For many of the Southwest Colorado state qualifiers, their spot in the 2A state championships has become an annual tradition, but for several Bluejays and Bulldogs, the upcoming weekend will invite a brand-new aura of excitement.
In their respective regional tournaments – Mancos in Monte Vista and Dove Creek at Cedaredge – the Four Corners schools made their mark, with the Bluejays taking second place as a team and sending another veteran crew to state.
Seven Bluejays will be making return trips to the Ball Arena floor, while one Jay and all three Bulldogs will make their first appearance after claiming top four positions in their respective regional brackets.
Leading the charge, a pair of state champions – Mancos seniors Cole Dainty-Guilfoyle (36-1) and Levi Martin (6-1) – eased their way back into the state field, with the defending 175-pound champ taking care of the regional field, winning the final, 5-3, over Jesus Valadez of Center. Martin took second at 144, as the journey back from his football leg injury still has him getting his wrestling legs back under him, but with enough power to pin a pair of opponents on his way to the regional final.
Senior Elliott Sam (20-9), another all-state returner, posted three straight pins on his way to a regional title in the heavyweight division, while junior Brandon Vannest (35-7) claimed second with a near-miss on a regional title, falling in a sudden victory scenario in the finals at 150 pounds Sophomore Colten Vannest (17-17, 215 pounds) bounced back from a semifinal loss to earn back-to-back wins through the consolation bracket to take third overall.
Classmate Jacob Martin (28-7) also rallied back from a semifinal loss to also post consecutive pins in the 157-pound division, earning his second straight trip to Denver. Meanwhile, senior Dillon Eicher (23-14), after missing out on the field a year ago, makes a strong return to the state championships, claiming second in the 106-pound class after a pair of pins earned him a spot in the regional final.
Freshman Teagen Mestas (13-13) makes his maiden voyage to Denver, battling through the consolation bracket to take the fourth-place match and earn the final spot in the 120-pound class.
As for Dove Creek, three ‘Dogs navigated a rigorous regional field to punch their tickets for the 2A championships over the weekend of Feb. 15-17 in Denver.
Junior Frankey Montoya (30-14) joins freshmen Cael Beanland (19-11) and Teagan Larimore (31-11) on the Ball Arena mats this upcoming weekend by virtue of their fourth-place finishes in their regional bracket.
Montoya earned an important consolation bracket win over West Grand’s Ryan Van Oosten to propel him into the placing matches, and took home the final available spot at 215 pounds In similar fashion, Beanland (113 pounds) also won a critical consolation match over Walsenburg’s Matthew Dominguez via sudden victory, 9-7, to boost him into position to advance.
Larimore had the busiest weekend of any of the local qualifiers, winning three contested matches on his way to the last spot in the 126-pound division.
For their respective coaches, Ty Penning for Mancos and Colten Huskey for Dove Creek, the state tournament offers an opportunity to continue to showcase the strength of the Four Corners’ wrestling acumen. Dolores saw their season wrap up at the regionals, with three different Bears posting wins in their brackets.
Having been ranked in the top five in the 2A all season, Mancos has visions of competing for a team title as well, with a strong chance to land plenty of Bluejays on the podium for the second straight year. Action from Ball Arena kicks off on Thursday, Feb. 15, and carries through the rest of the weekend, with each weight division in the 2A field sporting 16 athletes vying for the right to be named state champion.