State’s top grapplers take center stage in Denver
RIFLE – No more practices. No more weigh-ins. All that’s left of the 2002-03 season for 10 area state championship tournament qualifiers is to wrestle.
The only worry left for the ten wrestlers is to survive long enough in the double-elimination tournament to contest for a state medal.
The bulk of area wrestlers scheduled to compete in the three-day elimination tournament at the Pepsi Center are from Rifle High School. Eight Bears will battle in separate weight divisions in the Class 4A tournament.
At last week’s 4A regional tournament at Moffat County High School in Craig, Rifle finished sixth in the team standings in a field that consisted of five state-ranked squads.
And depending how Rifle’s wrestlers fare in the first round, the Bears could end the year with it’s second straight top 10 team finish.
Individually, Rifle has three grapplers with a strong chance at bringing home a state medal.
Senior Anthony Alfini, who wrestles at 171 pounds, won his first regional title last week and has been ranked No. 2 in the state “On The Mat” polls most of the year.
Alfini takes a 37-4 record into state. He’ll open the tournament against Mesa Ridge senior Joel Graff, whose fashioned a 32-8 record to date.
Top challengers the Bear wrestler could battle en route to the medal round include No. 1-ranked Shawn Hart from Loveland Mountain View, with a state-best 37-1 mark; Joe Unruh of Berthoud; and Moffat County’s Brandon Duarte, whom Alfini holds a 3-1 record against and defeated at regionals.
At 160 pounds, Jesse Long is No. 4 in the state and has won 36 matches.
The junior has drawn Aarick Wilson (32-6) from Fountain-Fort Carson as his initial opponent.
Top contenders in the weight include Craig Maurello from Pueblo West and Long’s potential championship second-round opponent, Greeley Central’s Zach Broughton, who has only two losses in 38 matches.
Cody Ward has the toughest draw of the three potential medalist in the first round.
The junior opens with the No. 1 4A wrestler at 130 pounds – Nick Medina of Longmont. Medina has a 36-4 record, compared against Ward’s 27-8 mark.
Opening-round matches involving other Rifle wrestlers include Sophomore Eddie Kreimier (22-15) against Justin Morris of Pueblo Central (21-4) at 103 pounds. At 112, Bear freshman Luke Wooten (17-22) gets his first taste of state tournament action against Colorado Springs Widefield junior Brad Marquart (30-11).
Senior David Suminski (28-17) has drawn Lewis-Palmer’s Ben Tibert (30-3) as a first-round opponent. Sophomore Casey Dunlap (29-13) squares off with Mike Jeffery (31-7) of Berthoud in a 152-pound match and senior Nick Worley (19-15), Rifle’s 189-pound wrestler, battles Aurora Hinkley’s Alex Buchle (26-9).
The other two local competitors are Grand Valley’s Jesse Neely and Basalt’s Drew McFarland.
Neely is in the Class 2A tournament. McFarland will be involved in the Class 3A championships.
Neely will be first to wrestle among area qualifiers. The Grand Valley sophomore, who wrestled at 103 pounds for the latter half of the season, upped his record to 20-8 after last week’s regional tournament in Grand Junction.
He opens the tournament against Merino freshman Jason Trout (18-13).
McFarland is the only Class 3A area wrestler. McFarland exited the regional tournament in Montrose with a 28-11 record and a fourth-place medal.
The Longhorn wrestler has drawn the state’s No. 3 grappler at 135 pounds as his first-round opponent in Tyler Ferracini (34-2) from Brush.
Action opens today at 1 p.m. with first-round matches in Class 2A and 3A. The Class 4A/5A wrestlers take the mats at 7:15 p.m.
Championship quarterfinal matches for Class 2A and 3A schools, along with first-round consolation matches start Friday morning at 10 a.m., followed by the Class 4A and 5A quarters and consolations at 1 p.m.
That evening, second-round consolation matches in all classifications are scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m. with championship semifinal bouts slated to begin at 7:15 p.m.
Saturday’s tournament action opens with third and fifth place matches for Class 2A and 3A teams at 2:30 p.m. The 4A and 5A third and fifth place matches follow at 3 p.m
After the final match has finished, the house will be cleared for that evening’s Parade of Champions and the championship matches in all classifications.
The doors will re-open at 5:30 p.m. The Parade of Champions will step-off at 6:30 p.m. with the first championship match scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
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