Expectations sky-high once again for Rifle winter sports
Gone is the familiar face of Rifle boys basketball in former head coach Roger Walters, but there’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s a familiar face as well for Rifle.
Former junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant Kyle Daniell will assume the role of boys basketball head coach this winter for the Bears following the resignation of Walters after the 2016-17 season. Also gone is standout senior forward Jacob Boone due to graduation and promising junior forward Carter Sturgeon, who transferred to Arapahoe.
Fortunately for Daniell, he has plenty of familiarity with the current group of Rifle boys on the team, but there will likely be growing pains considering the players without varsity experience Daniell will have to break in this winter.
While the boys are going through changes on and off the court at Rifle, the girl’s basketball team is poised for another monster season under head coach Kristy Wallner, as the Bears return six key players from last season’s 4A Western Slope League championship and Great Eight run in the 4A state playoffs.
Wrestling under head coach John Wisnewski will have just one returning state qualifier this year, so he’ll be dealing with a young team in terms of varsity experience. But there’s plenty to be excited about with the young wrestlers coming up through the system in Rifle.
Thanks to a number of key returners in all three sports, Rifle athletics should once again have a strong winter season.
Head Coach: John Wisnewski (17th season)
Last Season: Rifle qualified three wrestlers for the 3A state tournament. Alex Cordova placed fourth in the 170-pound weight class, while Colt Rohrig and Max Demann competed at the state meet.
Key Returners: Colt Rohrig, Sr., (145 lbs); Brian de la Rosa, Sr., (160 lbs); Pedro Carreon, Sr., (195 lbs); Conrad Demann, So., (132 lbs); Cauy Smith, So., (126 lbs)
Wrestlers to Watch: Gustavo Gonzalez, Fr., (113 lbs); Talon Cordova, So., (126 lbs); Pedro Guardado, Jr., (182 lbs)
Season Outlook: With just one wrestler returning this winter who has state tournament experience, the Rifle Bears will be dealing with a young team, in terms of varsity experience. Under veteran head coach John Wisnewski, the Bears will be able to develop some of the younger wrestlers on the team in hopes of sending at least three more athletes to the state tournament this spring at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Head Coach: Kristy Wallner (sixth season)
Last Season: 22-4 (11-1, 4A Western Slope League champions), lost to Windsor in 4A state playoffs Great Eight
Key Returners: Elly Walters, Sr., PG; Masi Smith, Jr., F; Peyton Caldwell, Sr., F; Katy Manupella, Sr., G; Karly Manupella, Sr., G; Jessie Pressler, Sr., G/F
Players to Watch: The Bears have a number of underclassmen battling for roles off the bench this winter.
Season Outlook: With six key returners this season for the Rifle girls, another push for a 4A Western Slope League championship and a deep run in the 4A state playoffs is expected as 1,000 career-point scorer (and counting) Elly Walters returns to drive Rifle offensively, while the Manupellla twins return to provide defense and shooting on the perimeter. Masi Smith and Peyton Caldwell return in the front court, while Jessie Pressler has the ability to slide back and forth between the 2 and the 3 for the Bears under sixth-year head coach Kristy Wallner. Should everything come together once again this winter, the Rifle girls will be the team to beat in the valley.
Head Coach: Kyle Daniell (first season)
Last Season: 10-14 (6-6 4A WSL), lost to Thompson Valley in the first round of the 4A state playoffs
Key Returners: Jacob Seeman, Sr., G; Joel Lopez, Jr., F; Evan Gray, Sr., F
Players to Watch: Blake Swasey, Sr., F; Garrett Robinson, So., F; Tanner Cotner, So., F
Season Outlook: First-year head coach Kyle Daniell takes over a team with plenty of talent but little varsity experience, so growing pains could happen early in the season for the young Bears. Jacob Seeman, Joel Lopez and Evan Gray headline the returners for a team that struggled throughout much of last season before falling in the first round of the state playoffs. They’re some of the few key players on this year’s Rifle team with varsity experience, but the Bears will be happy to get back senior forward Blake Swasey, who has missed the last season and a half due to injury. With his return, Swasey will help set the tone for the Bears on the court in the style of play that Rifle wants, as well as the physicality. Although it could be a rocky year, Daniell wants his charges to compete hard every night and play fearlessly, no matter who the opponent is on a given night.
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As a new transplant to the area, each week I will feature a trail within the Garfield County limits. For this inaugural week, I’m highlighting Glenwood Springs’ own Atkinson Canal Trail.