Business as usual: Optimism reigns for Rifle’s winter sports teams
RIFLE HIGH WINTER SPORTS
Head coach: Roger Walters (17th season).
Last season: 13-10 overall, 8-6 Class 4A Western Slope League play (fourth place), lost to Montrose in first round of Class 4A state playoffs.
Key returners: Trent Brown, Sr., 6-1, PG; Tanner Rust, Sr., 5-9, G; Clinton Farr, Sr., 6-4, F; Tanner Quick, Sr., 6-6, C; Wyatt Robinson, Sr., 6-4, F.
Others to watch: Nick Kosht, Sr., 6-0, G; Austin Boone, Jr., 6-4, F; Luis Carreon, Soph., 5-9, G/F; Morgan Robinson, Soph., 6-3, F; Tyler Bosshardy, Soph., 6-3, F; Cody Rice, Jr., 6-3, F.
Outlook: With each of their five starters back from a year ago, the Bears look poised to make another run at the postseason. Rifle got off to just a 3-8 start this past season, then reeled off nine consecutive victories to make themselves a playoff contender. ... The Bears will hang their hats on their defense, which finished the season allowing a school-record low 39.5 points per game. ... Quick averaged team highs in points (11.7 ppg) and blocked shots (2.0).
Head coach: Kristy Wallner (First season).
Last season: 17-8 overall, 11-3 Class 4A Western Slope League play (second place), lost to Montrose in Sweet 16 round of Class 4A state tournament.
Key returners: Chante Church, Sr., 5-7, G; Carsyn Copeland, Sr., 5-7, F.
Others to watch: Toni Booth, Jr., 5-5, F; Reece Hoffmeister, Soph., 5-7, G; Tori Pressler, Soph., 5-6, G; Brenda Reyes, Sr., 5-6, G; Emily Neuroth, Soph., 5-11, F.
Outlook: Church, the Bears’ only returning starter from last season, scored 17.3 points per game and 40 3-pointers in the Bears’ 2012-13 campaign. Rifle, however, will have to replace four starters from a team that made a deep run into the state tournament. ... Wallner likes the progress that’s being made by her team, which she said will play aggressively on both ends of the floor, with an extra emphasis being put on the Bears’ transition offense and defense.
Head coach: John Wisniewski (10th season).
Last season: Sent four wrestlers to Class 4A State Championships.
Key returners: Dallas Rohrig, Sr., 132/126; Oscar Ruelas, Sr., 138; Clayton Coombs, Sr., 195/182; Rogielo Navarro, Sr., 126/132; Alex Rivas, Jr., 152; Jose Prado, Jr., Heavyweight.
Others to watch: Jordan Wright, Fr., 106; Isaiah Garcia, Fr., 106; Cary Ebler, Soph., 113; Dorian Woodhull, Soph., 120; Alex Cordova, Fr., 120; Ryder Hogdin, Soph., 126; David Fugita, Jr., 145; Zach Wisniewski, Jr., 160; Colton Bumgarner, Soph., 182; Gabe Gonzalez, Jr., 220.
Outlook: Rifle had a good regular season, but ran into trouble when it reached the 4A regional and state tournaments. “We kind of got punched in the face,” coach John Wisniewski said. “The guys are eager to get back there, though.” ... Rohrig and Ruelas are the Bears two returning wrestlers who reached the state tournament last season. ... Wisniewski said Rifle’s ultimate goal is to win the regional tournament in February, but added that a top-three finish would be more than respectable.
RIFLE — Reaching the postseason has been a staple for Rifle High School’s winter sports teams in recent years. Those expectations are no different this season.
Both of Rifle’s basketball teams return a strong nucleus of players from the playoff runs they made a season ago, leaving each team optimistic about their upcoming season. And even though Rifle’s wrestling team only returns two state qualifiers from a year ago, there’s plenty of reason to believe the Bears will improve on that this year. After all, Rifle is set at Class 4A this year and won’t have to make the transition from 3A like it did in the 2012-13 season.
“It’s going to be nice,” said Rifle coach John Wisniewski about not having to make that transition. “Our guys will have more of an opportunity to see great competition right from the start.”
Not that the Bears won’t see great competition again anyway. Among the tournaments they’ll compete in are the Warrior Classic at Central High School in Grand Junction Dec. 20 and 21, and their own tournament — the Rumble in the Rockies dual tournament — on Jan. 25.
Rifle’s boys hoops squad got a chance to see great competition at the end of last year, following a 3-8 start with a nine-game winning streak that led to a berth in the 4A state playoffs. And the Bears have all five starters back this season, each of whom will have much more time on the basketball court before the Bears’ season opener against Fruita-Monument in Grand Junction on Dec. 3.
“The great thing is that all five played a majority of the minutes last season,” longtime Rifle coach Roger Walters said. “There’s not going to be a whole lot of teaching, which will help because we’ll be able to pick up where we left off.”
Meanwhile, first-year Rifle girls coach Kristy Wallner takes over a team that came just one win away from reaching the Elite Eight of the Class 4A state tournament last season. But only one starter from that team — senior guard Chante Church — returns.
That doesn’t deter Wallner, though, who took the time to establish her system with her players during the summer, even taking the team to Las Vegas for a hoops tournament. It’s a system the Bears have embraced.
“We’re learning Latin now,” Wallner said. “Latin is the base language for all languages, and we’re learning the base fundamentals of what’s going to make us a very solid basketball team.”
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