Cardinals hit the 3A mats this year |

Cardinals hit the 3A mats this year

Baron Zahuranec
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kara K. Pearson post Independent

PARACHUTE, Colorado ” The Grand Valley Cardinal wrestlers will make the jump from 2A up to 3A this season. That should make for tougher competition, but the Cardinals already know about getting to the top.

Last year, they won the 2A state title by 33 points over Paonia, and they’re shooting for the same thing in the higher class. Why shouldn’t they be?

Those two teams bounced around the top two spots in the rankings last season, but sixth-year head coach Rick Gallegos said he didn’t follow that much.

“Overall, we were pretty solid,” he said. “We lost in the regional tournament to Paonia by two points and then it was on to state. The boys just wrestled lights out and pretty much ran away with it. The 2A title, that was a going-away party for us.”

That league is no longer for the Cardinals, as they’re moving up to 3A.

“We could have a rude awakening going up to 3A, but we’re used to good competition,” Gallegos said. “The transition shouldn’t be a big shock.”

He said it really doesn’t matter what class you’re in, there are standout wrestlers at any given weight class.

Now in 3A, the Cardinals face the likes of Brush, Centauri, Florence, Gunnison and Olathe. All those teams placed higher than 11th at state, with Centauri, Florence and Gunnison taking second, third and fourth, respectively.

“We have some excellent teams that we’re going to be up against,” Gallegos said. “It seems like most of those teams have four or five returning state placers along with another four or five state qualifiers.”

Coming into this season, the Cardinals lost 160-pound state champion Cody Miles, 145-pound sixth-place finisher Matt Cain, state qualifier Tyler Harris and Kelby Dillon to graduation.

Following in their footsteps are a group of juniors: 152-pound state champion Tyler Miles, 130-pound state runner-up Ryan Gallegos, 135-pound third-place finisher Jared Tonder, 125-pound third-place finisher James Drinkhouse and 119-pound fifth-place finisher Jerrod Busch.

The also have seniors Caleb Bell and Joe Joyner, junior Coltin Ostermiller and up-and-coming freshmen David Witt, Cole Birdse and Sergio Escobar showing some potential, Gallegos said.

If anything, the Cardinals are “pretty green on the lower part of the roster through 125 pounds,” Gallegos said.

So, freshmen will get their mat time.

“Our boys in the middle part have a lot of experience we can utilize and help the younger guys out,” he added. “There’s not a bunch of arrogance out there. They really want to help the team come up.”

Their first action of the season is Friday in Gunnison starting at 6 p.m., and then they are off to the Hotchkiss Invitational the next day at 9 a.m.

“We’ll get a good start to the season,” Gallegos said. “There should be a lot of good teams there that we’ll have to be ready for.”

He hasn’t seen the schedule for Hotchkiss, but knows his team will have to work hard to get out of there with a team win.

“I can’t really ask more out of these guys. They’re working so hard to start the year,” Gallegos said. “We’ll get a good gauge on where we sit, and just have to work from there.”

PEACH VALLEY, Colorado ” Wipe down the mats, tighten that headgear, and tie those laces. The Coal Ridge Titans open their wrestling season Friday at Middle Park High School.

This season, the Titans return six state qualifiers and will have almost every weight class filled, fourth-year head coach Rob Grumley said.

“I have a senior class now; that’s a first,” he said. “We have real good numbers compared to years past.”

Grumley has been with the program since its inception and is glad to have more and more kids come out each year. Success in the 3A Western Slope League has given the Titans more exposure, and kids in school have shown interest in joining the team.

Around 22 wrestlers have shown up at practice the last few weeks, and Grumley hopes to have everything but the heavyweight and 215-pound classes filled. Those two spots could be manned after Christmas, he added.

This many wrestlers competing for time is exactly what Grumley likes to see.

“There’s competition in the room with the kids having to compete for a varsity spot,” he said. “It makes for a better room when they know they have to work for the spot they want.”

The Titans didn’t lose anyone to graduation last year and should have a tough crop of upperclassmen.

This year the team returns seniors Kevin Laidlaw, Michael Larsen and Keenan Grumley. Larsen and Grumley qualified for state their sophomore and junior seasons, and Laidlaw qualified last year.

Coal Ridge will also have senior Josh Alsop, who didn’t wrestle last season, and senior Bradey Gasaway, who returns from knee surgery.

“We have some good leadership on this team with some of the upperclassmen, but they also lack experience,” Grumley said. “And we have a lot of kids who are real eager to earn a varsity spot. If they work hard and have their heads in it, then I think they’ll get what they want.”

A few of the Titans weren’t on last year’s squad, but Grumley is happy to see them again.

“I think our strength is in our eight seniors ” that’s definitely big,” he said. “But they also lack some experience, since they weren’t here every year. If our conditioning is good enough, I think we can close any gap that we might have.”

The schedule this season is a little tougher than what Coal Ridge has seen before. They entered the Mesa State Tournament, known for its high-caliber wrestling talent, and many more dual meets were added.

“I wanted to up the ante on the schedule,” Grumley said. “During the season if we get into better competition, that helps us at the end of the season.”

Gunnison, Olathe and Grand Valley should be at the top of the league, Grumley said, and he thinks the Titans could be right there when the season comes to a close. He thought the competition was weak a few years ago, “but the conference is coming together now.”

The Titans open action Friday night with a dual meet at Middle Park High School in Granby against Sheridan, with the grappling starting at 7 p.m. The next morning they’re at the same place for the Middle Park Invitational.

“There’s a lot of Front Range schools, so it’s hard to say how it’ll go,” Grumley said. “Last year was our first time there and the competition was pretty decent. I hope to get more guys placed in the top four. It’s a good start for the season to see where we’re at and gauge what we need to work on for the next week.”

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