Granby " Middle Park wrestlers get a taste of statewide competition at tourney |

Granby " Middle Park wrestlers get a taste of statewide competition at tourney

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Middle Park High’s wrestlers went through two days of tough competition last weekend on the Western Slope.

On Friday night, Jan. 18, the Panthers competed in the four-team Buena Vista Duals. In that meet, Middle Park’s matmen were pitted against Hotchkiss and Cedaredge.

“We did not earn team wins in either dual, but some of our individual wrestlers did very well in their matches,” said coach Patrick Jellum.

Topping the list of individual results was Joe Visconti, who won both his matches in the 140-pound weight class. Also earning double victories in the dual matches was 152-pound Nate Birdseye.

Single match wins by Panthers at Buena Vista were scored by Christian Curiel at 140 pounds, Jared Cooper at 135 pounds, Rod Garrett at 160 pounds and Mitch Strang at 215 pounds.

“The Buena Vista Duals are also good competitions,” Jellum said. “It allowed our wrestlers to see who they’ll have to beat at the regionals in order to qualify for the state tournament.”

On Saturday, Jan. 19, the Panther grapplers traveled to Leadville for the annual Lake County Invitational. That tournament always features some of the best teams and individual wrestlers in the state.

Middle Park had one medalist in Saturday’s daylong competition. Joe Visconti had two wins and one loss in the 125-pound weight class to take second place.

“Joe’s best match was in the semifinals where he pulled off some good strategic moves to win against a Rocky Ford opponent,” Jellum said. “Then in the finals, he was beat by the state’s No. 1-ranked 3A wrestler from Florence. Joe now knows what he has to do to prepare to narrow the gap against that opponent. It’s at state where you really need to win.”

Four other Panthers were within one win of making the tournament’s medal round.

One of those was Christian Curiel in the 125-pound weight class. He went 3-2 Saturday.

“Chris was absolutely one move away from a medal,” Jellum said. “He has really applied himself and is making a lot of improvements. He also has good listening skills on what moves to make.”

In the 130-pound weight class, Shelby Garrett went 2-2 for the tournament.

“Shelby lost a heartbreaker in his final match,” Jellum said. “He set out in that match with a game plan, which was to work for an escape, but he got caught in a toss and his opponent hung on tight. Nine times out of 10, it would have gotten Shelby the win.”

Also one win away from a medal was Nate Birdseye in the 152-pound weight class where he went 2-2.

“Nate also had a great game plan for making a great takedown, but he was up against a highly skilled opponent from Florence who got a cross-body ride on him and scored back points.”

Mitch Strang almost made the medal round in the 215-pound class after going 2-2 during the tournament.

“Mitch was in a really tough weight class with a lot of quality opponents,” Jellum said. “He had good positioning, but wasn’t able to make as strong a moves as he needed.

The good thing is that Mitch has now seen exactly who he has to beat in three weeks at the regionals. He is accepting that challenge and working toward it.”

Winning a single match in the Lake County Tournament was Panther senior Rod Garrett in the 160-pound weight class.

“Rod wrestled aggressively in a tough weight class,” Jellum said. “If he continues to work hard and improve as he has, he will make it to state.”

Mitch Steffen and Jared Cooper both fought hard in their matches in the 135-pound weight class. Jellum praised their improving wrestling techniques.

Middle Park’s wrestlers will return to competition on Saturday at the Conifer Tournament. The first match is slated to begin at 9 a.m.

“Conifer is a tough tournament but it’s not as tough a meet as our past two,” Jellum said. “There will be several young teams there like us as well as four or five league teams. The Metro League Championships are coming up quickly and this meet will be a great way to gauge where we are at.”

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