Devils wrestling captures Mel Smith championship
- Eagle Valley 168;
- Eaton 159.5
- Pagosa Springs 151.5;
- Valley 141.5;
- Lamar 137.5.
FLORENCE — In its last rankings, onthemat.com had Eagle Valley as the No. 7 team in the state in 3A.
When the new numbers come out on Thursday, the Devils may have moved up a notch or two — or more — after winning the Mel Smith Husky Invitational last weekend.
With the caveat that some tournaments are more equal than others, the Mel Smith is also known as “mini-3A state.” Last weekend, eight of the state’s top 10 3A teams were gathered in Florence and the Devils made their presence known.
While the state tourney is about a month away, Eagle Valley certainly threw its collective hat into the ring in that regard.
“I was anxious about the first round on Saturday,” Devils coach Luke Cross said about the tournament’s quarterfinals. “Saturday was pivotal I think we only lost two matches that round, which is good given how strong the field is. I knew if we kept rolling, that the tournament could be ours.”
Not only did the Devils bring home their first Mel Smith trophy, but:
- Every Eagle Valley wrestler advanced to Saturday action at the two-day tournament for the first time during Cross’ tenure in Gypsum.
- The Devils actually had two open weight classes. Eagle Valley won the tourney with just 12 wrestlers.
- Nobody won their weight class.
The last two factors, perhaps indicate that, as well as the Devils, did last weekend that there is still a bit more of a ceiling for the team as the season progresses.
“I can look at it now and say it’s a good thing that the boys who made the first- and third-place matches didn’t win,” Cross said. “They’re still hungry. And it’s showed in the first two days of practice this week.”
One of the great paradoxes of wrestling is that it’s an individual and team sport simultaneously. For 6 minutes — and those 6 minutes seem a lot longer than 360 seconds — at a time, it’s an Eagle Valley wrestler against another combatant with no help in sight.
Yet success breeds success and members of a squad can generate team momentum. That’s what happened with the Devils last weekend. They fed off each other’s energy.
While podium finishes score the most points, it takes everyone on the roster from 106-pounder Matthew Medina to heavyweight Abraham Garcia winning matches. Points earned in the wrestle-back, or consolation bracket, are big as well as making the championship match of a weight class. Every Devils wrestler won matches this weekend.
“Every single person on our team scored points. I don’t even think we did that at our home meet,” Cross joked. “Once we got rolling, everyone rallied and it was pretty cool.”
While the Devils likely turned some heads, particularly on the Front Range with their performance, there’s still a lot of season to go.
“I’ve always thought in the back of my head that we had a team that could put it together for the Pepsi Center,” Cross said of the site of the state tournament. “But obviously that’s one month away and we have to keep improving.”
To that end, Eagle Valley is at the Northglenn Norse Invitational on Saturday.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.