Eagle Valley wrestlers gear up for regionals in Montrose
Vail, CO Colorado
GYPSUM, Colorado ” The Eagle Valley wrestling team came down with a case of tunnel vision.
For the last two weeks, every Devils grappler trained with only one focus ” making the state tournament. Now, it’s time for all the hard work to pay off.
Eagle Valley starts the Class 4A, Region 3 tournament today at Montrose. Battle Mountain will also take to the mat in Montrose.
“We all knew mentally what was ahead,” Matt Kottenstette said. “We were really focused. You could see how focused it was. It was pretty good training. We didn’t really mess around. We knew what we needed to do.”
The mission is pretty simple. To qualify for the state tournament, a wrestler needs to finish in the top four of his weight class. That could be a tall order for some with 17 teams in Region 3.
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Powers like ranked Palisade and Rifle will be competing, but that doesn’t mean area athletes won’t have a chance to punch their tickets to Denver. The Devils’ Colt Ewing is a threat in the 112-pound weight bracket after earning the No. 2 seed. The junior enters regionals with a record of 28-9.
“Colt can’t look past anybody, for sure, but the big key matchup for him is the semifinal match against a kid he’s beat twice this year,” Eagle Valley coach Ron Beard said. “He’s got to stick with what’s worked well for him this year. When he’s on, he’s on.”
During Ewing’s impressive run in the Eagle Valley Invite earlier this year, he pinned all three of his opponents and spent just more than four minutes on the mat to win the title.
Kottenstette also took home some hardware from the Devils’ home tournament. In the title-clinching match, the sophomore wrapped his opponent in a cradle before sticking his shoulders to the mat for the pin. Wrestling at 140 this weekend, Kottenstette hopes to show case more of his arsenal.
“I think that I need to be confident,” Kottenstette said “I can’t hold back. I know a lot of moves, hopefully my technique will help me.”
After facing some of the top talent in the state this season, Kottenstette earned the No. 5 seed at regionals.
“Matt is better than a fifth seed,” Beard said. “He just battles every weekend, mixing it up with top guys. He’s got all the tools in place to go to state.”
Andrew Hill (19-8) and Joey Bajza (18-7), both seeded fourth, are both coming back from illness and injury, but each possesses an excellent chance to make state.
“They’re back to 100 percent,” Beard said “That’s important because matches usually go six minutes.”
In the Palisade Invitational earlier this season, Hill topped a trio of tough wrestlers to win the championship at 135. In the title bout, Hill beat then-Class 5A No. 8-ranked Zach Sort of Grand Junction, 6-2.
A week after Hill’s victory at Palisade, it was Bajza’s turn. The senior swept the competition at the Northglenn Invitational in dominating fashion. After three lopsided wins to start the tournament, Bajza recorded the fastest pin of the tournament in 31 seconds to claim the title.
While Ewing, Hill, Kottenstette and Bajza gives Eagle Valley its best chance for state tournament berth, others could surprise. At 103 pounds, the Devils’ Kris Moya has shown improvement throughout the year. In a dual against Rifle, Moya recorded a first-period pin after nearly getting pinned himself seconds earlier.
Tanner Hollis (189) is another grappler who has flashed big potential. Beard thinks Hollis is going to surprise a few people this weekend.
“If he wrestles like he has all week, he could go to state,” Beard said. “Tanner is going to be one of those stories (this year). He’s going to knock off somebody.”
The action starts today at noon.
Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.