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Photo by Tamie Meck Hotchkiss returns three state qualifiers and welcomes a freshman class of six. The Bulldogs will host their home-opening dual Thursday night against rival Paonia.
Photo by Tamie Meck Junior Sergio Campos will pursue a state title for Hotchkiss after finishing second at state as a sophomore.

'Dogs see successful wrestling season ahead

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The Hotchkiss wrestling team opened the season Saturday, winning four of five duals at the annual Maverick Duals at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. Hotchkiss defeated Montrose, Rifle and Moffat County, and lost to Delta. All of its competitors were from bigger schools.

Wrestling at 120 pounds, junior Sergio Campos was 4-0 at the duals, and senior heavyweight Kevin Chavez was 5-0.

Four wrestlers, seniors Devin Curtis (195) and Colton Peebles (182), sophomore Jace Peebles (152), and freshman Robert Cochran (113) all ended the day at 4-1.

Incoming freshman Traycer Hall (132) was 3-2, and junior Presley Pene was 3-2 at 126 pounds.

In looking at the season, Hotchkiss lost a strong group of seniors last year, said returning head coach Richard Flores. But there are still a lot of successful athletes on the team, among them returning state qualifiers Campos (120), the state runner-up at 113 pounds; junior Landen Mayberry (113); and Curtis.

Overall numbers are down. As a team, "We're not going to be as tough as we've been," said Flores. But the focus won't be on win-loss records, but rather on coaching the kids to win. "I'm going to enjoy the season. I've got a great

group of kids... and most of them are hard workers. They might not win, they might not do anything super special. But they're here and they're giving it everything they've got. That makes my job as coach easier."

Returning wrestlers have also "been battle tested," said Flores. "They all got beat up as freshmen, and that's kind of how you get tough." The upper classmen are there to help the younger kids learn, to be good sparring partners, and to help them adapt to the pressures of high school wrestling.

Also in the senior class are Kylar Massano (132) and Karsen Sommer (126). Taylor White (132) and Teagan Sommer (170) round out the junior class. JD Miller (113), JP Scriver (145) and Ethan Guy (160) round out the sophomore class.

In addition to Hall and Cochran, incoming freshmen are Adam Smith, Boston Sommer, Kaleb Lovelace and Christian Matus.

Curtis Hintz, Coley Wondra and Matt Hall all return as assistant coaches.

Looking at the season, Hotchkiss hosts rival Paonia at 6 p.m. Thursday, and Moffat County at 6 p.m. Friday. It competes at the annual Panther Invitational at Delta on Dec. 9. On Dec. 15 and 16 the Bulldogs wrestle at the Warrior Classic, a two-day tournament considered one of the most competitive of the year, before heading into winter break.

Flores said that starting the season at the Maverick Duals gives wrestlers a chance to see wrestlers from different areas and with different skills and styles. That helps coaches identify areas where they need to focus and improve. Now work begins on fine-tuning skills, filling in gaps in learning, and preparing for regionals on Feb. 9 and 10, and the state tournament Feb. 15-17.

"It's an ongoing process," said Flores.

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