The Colorado Preps Weekly series makes it’s first move into the winter sports season as our San Luis Valley Update previews the wrestling clubs for clubs across the region. The report also recaps the past week in football and volleyball.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY VIBRANT VALLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
REPORT PRESENTED BY STONE FARM SUPPLY AND STATE FARM AGENT TORBEN WALTERS
It was slow going at the start for the Centauri Falcons on the road against a tough Yuma Indians team, but the Falcons were able to put together a good effort in the second half of their quarterfinal matchup to take the win 40-7 and move on to the semi-finals in the 1A football playoffs.
The win means the Falcons will face off against Buena Vista, who took down Meeker in the overtime 22-15 to earn their second straight trip to the semi-finals, losing to Manitou Springs last year in the Spring championships. The Falcons have won the last four matchups with the Buena Vista Demons, winning 37-0 in their last meeting in 2019. Buena Vista won the last postseason game between the two 48-6 in 2015. Both the Falcons and the Demons are sporting undefeated records heading into the game, with Centauri at 10-0 and Buena Vista sitting at 11-0.
Sanford’s postseason revenge tour is continuing to the semi-finals after the Indians came back from down 16-0 in the second quarter and 32-18 in the third quarter to defeat the Vail Christian Saints 62-38 on Saturday afternoon.
After only putting up 22 yards in the first quarter, the Indians offense exploded in the final three, with senior Kelton Gartrell rushing for over 260 yards as well as another 93 yards through the air. Gartrell accounted for four touchdowns. That was outshined by Josh Holman’s five touchdown day, as the senior threw for a pair, connecting with Gartrell and McRay Larson, as well as running for three of his own.
The win means a third straight rematch from a regular season loss, with the Indians heading back to Southwest Colorado for their semi-final with Mancos after the Bluejays took down Dayspring Christians 33-24 in Greeley.
Sierra Grande’s postseason run came to a close in disappointing fashion on Saturday. The Panthers had a late lead on the Granada Bobcats, but couldn’t finish their come from behind victory as the third seeded Bobcats won 48-44.
The loss is the first of the season for the Panthers, who took a 32-28 lead after their defense shut out Granada in the third quarter. 386 rushing yards for the Bobcats along with another 116 through the air would doom Sierra Grande though, as the defense struggled to slow down the high powered offense, despite forcing them into four turnovers.
The Alamosa Mean Moose made a valiant effort to pick up a win at the 2021 Colorado Volleyball State Championships in Colorado Springs, but after falling to the Sterling Tigers by way of a midday sweep on day one, the Moose would fall to league rival Bayfield in five sets on Friday morning.
The final match was one of grit for the Mean Moose too, falling down two sets to none to the Wolverines before rising back to the challenge to take the third and fourth sets. The momentum ran out in the fifth, with Bayfield rallying from down 5-4 to take the set 15-9. Alamosa ends the season at 18-9, and the Mean Moose are going to bring back the main core of this year’s state team, with senior captain Malia Tuioti-Mariner being the only graduating hitter they need to replace.
The Alamosa Mean Moose should be in good position to once again make some noise at the 3A level. The Moose are graduating three state qualifiers, with state champion Davion Chavez (120), 6th place finisher Zaquorya Bernal (220), and qualifier Brandon Reveles (126) leaving some holes.
Returning sophomore James Sanchez and senior Trevor Maestas will lead the new round of Moose this season, looking for return trips to the state tournament. Along with them, junior Dario Valdez (3rd at regionals) and senior Dante Gonzales (4th at regionals), who both would have been state qualifiers last season in a normal year, will look to build on last year’s success. Logan Garcia also returns for his senior year at 195 lbs after going 17-4 last season but missing out on the state meet.
When it comes to looking for a favorite to take the state championship this year in 2A wrestling, the Centauri Falcons have to be included in the conversation. Not that that is out of the ordinary, as they are a consistent force in Colorado small school wrestling, but the Falcons are bringing back most of last years team which took home the title over Cedaredge last year, in fact, the only graduate from the eight Falcons who made state is Jordan Martin, who placed second at 152 lbs.
Leading the returning Falcons is senior Eyan Chavez, who is coming off of a state championship himself at 145 lbs. The Falcons also have another pair of runner up finishers returning, with sophomore Riley Valdez coming back after taking second at 106 and junior Erik Mestas returning after his second place finish at 160.
The Falcons also have three seniors who placed at state coming back to lead the team. Mario Vigil took third at 113 lbs as a junior, and will be looking for a title run this year. Both Zach Buhr and Byron Shawcroft also placed, with each taking 5th at 170 and 182 pounds respectively.
Other Falcons to watch are Cyrus Sandoval, who will be looking to land a spot on the podium after going 0-2 at last years state championships as a sophomore. Also on the watch list are senior Robert Coombs, sophomore Josh Polkowske and senior Danny Brady, all of which finished in the top four of the regional tournament and would have been state bound last season if not for COVID limiting qualifiers to the top two from each region.
The San Luis Valley has a few other names to watch for as well, leading off with the Monte Vista Pirates, who will have some returning state experience themselves in the form of junior Damian Lopez who took sixth a126 pounds last year. Senior Nathaniel Juarez took fourth in regionals last year and junior DeAngelo Archuleta finished third at 120 lbs, and both will be leading the smaller weight classes for the Pirates. In the middle classes, junior Khegan Gunter will be back after a third place finish at regionals and Jaxon Martinez, who took fourth at the regional meet will also be returning for his junior campaign.
Just to the west of Monte Vista, the Del Norte Tigers have senior Malachi Gallegos to watch. Last year, Gallegos was the only state qualifier for the Tigers, and made good, taking 4th place.
While no one else from the San Luis Valley is bringing back any state experience, there are some teams who would have sent healthy contingents to Pueblo in a normal season, and first on that list has to be the Center Vikings, who had three freshman finish in the top four of the regional tournament last season. Jordan Duran (106), Lorenzo Trujillo (152), and Jesus Valadez (170) all would have been state qualifiers last season and will be looking for repeat success. Also on the list to watch is Mason Armenta, who was one win away from being in the top four at 182 pounds last year.
The Sargent Farmers also could be a team to watch for, with three returners who finished in the top four at the regional meet. Junior Mitchell Plane finished fourth last season, and will be the elder statesman for the Farmers in terms of experience and success. Sophomores Westen Burkhart (120) and Trenton Lovelace (220) should be returning as well after fourth place finishes at regionals last season.
On the east end of the Vallley, Sierra Grande will have a hole to fill after graduating 5th place state finisher Richard Atencio. The Panthers do have a few faces returning though, and will look to senior CJ Nix, who took 3rd at the regional tournament last season, to lead the new set of Panthers forward.
The La Veta Redhawks also could see a few names make waves, with senior Chris Williams returning after a 4th place finish at the regional tournament left him on the outside of the shortened state meet at 220 pounds, as well as sophomore Thomas Trujillo who also took fourth at regionals last year at 113 pounds. Sophomore Brayden Nix could also make noise after finishing one spot out of the top four at regionals last year.