Middle Park matmen hold their own at Florence tournament
Sky-Hi Daily News
Middle Park High’s wrestling team never shies away from a tough competition. That was especially true last weekend when they traveled to Florence for two days of the most intense wrestling this side of the state meet.
Friday night, the Panther grapplers took on the host Florence team in a dual meet. Then on Saturday, they competed in a 13-team Florence Invitational against some of the best 3A Division teams in the state.
“We had some solid matches both Friday and Saturday when we took on some of the best teams and individual wrestlers in Colorado in our division,” said coach Patrick Jellum.
In Friday’s dual, Middle Park went head to head with Florence whose 10-man lineup includes eight ranked wrestlers. As a team, Florence is ranked second in the state’s 3A Division.
“Our learning curve definitely went up Friday,” Jellum said. “Our best wrestlers matched up well against their best. We will be seeing those guys again at state.”
The Panthers’ best and only match win for Friday’s dual was earned by Shelby Garrett, who had just moved down from the 135-pound weight class to 130.
“Shelby had a brilliant match where he pinned a top-ranked wrestler,” Jellum said. “He proved that he belongs at 130 pounds and he will be proving just how strong and good he is down the road.”
Saturday’s tournament at Florence featured eight of the top 10-ranked teams in the state’s 3A division.
“There were 13 teams there and all of them were tough,” Jellum said. “As far as the competition goes, it was the real deal. All of our wrestlers competed well, but they really had to struggle for what little points there were to get.”
The Panther grapplers’ top finisher at the invitational was Joe Visconti wrestling in the 140-pound weight class. He earned a third-place medal after winning three matches and losing one during the tournament.
“Joe’s only loss was to the Florence wrestler who is ranked No. 1 in state,” Jellum said. “The best part of the day was when Joe, who is ranked third in the state, beat the No. 4 wrestler not just once but twice. In his first match of the day, Joe won against that wrestler in the last few seconds. Then in the match for third place, Joe’s points spread was very good. He is doing a good job right now of getting his wrestling style down.”
Wrestling again at 130 pounds, Shelby Garrett went 2-2 in matches during Saturday’s tournament.
“His two defeats were to two of the best wrestlers in the state, and one of them he should be able to beat down the road,” Jellum said. “It was definitely a good move for him to go to 130. I think he’ll definitely be in the running for the title.”
Brandon Strang wrestled in the 103-pound weight where he went 1-2 for the tournament results. He also won an exhibition match.
“Brandon wrestled a good field of opponents,” Jellum said. “He won his first match using good technique and an aggressive style. He lost his next two matches, but he stuck in there and wrestled tough. He then won the exhibition match against a tough opponent from Ignacio.”
At 125 pounds, Christian Curiel ended the tournament with a 1-2 record.
“Chris was down six points to this Buena Vista wrestler, but he came back to win by a pin. It was awesome,” Jellum said. “His two losses were to highly competitive kids.”
Nate Birdseye went 1-2 in the tournament’s 145-pound weight class.
“Nate got a good win and to get a win in his weight class at that tournament was huge,” Jellum said. “He would have won a second match against a Brush wrestler if there had been more time. It was a heartbreaker.”
Also going 1-2 for the tournament was Panther senior Rod Garrett in the 160-pound weight class.
“Rod is doing a nice job providing leadership on the team,” Jellum said. “The highlight of the tournament was when Rod beat the Buena Vista wrestler who prevented him from going to state last year. It was neat payback. In that match, Rod did a near perfect switch, got on top and pinned the guy.”
While he lost both of his matches, Mitch Steffen showed some strong improvement in his wrestling at 135 pounds.
“Mitch had some good, strong aggressive matches,” Jellum said. “His class is loaded with good experienced wrestlers, but he still earned some points and did a good job improving.”
Panther freshman Bart Hartley was also winless after two matches in the 189-pound weight class.
“You could see that Bart was a little undersized for that weight class in that tournament,” Jellum said. “He now understands how good and strong you have to be.”
At 215 pounds, Mitch Strang also went 0-2 for the tournament.
“Mitch has been doing well all season, but this was not the tournament for him,” Jellum said. “He had a tough time and made some critical errors, but he learned.”
Also going 0-2 for the day was Jared Cooper at 125 pounds.
“Jared also did not have a good day,” Jellum said. “He’s struggling now with certain moves.”
With the Florence tournament behind them, the Panthers are preparing for this weekend, but there is no let-up in difficulty. On Friday, they will be in a double dual against Cedaredge and Hotchkiss, both tough teams. Then on Saturday, they travel to Leadville for the always tough Lake County Invitational.
Coach plans to retire
In one other note on the wrestling team, coach Patrick Jellum is announcing that he plans to retire as its coach at the end of this season and will be leaving the East Grand School District at the end of this school year. He has been on the coaching staff of both the wrestling and boys soccer teams at Middle Park High for the past 11 years.
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