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Reversal of Fortunes: Glenwood wrestlers making quick recovery after down season

Jon Mitchell
jmitchell@postindependent.com
Members of the Glenwood Springs High school wrestling team warm up in the school's wrestling room during practice on Thursday afternoon. The room posts pictures of previous regional and state champions from Glenwood
Jon Mitchell / Post Independent |

GLENWOOD STATE WRESTLING CHAMPIONS

1985: Danny Van Hoose, 132 pounds

1985: Tony Valdez, 155 pounds

1991: Timmy Morrissy, 152 pounds

1992: Simi Smilack, 132 pounds

1992: Dan Loya, 285 pounds

1993: Dan Loya, 285 pounds

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The banner that hangs on the wall in what is now Glenwood Springs High School’s auxiliary gym displays each of the Demons’ state wrestling champions.

It’s a short list, for sure. The last state wrestling champ at Glenwood was 1993, when heavyweight Dan Loya won the second of his two-consecutive state championships, giving the school six state wrestling champs total. So much time has passed since that title, however, that the white lettering around Loya’s name has gotten yellow and dingy.

“I think it’s time we updated that,” Glenwood senior 195-pounder Cristian Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez isn’t the only one who feels that way. As Colorado’s top-ranked wrestler in his weight class boasting a 37-0 record, he’s setting the pace for a program that has more than a half-dozen wrestlers who the team’s coaching staff feels have a legitimate chance to reach the Class 4A State Championships in Denver later this month.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for a program that not only hasn’t had an individual state champion in more than two decades, but one that just two years ago could send only six wrestlers to the 4A Western Regional tournament in Montrose.

“These kids feed off each other,” Glenwood assistant coach Miles Cook said. “They see the success that one kid is having, and that inspires them to have success.”

Success, however, was never really associated with the school’s wrestling program.

Glenwood, according to the school’s former coach and athletic director Steve Cable, hadn’t had a regional champion for 10 years until 1981, which was his third as the school’s wrestling coach. It wasn’t too long before that when he found out that, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, basketball was king.

“I was an assistant coach on the football team in 1978 when we won the state championship, and I was fresh out of college,” Cable said. “I figured these guys must have been animals in the wrestling room.

“Then I saw one of our all-state offensive linemen went to go be the team manager on the basketball team,” he continued. “I couldn’t believe he’d rather be a team manager than come out for wrestling.”

Things changed not long afterward. The Demons, on the backs of the school’s first state champs in 132-pounder Danny Van Hoose and 155-pounder Tony Valdez, finished third as a team in the Class AA State Championships. In 1988, the Demons finished second as a team in their district tournament, which is still the school’s best finish in a district or regional tournament.

Four more state titles followed, with Loya winning his second to cap the 1993 season. Five years later, however, the Glenwood opted to no longer field a wrestling team when current head coach Guy Brickell stepped away to spend more time with his family.

Brickell and Cook came back and revived the program in 2004 and had some solid results over time. But heavy losses to graduation prior to the 2012-13 season left then-junior Justin Barham to eventually be the Demons’ lone state qualifier.

Last season, however, now-sophomore Myles Wilson made an immediate impact as a freshman wrestling at 138 pounds, and he finished the season with four losses, with two of them coming in the 4A state tournament on his way to a fifth-place finish in his weight class.

Wilson, ranked No. 2 at 152 pounds with a 35-1 record, joins a group of underclassmen who have helped spark the Demons’ success this year. They include freshman 106-pounder Felix Cano (26-11), sophomore 126-pounder Larry Flores (22-14) and sophomore 120-pounder Riley Prough (33-4).

“We have the potential to send up to eight kids to state this year, and that’s pretty good,” Prough said.

All but one of Glenwood’s wrestlers who have wrestled in at least 20 matches this season have winning records. Among them are Gonzalez — who has won each of his contested matches by pin this season — senior 132-pounder Irvin Pallares (23-10), senior 170-pounder Jose Diaz (23-13) and junior heavyweight Irvin Vasquez (19-15).

“We all didn’t really take wrestling that seriously two years ago,” said Gonzalez, who was hurt with a torn ACL as a sophomore and sat out the last part of his junior year with a broken hand. “Now, no one wants to get beaten, and we all care about how we finish.”


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