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Rifle Invite field loaded with wrestling talent

In wrestling, matchups are the spice that makes prep tournaments interesting.

And with a sizable number of state-ranked teams and individuals on hand for Saturday’s Rifle Invitational, the annual tournament should produce a number of “must see” matches to whet the appetite of wrestling fans.

Of the 10 teams scheduled, four are listed in the latest “On The Mat” state Top 10 list.



The host Bears are the No. 9 team in the Class 4A poll. Other state-ranked teams scheduled to compete at the Bear Lair include Moffat County, the No. 5 4A squad and 2002-2003 4A team champ, along with Meeker and Nucla, the current No. 1 and 2 Class 2A teams respectively.

That’s just the appetizer.



As a main course, 16 wrestlers are ranked among Colorado’s top four preps in their respective weight classes.

For dessert, five weights feature No. 1-ranked grapplers.

And the format of the Rifle Invite gives wrestling fans the opportunity to capture plenty of action.

The morning session, which starts at 9 a.m., consists of a series of team dual matches.

Four team matches will go on simultaneously. Key team duals include the 10 a.m. Moffat County-Nucla hookup at 10 a.m. At 1 p.m., the Meeker squares off against Nucla on one mat, as Mesa County rivals Palisade and Grand Junction Central battle on the other side of the gym.

Rifle opens up team competition at 9 a.m. against Rangely, then takes on Pueblo schools Centennial and West.

When the last dual match is completed, the top four wrestlers in each weight class will be seeded by the participating coaches and wrestle in a four-man bracket to determine the team title.

First-round matches are scheduled to start at 3 p.m. Championship and third-place matches begin at 4:30 p.m.

Some of the matchups that may emerge from individual brackets include Rifle’s Jesse Long, the No. 2 Class 4A 160-pound wrestler against Nucla’s Brandon Morris, the state’s Class 2A best in the weight. Another possible showdown at 125 pounds could see the Bears’ Rodney Long, No. 3 in 4A square off with Tyrel Stout of Meeker, currently No. 4 in 2A.

The 130-pound division championship match should be interesting.

Depending on what happens earlier in day, the final bracket could include three top-four state-ranked wrestlers.

Rifle’s Cody Ward is No. 3 in 4A, Nucla’s Michael Smith and Meeker’s Joe LeBlanc are ranked No. 1 and 3 in the latest 2A state poll.

Two No. 1 wrestlers ” Lee Overton of 2A Meeker and Scott Garoutte of 4A Moffat County ” are favorites to reach the 215-pound championship.

Another potential championship match among state-ranked wrestlers looms at 140 pounds where Moffat County’s Kaleb Brown, No. 3 in 4A, could take on No. 4 Nick Ross of Pueblo West.

Other No. 1-ranked wrestlers scheduled to participate are Ryan Clark of Meeker at 103 pounds and Nucla’s Tucker Lane at 171.

All-day admission is $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors, 65 and older. Per-session admission prices are $3 for adults and $2 for students and seniors.

Rifle hosts a warmup dual meet against Steamboat Springs tonight at 7 p.m.


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