FLORENCE — According to rankings going in, the Mel Smith Husky Invitational probably should have been Pagosa Springs' show. Don’t tell Eagle Valley wrestling that, though.
The Devils came to prove something. And, after 31 hours of wrestling, they had made a few new believers.
“We’ve had a tough time at this tournament in years past. We knew coming into this tournament we had to wrestle at our best, ” remarked head coach Luke Cross.
And that’s exactly what the Red Devils did.
Although Eagle Valley didn’t end up with even one individual title, but they came together as a team, placed in half of the weight classes, and kept piling up points until the rest of the 30 teams at the tournament were in the rear-view mirror.
That’s not to say the Devils had no special efforts.
In particular, Cross singled out the effort of 182-pounder Davis Ward: “He just really stepped it up. He’s overcome a lot of adversity in his life, and he got third place today. ... The kids kind of rallied around that and we all wrestled better with his leadership.”
How much better? Eagle Valley logged three second-place finishes, two thirds, and two fourths.
The seconds went to Matthew Medina at 106, Lucas Comroe at 132, and Noah Baldwin at 152. The Devils did not bring wrestlers in two weight classes, but every wrestler they did bring contributed to the overall winning point total of 168 points.
Hot on Eagle Valley’s heels were the teams from Eaton and Pagosa Springs.
Like Eagle Valley, both Pagosa and Eaton found it difficult to win weight classes. Eaton got their lone individual title on the last match of the evening, courtesy of a late flurry that gave Jeremy Murano the title at 285 pounds.
Pagosa’s Cameron Lucero wrestled perhaps the most entertaining final of the entire evening, going back and forth with Clay Yarnell of Olathe before getting the pin at 3:06. Though both are from the western slope, Lucero had not met Yarnell until this evening. Lucero offered, “I knew he was good on top.”
But Lucero gave Yarnell very little opportunity to show any of that. On the other hand, Lucero took some opportunities that might have left a lesser wrestler on his back. In the end, though, it was Yarnell who ended up on his back.
Lucero smiled about it after it was over, “If you don’t take chances, you don’t win.”
Valley led all schools with three individual titles on the weekend — Isaiah Rios at 138, Colin Brown at 152, and Jaziah Whaley at 160. As sharp as the Vikings were in the middle weights, however, they simply didn’t have enough wrestlers with them to make a serious run at the title. They will, however, undoubtedly be heard from at state.
The only other team with multiple individual title winners was Elizabeth with two. Kris Kramer took the crown at 113 pounds and Abe Leonard pinned his way through the bracket at 195.
Other individual title winners included Brady Hankin of Woodland Park at 106, Ethan Andrade of Lamar at 120, Zach Loft of Sterling at 126, James Ruona of Canon City at 132, Wyatt Pfau of Brush at 170, Nathan Johns of The Classical Academy at 182, and Eli Smith of Salida at 220.
Tim Yount’s rankings generally held true, but there were bits and pieces of new ground turned over.
Ethan Andrade of Lamar dropped down from 126 to beat 120 No. 1 Isaiah Gamez of La Junta. Isaiah Rios jumped all the way up from No. 5 at 138 to win the title over previous No. 1 Dylan Yancey of Eaton. Most impressive of all, Colin Brown of Valley was ranked No. 14 at 145 before taking the crown at 152.
But the disruption there, significant as it is, probably still doesn’t eclipse the disruption brought by the rise of Eagle Valley as a certifiable 3A team contender.