As Mancos’ football season wound down, the hope was that injured senior Levi Martin could heal enough to possibly have, well, something of a wrestling season in the winter.
Even if that meant just a couple weeks. Preferably, say, in early February.
And as tough as the Blue Jays have been during the 2023-24 grind without the three-time State qualifier, fans – and competitors – assembled Thursday night, Feb. 1, in Dove Creek got a good look at the crew’s resolve with him back in uniform. And also glimpsed a little history as MHS emerged victorious at the round-robin San Juan Basin League Championships.
After pinning Norwood freshman Keegan Tackett to begin his night inside The DawgHouse, Martin then defeated DCHS senior Cody Alexander to ensure himself a chance at placing first among the 144-pounders. Unbeknownst to most outside Mancos Wrestling, the victory over Alexander – who conceded during the bout due to injury – was Martin’s 100th in his decorated high school career, and was immediately commemorated on the mat with a custom banner as DCHS A.D. Shane Baughman narrated the moment via the public-address mic.
Not resting on the hard-earned laurels, Martin then logged No. 101 by dealing Ignacio sophomore Zane Pontine a 21-6 technical-fall defeat with 1:06 still remaining in the third and last two-minute period to complete a 3-0 run through the division.
“I went into it knowing he was a ranked wrestler, but I also went in knowing I was going to win,” said Martin. “Don’t really know much else about him, but I just did what I do.”
Blue Jay junior Brandon Vannest soon finished his own 2-0 outing at 157 by dealing Nucla junior David Quigley a 17-1 tech with 1:18 left in the third period, and Mancos concluded the final round with sophomore 165-pounder Jacob Martin pinning Norwood freshman Colton Kepley in 1:19, senior Cole Dainty-Guilfoyle outlasting Nucla senior Arthur Connelly 6-3 at 190, and junior 132-pounder Quinton Martinez pinning Nucla senior Derrick VanDellen 1:14 into the second period.
“Honestly, one of my best matches of the entire year,” Dainty-Guilfoyle, Class 2A’s defending 175-pound State Champion, said of his test against Connelly, who nearly gained control in the last minute. “He’s going to be very tough at State.”
“And just being the fact that we’ve wrestled here a lot of times – ever since I was in elementary school – and we’re seeing some familiar faces … this tournament was pretty special for me.”
Sophomore Colten Vannest went 2-0 at 215 pounds and Martinez 5-0 (with four pins plus a medical-forfeit win, over DCHS sophomore Chad Kline) as Mancos – minus on-the-mend senior heavyweight Elliot Sam – accumulated 99.5 points. Paced by VanDellen’s 4-1 mark at 132 and Connelly’s runner-up 1-1 effort, Nucla – lacking recovering senior 138-pounder JW Naslund – snagged second with 71. IHS (43) came in third, followed by Norwood (42), Dove Creek (36.5) and Dolores (34).
“We went in here knowing we shouldn’t get pushed too hard,” said Brandon Vannest, “but … had to come in and wrestle tough. And I think as a team we wrestled well. There’s a few things we need to touch up in the room … going into regionals, and then I think we’re on course.”
Only Norwood sophomore Jackson Dinsmore’s second-period pin of Dillon Eichner at 106, then Nucla freshman Jackson McCabe’s points win over freshman Teagen Mestas at 113 denied the Jays a clean sweep of all weights at which they were represented. Eichner, a senior, finished a runner-up 0-1 at the event while Mestas ended up 1-1. Jacob Martin went 1-0 and Dainty-Guilfoyle 2-0 as MHS won 16 of 18 total engagements.
Mancos will next see action Feb. 9-10 in Monte Vista at the Class 2A-Region IV Championships, while the other SJBL squads will all travel that same weekend to Cedaredge for Region II.
“At this point there’s nothing we really can change. Like, our methods are our methods and what we do for training is going to be the same,” Dainty-Guilfoyle said. “So at this point you just kind of have to prepare mentally, you know?”
“We’re having a pretty good season so far – this was really my first tournament back – but we’re hoping to win regionals and hopefully State,” declared Martin, now 4-0 overall since being cleared to compete. “I’m feeling good … but we’ve got to push at least four into the finals to have a chance at winning State, so we’re pushing hard in the room right now.”
Ignacio sophomore Lincoln deKay and senior Kyle Rima captured league titles in Dove Creek at 150 and heavyweight, respectively, with each winning his only match. deKay pinned Dolores senior Zach Taylor in an elapsed 2:16; Rima worked much faster, sticking Nucla freshman Jacob Davis in just 32 seconds. The ’Cats, however, were without sophomore lower-weight standout Aven Bourriague, who was fighting off an infection.
Pontine finished second at 144, as did sophomore Joshua Kerrigan at 120 behind Dove Creek’s Cael Beanland. Sophomore Dillon Brann placed sixth at 132, with DHS’ Nathan Hill fourth and DCHS’ Kline fifth. Dolores’ River Wickstrom went unopposed at 138, as did DCHS’ Teagan Larimore at 126 and Nucla’s Paxtin Caruso at 175.