Regionals await Basalt wrestling in Buena Vista

Basalt High School junior Oswaldo Morales, bottom, wrestles against Cedaredge earlier this season in Basalt. The Longhorns will travel to Buena Vista this weekend for its regional tournament.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times |

Basalt High School junior William Rivera separated his shoulder earlier in the wrestling season and missed a couple of weeks. Upon his recent return, BHS coach Ryan Bradley noticed an extra bit of intensity he hadn’t before.

“He came back this last weekend and he looked tough,” Bradley said. “He wrestled a couple of kids he wrestled before in the season and he seemed like he was ready to go. He took it to them.”

Rivera, who wrestles at 195 pounds, and junior heavyweight Oswaldo Morales are two athletes Bradley has a lot of confidence in this weekend with the Longhorns headed to Buena Vista for their Class 3A Region 1 tournament.

There will be 14 teams competing today and Saturday, with the top six per weight class placing, and the top four earning a ticket to the state wrestling tournament, held Feb. 16-18 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Among the teams in Basalt’s regional are Centauri, ranked No. 3 in 3A as of Feb. 3, and host Buena Vista, 3A’s No. 7 team.

“If you look at the rankings, we have the toughest region in the state, arguably,” Bradley said. “We are expecting to qualify, at a minimum, two. We feel like we have two guys, barring any injuries, who should solidly qualify. If somehow we had an unbelievable tournament, we might add two more to those.”

Morales has come on this season to become one of Basalt’s top wrestlers. He’ll benefit from a small heavyweight field at regionals, needing to finish in the top four of seven expected wrestlers (most brackets will have the full contingent of 14 wrestlers) to earn a trip to state.

He will, however, face two of the top three ranked heavyweight wrestlers in the classification.

“I would expect, unless he upsets one of those guys, he’ll be wrestling for third or fourth,” Bradley said. “We haven’t seen some of these kids from way down in Cortez and places like Centauri — we haven’t seen them at all — so you never know what you are getting.”

Bradley also said to keep an eye on 220-pound freshman Ernesto Lopez, who he believes will easily place in a small field. Should he make top four and earn a spot at the state tournament, he’d be the first Basalt freshman to do so since Olmer Marquez in 2013, the first season for BHS wrestling after going dormant for a decade.

Marquez was the team’s only state qualifier last winter as a senior, going 1-2 in the same 220-pound weight class.

“We know we are going to improve from last year, which is great,” Bradley said. “Even if you don’t go to state and wind up fifth, it helps you with seeding at tournaments for the next year.”

The Longhorns are without a couple of key names, such as talented sophomore Zach Pagan, a regional placer from a season ago. Pagan was hurt right before Christmas and won’t be healthy enough to compete this weekend. The team also is without junior Alex Alberto, one of its top wrestlers from early in the season. Alberto, who also was a key piece of Basalt’s football team in the fall, recently moved with his family to Texas.

Regardless of the results this weekend, Bradley has a lofty outlook for the future. The Longhorns should lose only one senior, return most of its top wrestlers next season, and will bring in a deep and talented middle school class.

“Next year we will be a team that is kind of run by the juniors and seniors, so we have some great expectations,” Bradley said. “But we aren’t waiting until next year. We got some guys this weekend that could deliver.”

Regional weigh-ins should take place around 1 p.m. today in Buena Vista. Depending on the weight class, wrestlers should have two to three matches each of the two days.

The rest of Basalt’s regional includes Coal Ridge, Lake County, Pagosa Springs, Delta, Rifle, Moffat County, Grand Valley, Montezuma-Cortez, Bayfield, Gunnison and Olathe.