Rifle’s Wooten seeks second wrestling crown
RIFLE – Luke Wooten hopes to repeat as a state wrestling champion. Four of his Bears teammates are aiming for their first chance at earning an individual title at this weekend’s Class 4A state tournament.All five wrestlers have a good chance of turning their wishes into reality, said Rifle head coach John Wisnewski. Especially after strong efforts at last week’s regional tournament in Grand Junction.From that tournament, Wooten and James Conrardy won regional titles at 130 and 112 pounds, respectively. Juniors Tim Long and Tyler Thompson became the 152 and 160 runners-up. Derek Fruetel squeezed his way into the tournament by finishing fourth at 145 pounds.Class 4A first round matches are scheduled to start at 1 p.m. today.Wooten, ranked No. 1 all year in the state “On the Mat” polls, is looking to become Rifle’s second back-to-back state champion in school history. Paul Sheridan is the only Rifle wrestler to hold that distinction.Sheridan won the 1966-67, Class 2A, 145 pound title and was voted the tournament’s outstanding wrestler. He repeated as a state champion at the same weight in 1967-68.Wooten said preparation for defense of his 2004-05 state crown started right after winning the title.”It started for me right after state last year,” he said. “My goal this year was going for undefeated and state champion, but I lost two matches. Now, I’m going for state champion and a 34-2 record.”Both of those losses came against No. 1-ranked wrestlers in other state classifications.Conrardy, in his first year of high school wrestling, looks at Wooten’s records at RHS as an inspiration and as a goal to eventually surpass. “I look up to Luke, how he’s working out harder and making other kids push. He never goes light on me,” he said. “I think it’s cool (Luke’s) going after being a two-time state champion. I just want to beat that and hopefully get two or more.”And the Bears freshman has the credentials to go deep into his bracket.Conrardy is 28-6 this season and has been successful at big tournaments in middle school. Last year, in eighth grade, he took first place at the Rocky Mountain Nationals tournament.A key component to success in large events is remaining calm.”You just keep your composure when your out there and don’t lose your head,” he said. He opens the tournament against Corey Valle, a junior from Alamosa.Long, who has been ranked among Colorado’s top 4A wrestlers at his weight all year, is making his third appearance in as many years at state. Top competitors in Long’s bracket include Cody Yohn from Alamosa, Pine Creek’s Jordan Titoni and Kyle Kottestette of Eagle Valley.Thompson could see a rematch with Eagle Valley wrestler Chris Harvey at some time in the 160-pound tournament, which includes Johnny Ortega of Thompson Valley, Greeley Central’s Josh Rangel and Bryce Clemmer from Fountain, Fort Carson, as medal contenders.Likewise, Fruetel could also see potential matches against Western Slope opponents Korey Koster of Moffat County and Zach Harvey from Palisade, en route to earning a state medal.Some late shifts in the 4A tournament have created opportunities for Glenwood Springs.Sophomore Blake Newby, who earned his way in on a wrestleback victory, now opens the 112-pound tournament against Pine Creek junior Kory Johnson. Senior Mike Zerfoss has been placed in the heavyweight bracket due to a late scratch. Zerfoss (24-7) has drawn Englewood’s Matt Fernandez (18-11) in the first round.Cardinals also have high hopesGrand Valley qualified three wrestlers to the Class 2A state meet who have legitimate shots at state medals.”I expected Cody (Miles) and (Justin) Busch to get in,” said head coach Rick Gallegos. “But, I never really count anybody in, especially with our region being as tough as it is.”Miles, a two-time state qualifier, wrestles at 140 pounds. Busch checks in at 145 and has Grand Valley’s best individual win-loss record of the three Cardinals at 33-5.Matt Cain, a sophomore, earned his way in by finishing fourth in the 130-pound division at last week’s 2A regional at Fruita Monument High School. All three wrestlers have drawn tough opponents, the coach said.”Cody has a tough kid in Dustin Bohlander (from Holly) in his first match, then in his second match he has a two-time defending state champ if he wins,” Gallegos said.Busch also has a “tough go” in Akron’s Calvin Denbo. Cain has the tournament’s No. 1 wrestler in Chris Holzworth of Fowler as his first opponent.
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.