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Huskies experience despair, joy in postseason

Wrestling, hockey on opposite ends of spectrum

Battle Mountain’s Jeremiah Vasquez and teammate Anthony Sanchez most certainly did get the short end of the stick with the COVID-19 crisis and the state-wrestling tournament, but it makes them no less champions in our eyes. (Rex Keep
Special to the Daily)

So, how was your weekend, Battle Mountain?

Jumping Jehoshaphat, as ESPN hockey’s Darren Pang used to say: The joy of hockey getting second life with what was an unexpected second chance — as hopeful as you might have claimed to be after the Huskies lost to Crested Butte, the Huskies were up a creek without a paddle— and then came the wrestling fiasco.

Ecstasy and despair in 24 hours.



The despair

What can I add here? Just brutal.

Honestly, I think it’s a miracle we got through — knock wood — most of winter sports. (Come on, hockey. You’ve gotta beat Kent Denver. More on that later.) With the exception of Alpine and Nordic, these were indoor sports and basketball, hockey and wrestling, no matter how careful teams were, are germ spreaders.



The fact remains that, if you play these sports, you’re still crowding into a relatively small, indoor place. In basketball, it’s the paint or a lose ball. In hockey. In hockey, we still have the crowded benches for 20 players each and every chase for the puck in the corners or in front of the next.

And, let’s be honest, no matter how careful coaches, staff and athletes are, a wrestling room is simply a breeding ground for COVID-19 or any other cold or flu during a normal winter. (Disclaimer: The author acknowledges that COVID and the flu are different.)

As we saw with Eagle Valley boys’ basketball quarantining and Vail Christian going through roster shuffling all season, it was going to happen. We thought we had dodged the bullet when Devils wrestling shut down and withdrew from regionals before a reprieve with a change in quarantine rules from Colorado Public Health.

Yes, the differing rules for students and athletes were ridiculous and rightly changed. Why an athlete had to quarantine for 14 days after getting caught in contact tracing, while a student is isolated for 7 days for the same circumstances, made no sense.

But even with the just changes, what does Battle Mountain, its staff and CHSAA do when athletic director Gentry Nixon sends out 17 quarantine notices at the end of last week and eight of them are for wrestlers?

We’re in murky territory because, of course, Nixon can’t disclose Vasquez’s or Sanchez’s health status (whether it was a positive test or contact tracing, and I don’t know) because of privacy laws. But even if Vasquez and Sanchez simply waved at a distant person with COVID, you could not in good conscience let them enter the arena in Pueblo.

And, no modification of rules could have helped. By process of elimination, the Huskies were exposed to COVID either at regionals on March 6 or later. Even if the team was exposed at the earliest point of time, March 6, the school has to report it on Monday, March 8, and the 7-day quarantine starts making all qualified for state tourney on March 13 ineligible.

Yes, I wanted Vasquez to be Battle Mountain’s first state champion since Sergio Sanchez (125 pounds) in 2001. I have an idea of how much work the Vasquez family put into this — Angelo is not only Jeremiah’s father, but the team’s coach. This was a family quest.

Coach Vasquez doubtless considers Sanchez family. Like Jeremiah, Anton, as he is better known, qualified for state three straight years (152 pounds, 160 and 170, darn impressive.) He’s just a tough sonofagun. Yeah, he had the fumble in the Eagle Valley game in 2019 that led to a Devils’ comeback victory. He came back in 2020, made it right, helping the Huskies to a win his senior year and was quietly one of the happiest kids on the field that night. We did notice that, Anton.

There is nothing to say, except this is just dreadful, nothing could be done about the timing and that Vasquez and Sanchez are champions, regardless of whether they got to go to Pueblo.

Kent Denver tonight

Since hockey coach Derek Byron texted me the news on Friday that Battle Mountain indeed made the playoffs, I have been of two minds.

I am still astonished that Battle Mountain hockey did not get hosed by the combination of rating-percentage index, the chsaanow.com poll and maxpreps.com, and I know you’re all thinking that, too.

But, huzzah, we’re here. The Huskies take on Kent Denver on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. from the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland. It’s on NFHS.com for those staying here. (I type this as it is dumping Tuesday.) Crested Butte and Cheyenne Mountain play in the lidlifter at 5:30 p.m., with the finals on Thursday.

Thought No. 2: What’s more important? Winning the whole thing or just beating Kent Denver. This, of course, is a ludicrous question to any member of the 2021 team. They’re going to Loveland, in their minds rightly, to get their bleeping championship trophy.

But as a warped observer — warped by the heartbreak — of Huskies hockey for 20 years. my blood gets up for the blasted, infernal Sun Devils. The sound you just heard was a bunch of guys in their mid-30s, the Battle Mountain hockey classes of the mid-2000s, cursing politely in affirmation.

Battle Mountain-Kent Denver was simply the Game or Games of the Year during the early days of Huskies hockey. From 2002-2004, the Huskies and Sun Devils met in the state semis three straight years. The Huskies won the first in double overtime on a Brock Hovey goal — shoutout to Brock and Nate Simon — and lost the next two.

Kent Denver ended the chances for a state title for hockey’s Class of 2004, its truly first great generation of players. And the rivalry continued into the days of Chows (Austin and Barrett) Brad Myers, Casey Kleisinger and a guy named Byron.

Yes, that would be your coach, fellas. There will be a little extra in tonight’s pregame.

Maybe, it just needs to be this way, perhaps Kent, followed by Cheyenne Mountain, and then Air Academy. Yeah, there are only two rounds this year, the Kadets went 1-10 this season and didn’t sniff the playoffs, but I don’t like them either. (Actually, as military offspring, the Kadets are the most polite kids you’ll ever see in the sin bin. I’m sure they’re nice people, but an irritating, but nonlethal pox on both Cheyenne Mountain and Air Academy.)

OK, enough nostalgia.Who’s going to win tonight? No clue. I have no idea how one is meant to compare teams from different conferences when everyone in Colorado hockey played within their conferences this year. Seriously, why was RPI used to determine the wild-entrant, aka Battle Mountain? The whole point of the system is to compare teams in different conferences which you can’t do when the conferences don’t play. (Duh.)

So we’re going to go with Herb Brooks because he always applies in this situation. (Ask your parents about the 1980 Olympics. Note to self: The ’Miracle’ is now taught in history class? Ouch.)

You were born for this. You were meant to be here. Go out there and take it.

 

 


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