RIFLE, Colorado - Coy Zang and Isaac Rider swapped weight classes right before Christmas break was over at Rifle High School. It's safe to say their winning ways haven't changed.
The end result for each of the Rifle High School wrestlers was a victory against their respective Steamboat Springs opponents in the Bears' 57-18 dual-match victory at Rifle High School on Tuesday. Both just did it in different ways, as Rider gutted out a 10-3 victory over Nathan Parks at 126 pounds, and Zang quickly disposed of Colton Lewer at 132 with a 36-second pin.
Four of Rifle's victories came by forfeit against the undermanned Sailors, helping the Bears win the Western Slope League match in convincing fashion. But Zang and Rider, each of whom went to the Class 3A State Championships at the Pepsi Center last year, are accustomed to winning.
Both seem to be on pace for a return trip this season, and their performances against the Sailors showed that.
Rider is 25-7 as a sophomore this season after going into last year's state tournament with a 40-5 record at 120 pounds. Zang, who entered last year's state tournament with a 27-15 record, has already matched last year's win total (27-5) with a week remaining before the regional tournament in Montrose the weekend of Feb. 15 and 16.
Right around Christmas break, both were wrestling in the other's weight class, with Rider wrestling at 132 and Zang cutting down to 126. More success followed after the two switched weight classes.
Needless to say, both are hoping that trend continues.
"I think we're going to be all right," Zang said. "I know I need to get in shape a little bit more, but for the most part, we all work hard toward this time of year."
Rider was up around 140 pounds as a running back on Rifle's football team, but couldn't cut enough weight to go back to the 120s. He felt more comfortable at the start of wrestling season competing at 132 pounds, then felt he had a better chance of success another weight class down.
"It's sort of strategic, actually," Rider said. "I had just come back from football, and I didn't want to drop down to 126 and lose all of that weight right away. I did really well, but by the time state came, I was mentally and physically broken."
Cutting weight gradually for Rider, he said, "was the best way for me to do well at state."
Zang tried to cut down to 126 right as the season began, hoping a lower weight class with more muscle would give him a competitive advantage. Instead, the energy Zang needed during the matches wasn't there anymore, prompting the senior to go back to 132.
"I went to the Warrior [Classic tournament in Grand Junction in December] and placed fourth at 126," Zang said. "That's the point when I said I couldn't do it any more. I was way too weak."
Zang took advantage of a position Lewer was in early on, crossing up Lewer's legs before flipping him over crossed up onto his back for a takedown and hold. Zang only had Lewer on his back for close to four seconds before the pin was called.
Rider was much more methodical in winning his match, taking a 6-2 lead after one period before only adding a one-point escape in the second. He focused on simply maintaining his lead in the third period.
"For Isaac, cutting the weight has been a little tough, and you can see that in his energy level," Rifle coach John Wisniewski said. "He was telling me earlier how it's been such a hard week of simply maintaining weight for this."
Also earning pins for the Bears was Zach Wisniewski, who pinned Dylan Wallace in 5:20 at 160 pounds. At 170, Rifle's Tony Galavez pinned Connor O'Brien in 2:39, and Rifle heavyweight Jose Prado earned a pin against Steamboat's Cole Sittng.
The match was rearranged from what was originally scheduled as a triangular between Palisade, Rifle and Steamboat. Rifle will host a rescheduled triangular on Thursday with Palisade and Basalt.