LOUISVILLE — It seemed routine that the Monarch wrestling team was gearing up for another tournament, another Saturday of multiple matches.
Something was different about this one, though. No long commute. No boarding the bus at all, in fact. The Coyotes, for the first time in school history, were hosting their own tournament.
The 2012 Coyote Duals were a success, too, although Class 2A power Burlington stole the show by going 5-0 in the round-robin meet.
As for the Coyotes, they received a stellar performance from Devon Underhill, who won all four of his matches at 160 pounds. Four others went 3-1: Christian Valentine (120), Justin Butler (126), Joe Tucker (152) and Gus Sawicki (170).
“It’s been nice for the kids to wrestle in their own gym and it’s been good competition,” Coyotes coach Ezra Paddock said. “We’re hoping to keep it going every year and hopefully have two pools and more teams here.”
The Coyotes struggled to a 1-3 record in their four duals, but that had a lot to do with having vacant spots at 182, 220 and heavyweight (182-pounder Sam Lehman is recovering from a concussion and heavyweight Corbin Feenstra tore an ACL in football season).
As Coyotes assistant coach Joe Ferrera pointed out: “It’s tough to win a dual when you’re giving up 18 points.”
As inspiring as it is to win duals, much of that is thrown out the window at state time. The Coyotes are gearing up their wrestlers for a postseason run, and no one was better than Underhill on Saturday.
“It’s real cool hosting our first tournament,” Underhill said. “It’s a lot of work but it’s a lot of fun. I like this, because it will get us ready for the tournament in Utah next week.”
The Coyotes leave Thursday for the Pine View Invitational in St. George, Utah, a two-day tournament beginning Friday.
Each of the six teams Saturday wrestled a dual against the others, with Burlington defeating Cherry Creek 51-21 in the final match to capture the title.
Monarch participated in only four duals because the Coyotes elected not to wrestle against their own JV squad.
“It was pretty cool, different, because all we’ve ever hosted here was duals,” said Tucker, who was solid all day at 152. “I wasn’t a big fan of the set-up, because we didn’t have all the mats here at our school, but it was cool to raise some money for our program.”
Tucker pointed out that the program has grown significantly in the past three seasons and figures to remain on the upswing.
Valentine is perhaps the Coyotes’ best chance for a state title — although he might not wrestle in college as he pursues a biomedical engineering degree — and started 3-0 before losing his final match to Cherry Creek’s Zach Finesilver.
Valentine defeated Finesilver at state last season, but wasn’t too concerned because it was his fourth match of the day.
“We definitely haven’t been at our best,” Paddock said. “We turned it up a notch at practice this week so the kids are a little worn out. But it’s the time of year you have to do that. It’s not an effort question. They’re just a little run down.”
Team records — Burlington 5-0; Cherry Creek 4-1; Horizon 3-2; Monarch 1-3; Thornton 1-4; Monarch JV 0-4.
Monarch dual scores — Monarch 55, Thornton 22; Horizon 43, Monarch 36; Burlington 55, Monarch 19; Cherry Creek 42, Monarch 31.
Monarch individuals (record for meet in parentheses): 106 — Ben Ferrera (2-2); 113 — James Hattel (2-2); 120 — Christian Valentine (3-1); 126 — Justin Butler (3-1); 132 — Troy Naudin (1-3); 138 — Griff Wendland (2-2); 145 — Scott Podlogar (1-3); 152 — Joe Tucker (3-1); 160 — Devon Underhill (4-0); 170 — Gus Sawicki (3-1); 182 — Open; 195 — Michael Hattel (1-3); 220 — Open; 285 — Open.