Cyclones place seven at Colt Classic
Pueblo West places third as a team against top-10 foes
Saturday, the Pueblo West High School wrestling team was supposed to be mixing it up on the mat in southern Wyoming.
But Mother Nature must have wanted the Cyclones to get familiar with foes closer to home.
Pueblo West opted last-minute to stay in Pueblo and compete in the South Colt Classic, and facing some of the state’s top teams in second-ranked Pueblo East and and fifth-ranked Cheyenne Mountain, the Cyclones finished third as a team and turned in seven placers.
“We didn’t even know we were going to be in the tournament, and we were without three of our starters, so we didn’t expect to be in the hunt,” head coach Ryan Schumann said. “But we had a lot of guys step up.”
The Cyclones turned in one champion at the tournament, and it was business as usual for senior 220-pounder Weston Hunt.
The top-ranked 220-pounder in 4A, Hunt needed just a grand total of 2:56 to cruise through four opponents with four pins and take the Colt Classic 220-pound title.
Each of his wins took 50 seconds or less as he ran his record to 23-3 this season as he seeks a state championship.
“When I go out there, I just do the best I can and if I can, I go for the pin,” Hunt said. “My number one goal is to take state, especially after [losing in the 2016 182-pound finals]. I’ve put in a lot of work and I think I deserve the opportunity to go back and win it.”
Hunt’s performance would have been “most outstanding wrestler” material if the Colt Classic gave out such an honor. He gathered more pins in less time than any wrestler in the tournament.
“He’d be one of the guys you’d think would get that if they gave it out,” Schumann said. “To wrestle four matches in under three minutes, that’s amazing. He’s mentally prepared for tough competition and he wants those matches.”
While Hunt’s dominance was somewhat unexpected, what 145-pound junior Michael McPherson did was certainly not.
A brand new addition to the varsity lineup, McPherson surprised by reaching the 145-pound championship match at the Colt Classic, running his mark to 12-2 and placing second.
He was one of three Cyclones to place second, joined by 138-pound Isaac Vigil and 195-pound Hunter Mooring.
“With this being his first varsity tournament, [finishing second] was impressive,” Schumann said. “He’s only really lost one match so far since moving to the varsity level, so he’s a really good addition.”
McPherson started the season at 132 pounds, but when the opportunity came to win a spot at 145 pounds last week, he seized it. Now, he said his goals are clear.
“I’ve always been a pretty good wrestler, but I was just behind other really good wrestlers,” McPherson said. “Now it’s my time to get on the mat and do what I do. I definitely thing I can qualify [for the state tournament] this year and get on the podium next year. I think those are doable goals.”
Senior Ryan Stipe finished third at 160 pounds, defeating La Junta’s Dax Bender, a 2016 3A state placer, in a 6-1 decision in the consolation championship match.
Stipe countered to nearly stick Bender with a third-period reversal.
“The whole match, I could feel him pushing,” Stipe said. “I was waiting for him to finally do his throw, and when he went for it, I countered and stuck him.”
At 18-9, Stipe said his high finish could serve as a springboard to the podium at the state tournament. A 170-pound state qualifier last season, Stipe is more confident at 160.
“Last year, I was a small 170-pounder,” Stipe explained. “I weight 161 pounds my first day of state. But this year, I’m right at the same size and I’m keeping up with the other guys at my size.”
Another key win came from 106-pound Mark Ritz. The sophomore, who lost in a 3-0 decision to Pueblo South’s Xavier Espinoza last Wednesday in the Cyclones’ dual with the Colts, avenged the loss Saturday.
Ritz grinded out a 6-3 win over Espinoza, the second-ranked 106-pounder in 4A, in the consolation semifinals. Ritz would place fourth in what Schumann called the toughest weight class of the Colt Classic.
“In that match, it was good to get that win back after losing to him the other night,” Schumann said. “He needs to be at his best when it comes to regionals, with five returning state qualifiers in his weight class. He can’t afford to have an off tournament and Espinoza is definitely the kind of kid he needs to beat to get to state.”
Joining Ritz with a fourth-place finish was 182-pound Tanner Henderson, rounding out the Cyclones’ crop of Colt Classic placers.
The Cyclones emerged from the tournament enjoying a ranking of sixth in the state in the latest 4A “On the Mat” high school wrestling rankings. This week, the Cyclones travel to Alamosa High School for its invitational as well as continuing its South Central League slate, facing Centennial Thursday night.