Middle Park matmen slam into season at tough tourney
Sky-Hi Daily News
Middle Park High’s wrestlers don’t believe in doing anything the easy way, and they proved it once again by kicking off their new season with the biggest and toughest tournament in the state last Saturday.
The Middle Park Invitational featured 18 teams from across the state. Teams representing all four divisions from 2A to 5A competed in the Panther gym.
“The Rocky Mountain News’ “Rocky Preps’ rated it the toughest tournament in the state for all divisions,” said coach Patrick Jellum. “And it certainly lived up to its billing.
We had great competitive matches all day long with all the weight classes being hotly contested.”
Pueblo South emerged as the winner at the top of the team results, followed closely by Olathe. Third place was taken by Elizabeth while Brush finished right behind in fourth.
“Three of those four teams were state champion teams over the last three years,” Jellum said. “That’s an indication of just how competitive our tournament was.”
The Panther grapplers did very well in the overall results, earning an eighth place in the 18-team competition. And they did it with only eight of their 13 wrestlers.
“We had two of our wrestlers place in the tournament,” Jellum said. “Almost everyone of our guys won matches that earned points for our team score. That was a neat bonus.”
One of Middle Park’s two medalists in the home meet was Joe Visconti in the 130-pound weight class. He earned a second-place finish and had a 3-1 record for the tournament.
“Joe had three pins going into the finals match,” Jellum said. “But he took on a Ridgeview Academy wrestler who was a former state champion. He wrestled him very well but lost on points 3-1. It was a great test for Joe.”
The Panthers’ other medalist was Mitch Strang who took a third place in the 215-pound weight class. He posted a 4-1 record during the season-opener.
“This was a very good surprise,” Jellum said. “Mitch started a little slow in his first match, but then wrestled very aggressively for the rest of the day. It was neat to see how he picked up the pace.”
Contributing to the team’s score was 103-pound freshman Brandon Strang who earned a 2-2 record in Saturday’s tournament.
“For his first high school varsity performance, Brandon really stepped up,” Jellum said. “He really dominated two of his matches, pinning both opponents. His two losses were against ranked opponents. He really wrestles with intensity and a drive to do his best.”
Also going 2-2 for the home meet was junior Jared Cooper in the 125-pound weight class.
“Jared is a new Middle Park High student this year and he put in a very solid performance Saturday,” Jellum said. “He improved with every match and I expect he’ll pick up even more speed as the season goes on.”
Panther sophomore Shelby Garrett wrestled in the 135-pound weight class and also earned a 2-2 record.
“Shelby missed getting into the three/four medal matches by just a couple of points,” Jellum said. “He made some of the best moves by one of our wrestlers Saturday. He made some double-leg shots that were very well done and showed he has mastered positioning on the mat. His wrestling was fun to watch.”
Wrestling in the 152-pound weight class, Middle Park’s Nathan Birdseye had a 2-2 record for the tournament.
“Nathan was very aggressive against some very competitive opponents,” Jellum said. “He showed great skill in his takedowns.”
Panther junior Jake Finch, who had wrestled at the junior varsity level last season, pulled off a big surprise by going 2-2 Saturday.
“Those were his first wins at the varsity level,” Jellum said. “He has improved a great deal since last year and is showing a great deal of confidence on the mat. If he continues to work hard, he has the opportunity to make the state meet.”
Rounding out the team’s results was Rod Garrett who wrestled strongly in the 171-pound weight class but did not have any luck in his two matches.
“Rod wrestled in a very contested weight class,” Jellum said. “He is a tremendously good senior captain who does a great job helping to instruct our younger wrestlers during practices and at tournaments.”
With their first tournament behind them, Middle Park’s wrestlers are now preparing for their next. They will be competing in the Buena Vista Dual Team Tournament this Saturday, Dec. 8. A total of 12 teams will be at the meet with the Panthers slated to wrestle five of them.
“The best part is that we should have all 13 of our wrestlers there and we’ll be filling all weight classes,” Jellum said.
Joining the Panther lineup for the Buena Vista meet will be Christian Curiel, 119 pounds; Mitch Steffen, 140 pounds; Josiah Parker, 145 pounds; Bart Hartley; and Tim Satterfiel, heavyweight.
“We’re off to a good start this season,” Jellum said. “We have a small lineup with some young wrestlers, but they have good discipline. Positive things can come from that.”
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