Top opponents await Rifle at Warrior Classic |

Top opponents await Rifle at Warrior Classic

Phil Sandoval

Wrestling fans (or those who hate Christmas shopping) – Want to have some fun and be a hero to your shopaholics this weekend?

Then load up the car and travel to Grand Junction.

After dropping the gift-getters at the Mall, you can travel over to nearby Mesa State College to watch some of the best prep wrestling in the Rocky Mountain region, when 32 teams from three state square-off in the 26th annual Warrior Classic.

Rifle is only represenative from the area at this year’s tournament.

After strong performances at the Middle Park and Delta tournaments, the Bears are anxious to go toe-to-toe against a talented field that includes 13 of Colorado’s best prep wrestling teams and 86 individual Top 10 ranked wrestlers.

Heading into the two-day affair which begins at 10 a.m., Friday at Brownson Arena on the MSC campus, the Bears are ranked No. 9 in the Class 4A state team rankings.

Last year, Rifle finished fifth in the team standings and had four individual medalists.

The Bears have one returning medalist in senior Anthony Alfini from last year’s tournament hoping to repeat the feat at the 2002 Classic.

Alfini, a third-place medalist at 189 pounds last year, wrestles at 171 this season. And the shift to the lower weight has not impacted his ability to rack up wins.

Alfini is currently the state’s third-ranked 171-pound wrestler in Class 4A.

Top challengers he could face this weekend are Tyler Carver from Class 3A Hotchkiss, Brandon Duarte from two-time defending tournament and Class 4A state champion Moffat County, and Kris Hocum, from 5A Fort Collins Rocky Mountain.

All four wresters are also in the current state Top 10 poll in their respective classifications.

Jesse Long, No. 4 in Class 4A at 160 pounds, has an equally strong field of opponents.

That bracket includes 4A grapplers Kevin Moffitt from Delta and Palisade’s Cody Davis; Charlie Pipher, from Class 3A Hotchkiss; and 5A wrestlers Jimmy De’Andrea and Shawn Ferguson from Denver Arvada West and Grandview, respectively.

The arena floor features six mats with individual matches going on simultaneously.

At the conclusion of Friday’s opening session, the building will be cleared for a short break. The action will resume later that afternoon with second-round championship and consolations matches. Day one of the tournament concludes that evening with round three consolation matches.

Action resumes Saturday at 9 a.m.

The morning session features championship and consolation bouts. The tournament’s final session, which includes the Parade of Champions and the individual championship and consolation champion matches, is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.

Tournament passes are priced at $17 for adults and $12 for students and seniors, 55 and above. Adult per-session tickets are $6 and $5 for students and seniors.

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