Grand Valley wrestlers clean up at grueling Warrior Classic

Jeff Caspersen
Staff Report
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
contributed photoGrand Valley wrestlers Ryan Gallegos, Tyler Miles and Jared Tonder won their weight classes at the Friday-Saturday Warrior Classic in Grand Junction.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado – The Warrior Classic is regarded as one of the toughest wrestling tournaments in all of Colorado. Some even say it’s tougher than the state tournament.

So it’s no wonder Grand Valley head coach Rick Gallegos is elated that his team produced three – yes, three – Warrior Classic champions at the Friday-Saturday tournament, which is hosted by Grand Junction Central.

Jared Tonder (5-0 at 140 pounds), Ryan Gallegos (5-0 at 145) and Tyler Miles (5-0 at 152) were the last wrestlers standing in their respective weight classes at Mesa State College’s Brownson Arena. And, considering the path to their titles pitted them against highly ranked wrestlers from various classifications, that’s no pedestrian achievement.

“It’s a great tournament, a great atmosphere,” Coach Gallegos said by phone on Sunday. “Ryan and Tonder and Tyler, you know, there’s nobody out there that they’re afraid to bang heads with.”

Coach Gallegos’ son, Ryan, took home the tournament’s outstanding wrestler award in the upper weights (145 and up). In the title match, he defeated Broomfield’s Jordan Gutierrez, Class 4A’s top-ranked 152-pound wrestler according to On the Mat Rankings. Gallegos owns 3A’s No. 1 ranking at 145.

Tonder beat Class 5A No. 1 Jesse Hoffschneider in his championship match.

As a team, the Cardinals finished 11th out of 32 schools. They were second among Colorado 3A schools.

David Witt was the only other Grand Valley wrestler to win a match at the grueling tourney. He went 2-2 at 160 pounds.

The Cardinals were making their third straight Warrior Classic showing. Coach Gallegos likes the test it provides his grapplers.

“You get that competition,” he said. “A lot of times you come away with a few losses on your record, but the experience is immeasurable.”

Marcus Arroyo (135 pounds) and Larry Schmueser (130 pounds) were Rifle’s top finishers at the past weekend’s Warrior Classic.

Arroyo’s 4-2 record netted him fourth place. Schmueser went 4-3 to nab sixth place in his weight class.

“We wrestled really good, I think, for being such a young team,” Rifle coach John Wisniewski said by phone on Sunday. “Our younger guys stepped up and, you know, did some really good things in matches.”

Wisniewski mentioned heavyweight Nick Mellon, all 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds of him, as one wrestler who exhibited promise. Mellon’s a senior, but hadn’t wrestled at the varsity level entering the season. In fact, he hadn’t wrestled much at all.

“I think he had a little bit of experience as a ninth-grader,” Wisniewski relayed. “He’s brand new to our program. I asked him to come out last year, the last two years.”

The coach finally did talk Mellon into suiting up this season.

“He almost made it into the medal round,” Wisniewski said. “We’re getting him accustomed to more moves. He’s going to be fantastic.”

Another Bear catching Wisniewski’s eye was 140-pounder James Martinez, who went 3-2 in the face of brutal competition.

Alex Copeland held his own at 145 pounds, going 1-2, and Matt Barrett made a 2-2 showing at 152 pounds.

“As a whole team, we’re really coming along,” Wisniewski said. “I like the way the young guys are improving each weekend.”

Wrestling in tournaments like the Warrior Classic will certainly expedite that improvement. Wisniewski flatly believes the 32-team tournament is tougher than the state tournament.

“I’d probably rank the tournaments the Warrior Classic, the state tournament, the Tournament of Champions in Vernal (Utah) and the Green River duals tournament in Wyoming,” he said.

Trips to Vernal and Green River await Rifle’s wrestling team upon its return from winter break. The Bears with battle it out in Vernal Jan. 8-9. They’ll be in Green River Jan. 15-16.

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