Panthers make Bulldogs earn it

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Ryan Daves grabs Guadelupe Monroy in a hold that leads to a pin at home Thursday night against Aztec.

By Bobby Abplanalp Journal staff writer

Dove Creek wrestling opened its season Thursday night, winning the Montezuma-Cortez High School tri-meet — again.

But it wasn’t like in years past.

The Bulldogs had to earn it.

An improved M-CHS Panthers team looked good on its home mat and gave visiting 2A Dove Creek all it could handle.

“They’re much improved and credit to Eric (Smith). He’s doing a good job down here,” said Bulldogs coach Shane Baughman about M-CHS wrestling. “I told them ‘Good luck.’ I like to see this area succeed. Those guys are good, tough kids.”

In the end, Dove Creek won its dual over 4A M-CHS, 44-32, and crushed 4A Aztec (N.M.), 63-18. The Panthers opened the night of wrestling with a 45-28 win over the Aztec Tigers.

“We have a young team and I felt we wrestled a tough Dove Creek team really well,” M-CHS coach Eric Smith said. “There were a few mistakes here and there that cost us a few matches. We’ll try to clean that up, and try and get the score to go the other way for us.”

Dove Creek (2-0) had seven state returners wrestling Thursday, while M-CHS (1-1) placed three 2012 state qualifiers on the mat.

Ryan Daves (138 pounds), Seager Oliver (170) and Trenton Gustafson (182) all went 2-0 on the day for M-CHS. The Panthers’ big three appear poised to be back at state in February.

The most pleasant surprise for coach Smith was freshman 195-pounder David Skaggs going 2-0 on the night.

“We’ve been telling him it’s a little different style in high school. Coming out his first two varsity matches and winning both, it’s going to help him build confidence,” said Smith about Skaggs. “Hopefully, that energy will rub off on the other freshmen.”

The taller Skaggs overpowered his opponents with his superior upper body strength, resulting in two wins by fall for the freshman. Skaggs felt his conditioning at the high school level greatly helped him win the first two matches of his prep career.

“It takes a lot of effort. The coaches really make sure we’re in shape,” Skaggs said. “A lot of wrestlers don’t do as much running as we do. He (Smith) really makes sure we’re in as top shape as we can be.”

Skaggs began the evening with a second-round pin over Orien Israel of Aztec (0-2). The two were tied 2-2 after the first period. But in the second, Skaggs displayed his strength and conditioning prowess with an early takedown, which spelled doom for Israel. At the 3:48 mark of the match, Skaggs secured the pin.

Later, Skaggs made quick work of Dove Creek sophomore Tyler Knuckles, winning by pin just 51 seconds into the match.

“It’s good to win my first two matches in high school,” Skaggs said. “It really boosted it (confidence). I can’t overestimate anyone, but you got to think everyone is almost as good if not better than you. You go out there and see which one is the better man.”

For the Bulldogs, it was business as usual and Dove Creek definitely took care of business.

The most entertaining match of the night was at 126 pounds between Dove Creek’s Chance Randolph and M-CHS’s Levi Gross. The sophomores had a knock down, drag out, tough, old fashioned affair that went back-and-forth. It was a match that simply came down to who wanted it more.

Randolph led 2-1 after one period. But Gross owned the second period with an escape and reversal to take a 4-2 lead. Randolph earned an important escape point before the bell to trail 4-3 after two.

In the final round, Randolph earned an escape and quickly struck with a takedown to take a 6-4 lead. Neither grappler would budge from there, as Randolph escaped with a 2-point win by decision.

“Chance was a little out of shape it looked like. He kind of got caught out of his game plan,” Baughman said. “Levi was hitting him with those slide bys. Credit to Levi. He did a good job there. Chance was sucking a little wind there at the end, but he gutted it out.”

Colin Hobbs (113), Case Baughman (120), Randolph, Cole Baughman (132), Tyler Ebberts (145), Dalton Randolph (152), Dillon Daves (160) and Tyson Smith (285, heavyweight) all posted 2-0 marks for Dove Creek.

Bobby Cook (106), Nick Jones (138) and Wyatt Applin (170) each went 1-1.

The Bulldogs wrestle today at the Farmington (N.M.) High School tournament.

Celestine Fernandez (106), Parker Oliver (113), Gross, Justice Ramos (145) and Victor Perez (heavyweight) all went 1-1 for the Panthers.

M-CHS will travel to the Delta High School tournament next Saturday at 8 a.m.

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