Rifle grapplers primed for regional tourney run | PostIndependent.com

Rifle grapplers primed for regional tourney run

RIFLE – Qualifying for the season-ending state tournament is the goal of every prep wrestler.

The roadblock facing Rifle’s 14 varsity grapplers in their quest for a state medal is advancing out of this weekend’s, Class 4A, Region 3 tournament.

And, arguably, two-day event which starts Friday afternoon at Moffat County High School in Craig, has a tougher field than next week’s state championship at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Five of the 15 squads scheduled to square off at the regional meet are currently ranked in the Class 4A Top 10, including the No. 6-rated Rifle Bears.

“The season is just practice. It doesn’t matter,” Rifle coach Jim Suminski said. “It’s a totally different season when tournaments start.

“The guys are pretty confident and we’re one of the teams to beat.”

Among those competing for a regional title is host No. 1-ranked Moffat County, the current state 4A champion. Other ranked teams include Western Slope powers No. 4 Montrose and No. 5 Delta, along with No. 10 Broomfield from the Metro Denver area.

The rest of the field consists of Battle Mountain, Conifer, Evergreen, Golden, Montezuma-Cortez, Palisade, Ralston Valley, Steamboat Springs and Summit.

Individually, the field is even tougher. Except for the 135-pound division, each of the remaining 13 weight classes have at least one wrestler ranked among the top four in 4A, according to Colorado’s “On The Mat” state poll.

Rifle seniors Anthony Alfini and Jesse Long are the highest ranked Bears. But, Suminski said a number of his wrestlers can advance through the brackets high enough to obtain one of the four state-qualifying spot available in each weight.

Alfini, who’s amassed a 33-4 regular-season record, is the No. 2-ranked wrestler among 4A 171-pounders and the top seed at the tournament.

His stiffest challenge for the regional title, and a high seed at the state tournament, comes from No. 3 Brandon Duarte of Moffat County. Alfini holds a 2-1 advantage in matches wrestled against the Bulldog senior this year.

Long (34-5) is the second seed in the 160-pound bracket, and is ranked fourth in the 4A’s individual state poll.

First-round matches are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. today, followed by second-round championship and consolation round matches at 5 p.m.

On Saturday, wrestling resumes at 9 a.m. with the championship semifinal and third-round consolation bouts. The consolation semifinals are slated to begin at 1 p.m., followed by matches for third, fourth and fifth place.

After clearing the gym for a short break, championship matches are scheduled to start at 6 p.m. If applicable, wrestleback challenge matches will take place as soon as possible after the final championship match.

In lower classification regionals involving area teams this weekend, Basalt travels to Montrose High School for the Region 1, 11-team, Class 3A tournament.

Grand Valley gets its first taste of regional action in the Class 2A, Region 1 tournament at Grand Junction High School.

Like the 4A tournament, the top four wrestlers at each weight from the lower classification regionals advance to next week’s state tournament.

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