Vista reclaims Ranch wrestling supremacy

Posted 12/22/08

The Mountain Vista High School wrestling team had never been second fiddle when it came to head-to-head wrestling within Highlands Ranch. That was …

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Vista reclaims Ranch wrestling supremacy


The Mountain Vista High School wrestling team had never been second fiddle when it came to head-to-head wrestling within Highlands Ranch. That was until last season.

After losing the Battle of the Ranch to ThunderRidge last December following three straight wins in the now-annual tournament, it was a goal for the Golden Eagles to bring the trophy back to 10585 Mountain Vista Ridge.

“Where it belongs,” senior Matt Conahan said earlier this season.

Vista did just that Dec. 18 at Highlands Ranch High School, winning the fifth annual Battle of the Ranch with a record of 3-0; defeating ThunderRidge 44-21, Highlands Ranch 51-24, and Rock Canyon 59-21.

“We’re really confident about this season and we expected to win this one,” Mountain Vista head coach Frank Lavoie said. “It was really nice to get that trophy back and to get it back in dominant fashion.”

With the hardware for the trophy case also comes town-wide bragging rights. For the next 365 days, regardless of what happens in February, the Golden Eagles can say they rule the roost in Highlands Ranch.

“This isn’t the state tournament, but it is a lot of pride,” Lavoie said.

The marquee match-up of the night came in the middle of the team’s three bouts against defending Battle champion ThunderRidge. It was expected that whichever team emerged victorious from this match would claim the tournament title, and that was exactly the case.

Both teams entered 1-0 in the Battle, Vista having beaten Rock Canyon and T-Ridge having won a 51-24 decision over host Highlands Ranch. The match started in the lower weights, and Vista absolutely dominated from the opening handshake, leading 34-9 after nine of the 14 bouts had concluded.

Vista began with consecutive pins from Kegan Stritchko at 103 and Nick King at 112 to lead 12-0. Then, at 119, a real battle ensued between Vista’s Steve Johnson and T-Ridge’s Bryan Monahan. Johnson led 10-5 after two periods, but Monahan stepped up in the third and drew even at 10-10 and then 12-12 with a pair of takedowns and a near fall before a last-second escape by Johnson earned him a 13-12 decision.

ThunderRidge got on the board at 125 pounds where T.J. Jackson pinned Dylan Seniw in the first period, but the Golden Eagles would win the next five. Tim Berges pinned Tyler Beyers at 130 pounds, Ryan Moorman won a 12-0 major decision over Arik Varela at 135, Mike Carter (filling in for the injured Conahan) pinned Doug Tourtillott in the third period at 140, Sam Patsy won a 7-0 decision over Andrew Maurer at 145, and Hachtel won 8-4 over David Leach at 152.

Although out of contention for a win, the Grizzlies fared better at the higher weights, winning three of the last five matches. Cole Schmauder took a 4-0 win at 160 pounds over Brent Coffin while Derek Munsey scored a 13-7 decision over Dalton Breen-Martin at 171 pounds and Cole Manhart pinned Peter Doro at 215.

Vista closed the match out with a 16-8 major decision at 189 pounds by Gabe Smith over Nimon Malouff and a third-period victory by pinfall by heavyweight Taylor Gutierrez over Billy Wilson. Gutierrez’ victory was perhaps the most dramatic. The Vista big man led 2-1 after two periods but found himself tied 4-4 late in the third. Gutierrez then reversed out of Wilson’s hold and managed to flip him on his back in the same motion and score the pin.

“We knew we’d have a tough time with them,” Grizzlies head coach Casey Paul said. “We’re back to being very young and very inexperienced and they’re quite a bit older than us. But I thought we battled all right; we’re just not wrestling smart right now. I’d like to see us wrestle smarter and make life easier for ourselves.”

ThunderRidge finished 2-1 in the Battle and was led by Munsey, Schmauder, Manhart, Beyers, and Leach, who all finished 3-0 in their respective weight classes.

Host Highlands Ranch posted its lone win over Rock Canyon, 48-33 in a match featuring seven forfeits. But out of the seven contested weight classes, six finished via pinfall. Aaron Pfeifer (135), Chris Seei (140), Matt Hawley (145), and Michael Purcell (285) pinned for the Falcons while Alex Abreu (119) and Jacob Davis (152) scored pins for the Jaguars.

“We’re always low on numbers, but today is the most we’ve had in the lineup and it showed,” Ranch head coach Dennis Wagner said. “We went 1-2, which is really great for us. We’re inexperienced, and I think as these experiences come along you’re going to see a totally different Highlands Ranch team by regionals.”

Rock Canyon’s 189-pounder, Jake Eggett, had an outstanding day in winning all three of his matches. He defeated Tyler Hartbarger of Highlands Ranch with a 6-2 decision and pinned both Gabe Smith of Mountain Vista and Nimon Malouff of T-Ridge in the first round.

Abreu also finished 3-0 for the Jaguars, defeating Vista’s Nick King with a 16-1 technical fall and pinning his opponent from ThunderRidge in the second period.

But the night and the tournament belonged to Mountain Vista, which saw Stritchko, Johnson, Moorman, and Hachtel all finish 3-0.

“We respect the other teams, but it’s a huge deal to win the Battle of the Ranch because it gives you bragging rights,” Hachtel said. “Our main motivation was to win this and get that trophy back. We call Vista it’s home because it had always been there until last year. Now we’re bringing it back home.”


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