestle your heart out for two minutes. He came back in a big way in that third period, and that’s what we’re here to do – even if it’s scratching and clawing, we’re fighting to win.”
While it’s an upset from a pure seeding standpoint, Grooms has been known to produce big moments in big matches throughout his career as a Bobcat. He has returned to the Pepsi Center for the second consecutive year after he had three matches last year before he was eliminated.
Grooms will wrestle No. 4 Santino Mendoza (32-12), a junior from Rocky Ford in Friday’s quarterfinal.
Dustin Sanchez came away with a narrow first-round victory over No. 8 Isiah Garcia in a 3-2 decision. Sanchez, a senior who took sixth last year at the state meet, came into this year’s meet as the No. 9 seed and will look to improve after last year’s performance.
“I just wrestled hard as always,” Sanchez said. “I felt in control a lot of the match, but for sure it was a really good first-round test. I’m just looking forward to seeing how far I can go tomorrow, and I’m not even sure who I’m going up against yet, I just want to compete my hardest.”
Sanchez will face top-seeded Cade Hillman (43-5) in the quarterfinals Friday.
The Bobcats will have four who will compete in the consolation bracket. Cesar Pedregon (182) was defeated by No. 8 Dawson Roesch of County Line in a 6-2 decision. Three others fell in the first round via pin, which included Clay Campbell (170), who lost to the No. 3 Jorge Valdez of Crowley County in 50 seconds, Hunter Robbins (126), who fell to No. 2 Oran Huff in 18 seconds, and Randy Herrera (285), who was pinned by No. 9 Lars Sims of Yuma at the 2:54 mark.
Durango High SchoolThe Demons’ two qualifiers will have a tough road after they each lost in their first-round match Thursday night in the Class 4A first round.
No. 14 Paul Smagacz (19-18), Durango’s senior captain, was pinned by No. 3 Dre Martinez (36-4) of Grand Junction Central at the 138-pound weight class at the 1:07 mark in the first period. Despite it being a Southwestern League clash, the two had not seen each other all season, which included a tri-meet in January. Smagacz will have his first-round consolation bracket match after 3:30 p.m. on Friday.
Tyler Woodworth, a freshman, fought hard at 145 pounds against top-seed and No. 17 in the nation Jaxon Garoutte (38-2) of Pueblo County but was pinned 11 seconds into the second period after Woodworth fought hard to extend the match.
“Looking at the kids he’s beat and how fast he’s beaten them, I was actually pretty proud to have made it to the second period,” Woodworth said. “I just knew I had to go out there and attack because, even with my seeding and seeing where he was at, I still wanted to be aggressive. ... It’s a long way to third-place, but anything’s possible at the state tournament.”
Woodworth (25-13) is a bright spot for the Demons after he won a title in middle school and made it to Pepsi Center his first year. He will also wrestle in the consolation bracket Friday afternoon.
“I was super proud of both of their efforts,” said DHS head coach Leo Garand. “I don’t think that Garoutte was ready for a freshman to rattle his cage like he did there in the first, and he showed a lot of spunk. I saw a lot of that fight in Paul, too. He’s ranked 31st in the state for his weight class, so for him to even be at the state tournament, it was great. He got in his face and wrestled him really tough ... There’s no quit in either of them, and I have faith in both of them to come back out tomorrow, get in somebody’s face again and stay alive.”