Palisade plays spoiler at Rifle duals |

Palisade plays spoiler at Rifle duals

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

RIFLE, Colorado ” Feeding off the cheers of teammates who lined the mat’s edge, James Martinez tugged at Palisade’s Terry Williams with all his might. Martinez had the points for a win, but needed a pin to keep Rifle in the title hunt at Saturday’s Rumble in the Rockies duals wrestling tournament.

Martinez and the Bears hadn’t lost in a dual to a Colorado school all season, and they weren’t about to go down without a fight. Not at their home tournament.

And the 135-pound Rifle junior nearly pulled off the pin that would have brought the Bears to within five points of Palisade with a match to go in the title dual, pushing Williams’ shoulder blades mat-ward in the waning seconds of the third period.

Somehow, though, Williams fought off Martinez’s best efforts and ran the clock out on the period, clinching the tournament title for his Bulldogs.

“I knew I had to get a pin if we wanted to win,” said Martinez, who won his match 12-3. “It was pretty frustrating.”

“He tried his hardest,” said James Conrardy, Martinez’s senior teammate. “I’m proud of him. That kid he wrestled was pretty tough.”

Conrardy, sporting hair dyed pink, followed with a quick pin of Marshall Tate in the ensuing 140-pound match, bringing the title dual to a close with a score of 36-35 in Palisade’s favor.

Palisade dealt the Bears their only loss of the day. Rifle defeated Nucla (72-9), Coal Ridge (72-6), Moffat County (54-24) and Thomas Jefferson (43-33) to make the final on an otherwise spectacular day for the host school.

Individually, five Bears ” Conrardy, Martinez, Larry Schmueser (119 pounds), Brian Key (215) and Tad Davis (heavyweight) ” escaped the day with 5-0 records. Kiefer and Keaton Deere chipped in 4-1 days at 171 and 112 pounds, respectively, as Rifle continued its intensive tune-up for the 4A Western Regional, slated for Feb. 14-15 at Montrose High School.

The Bears spent the last two weekends at highly competitive tournaments in Vernal, Utah, and Green River, Wyo. The taxing, travel-heavy schedule and exposure to wrestlers outside Colorado has Rifle’s wrestlers well conditioned as the high-stakes regional and state meets near.

“It’s been a long two weekends. Being able to wrestle out of state is great,” Bears head coach John Wisniewski said. “It gives them different people to wrestle, shows them different styles of wrestling. Some guys are realizing their full potential at about the right time.”

It showed on Saturday, and the Bears won’t have to stew over their loss to Palisade long before getting a second crack at the Bulldogs. Rifle will make a trip to Palisade for a Tuesday dual.

Think the Bears will be fired up for that?

“Oh yeah,” Conrardy said. “It’ll be interesting.”

Saturday wasn’t particularly kind to Glenwood Springs and Coal Ridge.

With a limited number of wrestlers in tow, the Demons suffered through an 0-3 day, while Coal Ridge won one of its four duals.

Heavyweight Greg Orosz and 160-pounder Chris Ayala each finished up 3-0 for the Demons. Two of Orosz’s wins were by pin.

For Coal Ridge, Keenan Grumley went 4-1 at 140 pounds. Bradey Gasaway (189) and Neal Schultz (125) each went 3-1.

“We really didn’t wrestle well today,” Titans coach Rob Grumley said. “We were really flat. It’s kind of disappointing. The last couple weeks we had been looking sharp.”

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