Prep notebook: Mesa Ridge wrestling sixth at NCCT

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Beware of the Grizzlies

Mesa Ridge came out of one of the state’s most prestigious wrestling tournaments over the weekend with plenty of reason for optimism.

Some incentive, too.

The Grizzlies finished sixth out of 65 teams at the Old Chicago Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament, but settled for three second-place finishes on Saturday afternoon.

Dominick Fini was pinned by Cheyenne Mountain’s Deonte Bridges in the 220-pound finals. Elijah Valdez (152) and Michael True (285) lost by decision in the championship.

“I was pleased, it’s kind of hard the three runners-up, they all had their chances to win it,” Mesa Ridge coach Rob Braaten said. “You feel for the kids because they’ve worked hard enough to be champions.”

It’s the kind of result that will be burned into their minds come state tournament time.

 “We talk a lot about how we learn from losses and how we take it forward from there,” the coach added.

The Grizzlies have taken part in the tournament the past three years and have finished inside the top 10 each time. Those finishes have been something of a sneak peek into the state tournament, where the Grizzlies have finished inside the top 10 since 2014.

Over the weekend, every wrestler from Mesa Ridge won at least one match.


Not just any freshman wrestler

For all the accolades Discovery Canyon freshman Jett Strickenberger racked up as a young wrestler, he’d never found a way to beat fellow-classman Kenny Sailas.

Well, check it off the list.

Strickenberger beat the Brighton wrestler in an ultimate tiebreaker 1-0 in the 106-pound finals at the Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament.

The 2017 Cadet National Champion ripped from the grasps of Sailas for the one-point escape to walk off victoriously.

“He told me he’d probably lost to him 10 or 15 times and this was the first time he ever beat him,” Discovery Canyon coach Marques Bravo said. “It was a real methodical chess match that he ended up finding a way to win.”

The Thunder took 10th at the tournament. Canon City was 12th and Bridges, who took third at state in 220s a year ago, helped lead Cheyenne Mountain to 18th.

Coronado was 20th, Lewis-Palmer 21st and Doherty rounded out the area teams in the top 30 at 27th.


1-22, a thing of the past

The boys’ basketball team at Air Academy is one of nicer stories this Holiday Season.

They steal, but it’s in good spirits.

Led by a defense that averages 16.7 steals per game, the Kadets head into the break with a 6-3 record just a year after going 1-22. They’d won six straight before falling to Pueblo County 72-69 in double overtime Friday.

“(Last year) was hard,” Air Academy coach Barry Clark said. “Everybody wants to win.  … I think we’re seeing the dividends this year of what we were trying to implement last year.”

Air Academy’s next game will be on Jan. 3 at Discovery Canyon.


Best dive team in state history?


Lewis-Palmer had three divers finish inside the top 15 out of the 71 entries at the G17 Coaches Invite on Saturday.

Savana Trueb led the way in fifth with a score of 435 for the Rangers. Anna Kemper, who took fourth at 5A state last year, returned from concussion protocol to take ninth (416) and Ashlyn Foster was 13th (385).

The three scores would have been good enough to get inside the top 14 at the 5A state meet a year ago.

Teammate Natalie Wright was 22nd in the tournament’s preliminaries and just missed the 20-diver final.

“I do think we might have a chance to be something special,” L-P coach Alan Arata said. “I never remember a time where four divers scored at the state meet from any team, boys or girls, in the 5A level.”

“I think we have a chance to do that this year.”


Next stop …

Harrison lineman Tyler Anderson appears to have chosen South Dakota School of Mines as his next football destination.

Anderson tweeted early Sunday morning that he “can’t wait” to join the Hardrockers, and attached was a posed picture of him and the program’s offensive coordinator Justin Udy.

Anderson was a part of Harrison’s 8-3 season in the fall and was named a Gazette Preps 3A-1A football All-Star.