Glenwood Springs and Rifle high schools will combine to send 19 wrestlers to the 4A Region 4 wrestling tournament at Montrose today and Saturday, all with a shot at qualifying for state next week.
"We've had a couple of good tune-ups with duals in Delta and Meeker over the past week," said Miles Cook, Glenwood Springs assistant wrestling coach.
"We're still a pretty young team, and we've just been trying to get the kids to grow and get better as fast as they can," he said of a team that will send six of its 19 wrestlers to the regional tournament.
Entering regionals with the best chance to qualify for state for the Demons are 170-pounder Justin Barham and fellow junior Alex Cohen at 106 pounds.
Barham comes in as the top seed in his weight class with a record of 23-6, while Cohen enters regionals with a 19-3 mark.
The team's lone senior, 195-pounder Erick Madrid, placed sixth at regionals last year and could turn some heads this weekend.
"Things haven't gone his way this year, but he could be one of those kids that surprises some people," Cook said. "All of the matches are tough at regionals, though, and there aren't any easy victories."
Rifle will have a roster of 13 wrestlers at the regional tournament, including the top seed at 120 pounds, junior Oscar Ruelas, who comes in with a 27-2 record on the season.
But any of the Bears' wrestlers could be poised to make a statement this weekend, Rifle head coach John Wisniewski said.
"We've had a good week of practice, and the kids are really ready for this tournament," he said. "This is when the real show starts, and anything's possible."
Eleven of Rifle's wrestlers are seeded eighth or higher in their weight classes, including No. 2 seed Dallas Rohrig, a junior at 138 pounds, senior Coy Zang (No. 3 at 132), and sophomore Isaac Rider (No. 5 at 126).
"Isaac didn't get seeded as well as some of the other boys, but I think he has a really good shot," Wisniewski said. "Hugo Ruelas (senior at 145 pounds) is sitting pretty well."
The elder Ruelas lost to the No. 1 seed in his weight from Steamboat, Dane Koepfer, in the last second during a dual meeting earlier this season.
"We have a lot of other wrestlers who can create their own destiny and write a ticket to state if they come in with the right mindset," Wisniewski said.
Senior Jamie Gomez (160 pounds) has been injured most of the season, but is healthy now and could surprise some opponents, the coach added.