For the second time in as many years, Durango will have a state champion wrestler coming out of middle school.
James Storm of the Durango middle school wrestling team won the 145-pound weight class at the Colorado Middle School State Championships, which were held last Friday and Saturday at the National Western Complex in Denver. He followed in the footsteps of now freshman wrestler Tyler Woodworth in 2018 as the second state champion for Durango at the middle school level.
Storm, who attends Miller Middle School, pinned Ethen Robson of the Dolores Bears wrestling club 2 minutes, 51 seconds into the match to take the title.
“I was super proud of James’ effort,” said coach Leo Garand. “He saw the same kid from Dolores at regionals and lost, so for him to respond from battling back from pneumonia and beating the same kid in the final, it was an awesome performance. Our plan was for him to get it into the third period to stay with him, but (Robson) made a mistake, James saw it and took advantage to get the pin.”
Durango had 10 wrestlers compete from all three middle schools, including Miller and Mountain.
Beau Brunson (Escalante, 100) and Riley Belt (Escalante, 95) advanced deep into their respective brackets and were one and two matches short of ensuring themselves a podium spot, respectively. Brunson lost in a sudden victory in the seventh round of the consolation bracket, while Belt lost in a 6-0 decision in the sixth round of the consolation bracket.
“Overall, we wrestled well as a team, with all 10 guys contributing to the team’s overall placement,” Garand said. “Everybody battled hard, and it was a great day for us.”
The other qualifiers from Durango included Oren Moore (Escalante, 85), Julian Rodriguez (Miller, 95), Ivan Silva (Escalante, 115), Payson Albrecht (Escalante, 125), Miguel Garcia-Rodriguez (Miller, 152), Miguel Stubbs (Escalante, 171) and Brett Franklin (Escalante 198). Collin Christiansen (Mountain, 80) and Dylan Hennberger (Escalante, 140) both qualified for state but forfeited their matches.
As a team, Durango finished in fourth out of elite teams and finished in 19th out of 224 total teams.
“The future of wrestling is going to be very bright, and we’ll have a good core and nucleus to build around,” said Garand, also the Durango High head coach. “I was really proud of the way everybody wrestled, and to now have two guys in the room next year who will know what it takes to win a state championship, it’s going to be very competitive.”
BayfieldBayfield Middle School had two placers at the middle school level and one at the elementary school level.
Deegan Barnes of BMS took second at 125 pounds after he was pinned by Lain Yapoujian of Phil Nowick Middle School in Denver. He was pinned at the 1:23 mark of the match.
The other placer came from Keaton Pickering, who finished in sixth place after he lost the fifth-place match to Nathanial Higgins of Carson Middle School in Fort Carson in a 7-0 decision.
BMS had one more qualifier in Darron Boling (75), but he lost in the third round of the consolation bracket.
At the elementary school level, Zayden Cundiff took second in the fourth/fifth-grade 89-pound weight class and lost a 5-2 decision to William Ledbetter-Ketchum of the Colorado Bad Boys, based in Fowler.
IgnacioThe Ignacio Middle School rounded out La Plata County’s participation in the event, but none placed. Devante Montoya (75) advanced to the fourth round of the consolation bracket and defeated Boling of Bayfield in the third round at the 1:26 mark before falling to Jackson Eversman of Walt Clark Middle School in Loveland in an 18-8 major decision.
Also qualifying for Ignacio was Nate Hendren (120) and Keaton McCoy (120), who both lost in the fourth round of the consolation bracket.