RANGELY I On April 4, 368 wrestlers from 10 teams, including 100 participants from Rangely and Meeker, joined in the Northwest Colorado Wrestling League’s first tournament of the year at the Rangely Junior-Senior High School.
Of the 53 Meeker wrestlers who participated, 31 placed in the top four in their weight classes, including double-bracketers Ty Goedert (1st/2nd), Cade Blunt (1st/1st) and Connor Blunt (2nd/3rd). Full statistics of Rangely wrestlers’ placing were unavailable, but at least 24 of the team’s 47 wrestlers placed in the top four.
Rangely Youth Wrestling Program head coach Jeff LeBleu said he was pleased with the team’s performance, even as he anticipates wrestlers improving throughout the season.
“You saw kids carrying out what they’ve learned,” LeBleu said. “You can tell they’ve been listening. Now we need to work on takedowns and breakdowns—getting opponents down on the mat at the beginning and breaking kids down through the match.”
Just how that will happen, he said, is simple.
“It’s going to take work, work, and work,” he said. “A lot of it is that they know it, but they’re not comfortable yet doing it. The practice is the only thing that’ll make it come.”
Meeker head coach Carl Padilla, who has been involved with the town’s youth wrestling program for 20-plus years, said this year’s team seems focused and committed to learning.
“What I see with these guys is that they’re really into wrestling, so I appreciate that,” Padilla said. “The younger kids like to chatter and play around, but they stop the chatter when it’s time to learn technique. So they’re going in the right direction.”
For Padilla, a highlight of the Meeker team’s performance Saturday involved wrestlers’ attitudes. The sport’s difficulty can elicit strong emotions, especially after a loss, and the sportsmanship the wrestlers exhibited, whether in accepting a win with grace or consoling a teammate after a loss, was noteworthy, he said.
In looking ahead, the Meeker coaching staff will focus on keeping the season enjoyable and reinforcing the basics so kids will keep coming back.
“Our priority is to keep kids involved with wrestling,” Padilla said. “As kids get older, we can lose them in middle school and high school. We want to keep wrestling a fun sport and work on the basics. Hopefully, they’ll continue to have fun and keep doing it.”
LeBleu, now in his 26th year coaching Rangely wrestling programs ranging from youth through high school, said the process of watching children evolve in the sport—from struggling to stay focused to applying key concepts to understanding the use of more complex moves—is hugely rewarding.
“Following them from being little guys to kids really starting to get it, then on through middle and high school to being a champion like (Rangely High School state champion) Travis (Witherell), that’s really cool,” he said. “That’s the fun part of it. The little kids are fun just because they’re fun, but each year they understand more of it.”
LeBleu gave credit to this year’s group of older children for paying attention in practices and applying the lessons learned during the week in the tournament.
The event ran smoothly except for “a couple of hiccups” in coordination that LeBleu said will be resolved before next year’s hosting. While Rangely was unable to integrate Track Wrestling management software, which assists in bracket creation and provides live scoring updates online, in time for this year’s tournament, team leaders hope to use it next year.
Rangely and Meeker wrestlers will attend the league’s next tournament in Rifle Saturday, April 11.
1st: Kenny Henson, Taylor Gibson, Wyatt Petty, Zane Wiley
2nd: Braden Lucas, Deacon Jones, Braydin Karschner, Jaxon Torsell, Kobey Chism, Matthew Morgan, Reid Zadra
3rd: Brent Cantrell, Dontea Pearce, Drew Zadra, Ella Fortunato, Jaden Heredia, Kasen LeBleu, Landon Carlson, Breckin McElhaney
4th: Aiden Cook, Christian Fortunato, Gage Neilsen, Izaiah Moody, Rylan Booker
5th: Annika Cantrell
Participation/Unknown*: Auron Sheeley, Blaine Stevens, Brode Low, Caleb Wiley, Chance Allred, Clay Allred, Colin Zadra, Curtis Reeves*, Gage Prater, Joseph McKay*, Joseph Nickson, Timothy Scoggins*, Keighton Cushman, Kolton Lemus*, Logan Files*, Mariah Henson, Steven Raley*, Trey Lewis*, Tyson Barnes*, Wyatt Stevens, Zeek Gianinetti, Robert Smith
1st: Domonic Wyatt, Ty Goedert (one bracket), Noah LeBlanc, Levi Caufield, Cade Blunt (both brackets), Kelton Turner, Parker Pontine, and Dillon Hobbs.
2nd: Elijah LeBlanc, Cody Richardson, Ty Goedert (one bracket), Connor Blunt (one bracket), Tucker Chinn, Kyler Ridgeway, Liam Deming, Dax Sheridan, Finley Deming, Cooper Main, Chayton Bumguardner, Brendan Clatterbaugh, and Caleb Hall.
3rd: Connor Blunt (one bracket), Hoyt Garcia, Aiden Buckler, Jace Vroman, Justin George, Jacob Blazon, Jon Baker, and Kaden Ridgeway.
4th: Wyatt Ross, Adrianna Price, Kaden Franklin, and Colby Clatterbaugh.
Participation: Peter Houser, Sienna Rolen, Eli Rundberg, Levi Petrocco, Reed Goedert, Wil Schwartz, Alex Zellers, Dathan Dade, Dexter Chinn, Dillon Pretti, Nathan Smith, Sydnie Ross, Jasmine Long, Ben Houser, Able Ketchens, Casey Zellers, Will Hall, Judd Harvey, Damin Dade, Dagon Dade, and Zagar Brown.