Grapplers ready to hit the mats |

Grapplers ready to hit the mats

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson Rifle's Tim Long wrestles Pueblo West's David A. Miller in the 152-pound division earlier this season. Long is a favorite to advance from this weekend's regional tournament to the 4A state tourney.

Normally, wrestlers have little fear, but Tim Long probably summed up the feelings of most area prep wrestlers prior to taking the mats for regional tournaments this weekend.”You have to be a lot more careful about what you’re doing at this time of the year,” the Rifle High junior said. “Regionals are definitely more scary because you’re worried about getting a good placing for state.”In Long’s case, those frets should vanish well before his first match at Friday’s Class 4A regional at Grand Junction High School.Long has won 30 of 35 matches this year and is Colorado’s No. 3-ranked 4A wrestler at 152 pounds, according to the final regular season “On The Mat” state poll.His high ranking should put Long in the No. 1 seed at the weight for the 16-team, double-elimination tournament.The top four wrestlers from each of the 14 weight classes advance to next week’s state championships at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Despite a lack of wrestlers in the upper weights, Rifle has been able to put together a strong season under first-year head coach John Wisniewski.”We have some really good wrestlers who definitely have a chance to make state,” Long said.Among those in the sure-bet category is Bears senior Luke Wooten.Ranked No. 1 in 4A at 130 pounds, Wooten, the 2004-05 state champ, is 26-2 this season with both losses coming to wrestlers outside the classification.In his first year of high school wrestling, Rifle freshman James Conrardy (25-6) has moved quickly to the top of the 112-pound division and is currently ranked 12th in the state.Derrick Fruetel, a junior, also has risen to the upper echelons among 4A, 145-pound wrestlers. With a 24-9 mark, Fruetel is 11th in the state poll. At regionals, he could face some strong opponents in the tournament’s later rounds with No. 2 Korey Koster, from Moffat County, and No. 6 Zac Harvey, of Palisade, in the bracket.Tyler Thompson (22-7), Rifle’s 160 pounder, faces potential matches against No. 1 Chris Harvey, of Eagle Valley, and other state-ranked opponents in Montrose’s Landon Hombeck, Michael Mastrianni, of Glenwood Springs, and Joey Cowan, from Golden.

Demons ready to competeDemon coach Guy Brickell agrees wrestling at the regional level is a scary proposition.”Our regional tournament is tougher to compete in than at state,” he said. “It’s because of the quality of the athletes and the coaching. By the time they get to high school, they all know what they’re doing.”In the final stages of its second year as a program, Brickell said, the Demons lack of experience in big tournaments remains an obstacle.”We’ve made great strides this year, but we’ve avoided wrestling in big tournaments because we’re still young,” he said.Brickell plans to send 10 wrestlers to Grand Junction this weekend. A key factor for the Demons, the coach said, is to wrestle consistently and last through each match.

“If we stay in our matches for three periods, we’ve got a shot. We just want to compete. Wins and losses aren’t important at this time. If we compete, the wins and losses will take care of themselves.”Senior Demon Michael Mastrianni (30-1) has a good shot of going far in the 160-pound class.”Michael’s a committed athlete. Loves the sport and has wrestled well. We’ve wrestled against the Eastern Slope schools in our region a lot this year and he’s dominated in those matches,” Brickell said.Heavyweight Mike Zerfoss (20-5), a state qualifier two years ago, also has a shot at a trip to Denver.”He can compete against the top-six kids,” said Brickell. “Mike can definitely get in. Depending on the day, he can finish sixth or first. Mike’s beaten good kids and he’s gotten beat by good kids.”Three Demon sophomores – Blake Newby, Nick Croissant and Tyler Rossow – can make some noise and go beyond Friday’s first day of action.Newby, Glenwood’s 112-pound wrestler is 22-12 this season. Croissant, who’s settled in at 171 is 21-13. Rossow competes at the 189-pound level.

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