Wrestlers begin quest for state titles
Jesse Long continues to be a pleasant surprise for Rifle’s wrestling team.
After earning his way into the 67th Colorado State High School Wrestling Tournament by battling back through the losers’ bracket at last week’s Regionals in Montrose , Long’s chances of receiving a state medal in the Class 4A 145-pound division are very much alive.
Long pinned Robert Umland of Sand Creek in 1 minute and 33 seconds into the first-round match for both wrestlers.
The win was the first of two pinfall victories the Bears had in the first round on Thursday.
Rifle’s Ryan Whittington took the first step toward reaching the 171-pound championship by wrapping up Joel Graff of Mesa Ridge in 1:57.
The wins advance both wrestlers to Friday morning’s championship quarterfinals, along with teammate Ryan Schoeppner, who moved up to the 152-pound quarters on a 12-3 major decision over Matt Schmidt of Cheyenne Mountain.
Three of Rifle’s eight qualifiers lost their tournament openers on Thursday and will be eliminated from further action with another loss.
The biggest shock of the night was Justin Hampton’s 6-3 loss to Pueblo Centennial’s Jeff Cole.
Hampton was the state’s No. 3 wrestler in the 4A division at 125 pounds and had a 35-5 win-loss record entering the match against his unranked opponent on Thursday.
Still, Hampton appeared to have corrected himself after Cole scored an early takedown. He escaped the hold, but failed to follow up on the maneuver.
Cole regained control with 10 seconds left and scored again with a second takedown, and upped his lead to 6-1 by earning two back points from the referee.
The score remained the same through the final minute of the third period when Hampton scored a couple of penalty points when Cole was called for stalling.
The loss puts Hampton in an all too familiar position.
For the third year in a row, he will have to battle his way back through the elimination bracket for a state medal. He starts that trek against Alameda’s Tyler Sterkel.
Rifle’s Cody Ward and Nick Bosworth suffered defeats on Thursday, dropping both wrestlers to the elimination bracket.
Ward, absorbed a 9-2 major decision loss to Fort Lupton sophomore Marques Bravo in the 112-pound division.
He faces J.T. Hudson from Widefield of Colorado Springs in the consolations.
Bosworth drew Clayton Allen, the No. 1-seeded 4A wrestler in the 160-pound division as his first opponent.
The Widefield senior pinned Bosworth at the 3:01 mark, setting up a must win situation for the Bear wrestler to stay alive in the tournament.
Basalt’s lone state qualifier, Gavin Crowley advanced to the second-round of the 215-pound tournament match on a 10-5 decision over Kisto Layba of La Junta.
The Basalt senior, whose seasonal record moved to 16-4 on the win, wrestles Yuma’s Adam Walter (32-8) in a championship quarterfinal match this morning.
Crowley scored the first points of the match, then withstood a Layba rally which cut his 5-2 lead down to one point early in the second period before regaining control, then scoring a two-point reversal.
His biggest lead came with 1 minute left in the third period after a takedown boosted Crowley’s advantage to 10-4.
Friday’s action begins with the 2A and 3A championship quarterfinals at 10 a.m., followed by the 4A and 5A quarters at 1 p.m. Consolation matches for 2A and 3A schools start at 5:45 p.m with the 4A and 5A teams taking the mats at 7 p.m.
All of the action will be at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
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