RIFLE, Colorado - The coaching staff for Rifle High School's wrestling team issued a challenge to its wrestlers prior to Saturday's Rumble in the Rockies dual wrestling tournament. In response, the Bears brought the hammer down.
Rifle won each of its five dual matches in its own tournament, including a 41-36 victory over Delta - avenging a loss to the Panthers from earlier in the year. And after a pair of forfeit-filled victories over Montezuma-Cortez and Pueblo West, Rifle pounded Moffat County and Hotchkiss prior to winning their title match with Delta.
That inspired performance came thanks to an illustration the Bears' coaching staff used: A hammer.
"We've been talking all week about if we want to be the hammer or the nail," Rifle coach John Wisniewski said. "[Assistant] coach Jay Puidocus actually went out and bought a hammer to illustrate the point.
"His plan was to give it to the outstanding wrestler of the week," Wisniewski said. "Right here, he awarded it to the whole team. I couldn't agree more with that."
Rifle heavyweight Jose Prado went undefeated on the day, and the Bears got big wins from almost everyone on the team.
Isaac Rider (126 pounds), Coy Zang (132) and Oscar Ruelas (120) each finished 4-1 on the day, but the Bears' big guys, paced by Prado, played a huge role in Rifle pounding out five victories.
The Bears' first two wins, however, didn't sit well with them. Rifle's coaches felt the Bears weren't wrestling well up until that point, and it took a tongue lashing to drive that point home.
"We were told how we didn't deserve to win those first two duals, especially since most of our wins came by forfeit," Prado said. "That picked us up a bit, and we had a new mental set from there on out."
Grand Valley also had its fair share of success. The Cardinals, despite not having enough wrestlers (10) to field a full team, finished 3-2 in its five matches. That included a 48-30 setback to Pueblo West in the tournament's third-place match.
Bryan Hegwood paced the Cardinals with a 5-0 performance, winning a pair of 170-pound matches in the first round and another, against Nelson Bell of Coal Ridge, coming at 182 pounds in the second period.
Jed Stagg (145) and Cody Pfau (106) each finished the tournament 4-1. Stagg earned three pins, including a win by fall over Basalt's Ivan Loya in 1 minute, 33 seconds.
Coal Ridge finished the tournament 1-4, with the Titans' lone victory coming in a 45-16 victory against Basalt.