Tough opponents abound at regional wrestling tourneys |

Tough opponents abound at regional wrestling tourneys

Every year area prep wrestling coaches say the regional tournaments, which get underway Friday, are tougher than the following week’s state championships.

And with a cache of state-ranked grapplers and teams on hand at the Class 2A, 3A and 4A Western regionals, the coaches may be proven correct.

Rifle, the lone area 4A school, is the ninth-ranked team in the current “On the Mat” state polls. The Bears also have seven wrestlers ranked among the top 15 individuals in the state.

The top four wrestlers in all classifications at regionals advance to next week’s state championships at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

But as teams converge for regional tournaments, current state rankings won’t count for anything more than seeding.

Rifle travels to Broomfield High School for the 4A Western regional tournament for a 15-team tournament that includes the state’s No. 4-ranked host Eagles, No. 5 and five-time regional champ Moffat County and two other top 10 teams in Montrose and Delta.

Individually, the 4A regional tournament features six returning state placers.

Entering Friday’s opening rounds, Rifle’s Jesse Long, No. 1 in 4A at 160 pounds, should receive the weight’s top-seed. Four other state-ranked wrestlers ” Adam Gutierrez of Broomfield, Delta’s Tyler Morfitt, Golden’s Lucas Mignogna, and Charlie Martinez from Moffat County ” are also in the bracket.

The field is just as deep at 103 pounds, where Rifle senior eighth-ranked Eddie Kreimier could square off against No. 1 Taylor Gallegos of Montrose, No. 2 John Tangaman from Broomfield and has two other top-15 wrestlers in his bracket.

The Bears’ Luke Wooten, No. 4 at 119 pounds has three top opponents in the weight in Delta’s Derek Brewer (No. 2), Eric Fredrickson (No. 5) and Broomfield’s Brad Neitenbach, the state’s ninth-ranked wrestler.

At 125 pounds, Rodney Long, who comes in at No. 6 in 4A has a pair of state-ranked wrestlers in the weight in Moffat County’s Deric Dill and Cody Kuene from Delta.

Rifle’s other regional wrestlers are sophomore Tyler Thompson (No. 11, 112 pounds), his older brother Tyson, a junior, No. 13 at 135, and Casie Dunlap, No. 7 in the 152-pound division.

Basalt sends 10 wrestlers to the 3A Region 1 tournament at Montrose High School.

Topping the list is heavyweight Mike Zerfoss, a sophomore at Glenwood Springs High School. The first-year wrestler compiled a 22-7 record and earned the top seed in the 11-team tournament.

Other seeded Longhorns include Glenwood Springs junior Matt Aten at 140 pounds, Roaring Fork High students Garrett Jammeron at 189, Mike Buster at 215 and Cody Hansen at 152 pounds.

Zerfoss, Aten and Jammeron wrestle at Basalt due to their respective schools not fielding teams.

Two unseeded Basalt wrestlers ” Chris Black (135 pounds) and Kaleb Nye (160 pounds) ” can sneak into a state qualifying spot if they wrestle well, noted head coach Rob Grumley.

The Class 2A regional, to take place at Grand Junction High School on Friday and Saturday is closer to home for Grand Valley, but just as formidable as the other regionals.

In only their second year of fielding a team, the Cardinals have two state-ranked wrestlers in the 13-team tournament.

Jesse Neely, who qualified for state last year at 112 pounds is hoping to make the state tournament for the second year.

He’s one of three state-ranked wrestlers at 112 pounds, topped by No. 5 Jeff Akana of South Park. Other top contenders are Cody Clark of Meeker and Andy Jensen of Norwood.

Grand Valley’s Danny Manzaneras is one of five state-ranked wrestlers scheduled to compete at 130 pounds.

Possible opponents for the Grand Valley freshman who is ranked No. 12 at the weight, are No. 1 Mikael Smith of Nucia, No. 3 Joe LeBlanc from Meeker, No. 7 Drew Buffington of Dove Creek Delores County.

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