PARACHUTE, Colorado - Rick Gallegos isn't about to let his Grand Valley High School wrestling team look ahead. If he had his way, the Cardinals' coach wouldn't let his wrestlers even look at the brackets they face today and Saturday.
Alas, there's no stopping any of the wrestlers on the 12 teams competing in the Class 3A Region 1 Tournament from looking at the weight-class brackets they're in. It's safe to say that every one of the competitors who come to the Grand Valley High gym will have a pretty good idea of who's in their weight class.
Gallegos, however, won't let his wrestlers look beyond their first matches.
"We try to knock that out of them early in the season," Gallegos said. "We preach one match at a time and to take care of first things first. You have to make weight before you can wrestle, and you can't think about the next match until you've finished the first one. Our kids look at who their first-round opponent is, and that's where they start."
The first round of the tournament begins at 3:30 p.m. Friday with first-round matchups, quarterfinals and consolation rounds. Semifinals begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, with placing rounds starting at 2 p.m. and championship finals beginning at 3:30 p.m.
The top four finishers in each weight class move on to the Class 3A State Championships, scheduled for Feb. 21 to 23 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Grand Valley and Coal Ridge make up the contingent of Garfield County teams which will be at the meet. Others include Basalt, Hotchkiss, Buena Vista, Gunnison, Cedaredge, Lake County, Middle Park, Moffat County, Olathe and Salida.
Of the local teams, Grand Valley has the only top-seeded wrestler. Cody Pfau, the Cardinals' 106-pound wrestler, comes into the tournament with a 27-6 record. She's a two-time state qualifier, but this is the first time she's been the top seed in her weight class.
So what was Pfau's reaction to earning the top seed in the regional bracket?
"She just shrugged her shoulders and said, 'All right,'" Gallegos said. "She realized that this is what she'd worked for all year is to be put in that position."
Pfau will open the tournament against Christophe Meseke (6-8) in the bracket's quarterfinals.
Miguel Valles of Grand Valley earned a quick trip to the semifinals thanks to a smaller weight-class bracket in the 126-pound weight class. Other Grand Valley wrestlers include Tucker Schultz (18-11) at 138, who will open with a quarterfinal match against Coal Ridge's Michael Shaw (21-9). The quarterfinal match between the Cardinals' George Stagg (24-12) and Olathe's Troy Rose (26-12) at 145, on paper, is virtually even.
Shaw and Christian Keith (21-8 at 152 pounds) have set the pace for the Titans this season. Coal Ridge, which began the season with 22 wrestlers on its varsity squad, brings nine to the tournament after a season full of injuries and illness.
Coal Ridge coach Mike Mikalakis is optimistic about his team's chances of sending a big contingent to the state tournament, especially after the adversity his team has overcome this season. That said, the Titans will be ready for the stellar field that will descend upon Grand Valley today and Saturday.
"You need to be ready to wrestle anyone at any time," Mikalakis said. "You can't overlook anyone at this level because everyone is good. It doesn't matter if they're a lower seed. They're good. Our focus is to prepare for that."