Palisade Before the final round of regionals began at Palisade High School Saturday, two Hayden High School female students could be seen mopping the mat before the wrestlers squared off against one another.
Hours earlier, the Tigers had done some mopping up of their own, scoring a number of big wins and securing the regional title.
Hayden, which qualified 10 wrestlers for the state tournament, won the 2A western regional championship Saturday by racking up a lot of points early. The team was ahead by so many points early on that it didn't matter that none of their wrestlers finished first.
Hayden compiled 181.5 points to come out on top. Mancos finished second with 167.5 points and Nucla was third with 148 points.
Soroco placed next to last out of nine teams although it had five wrestlers who qualified for the state tourney that will be at the Pepsi Center in Denver Feb. 15-17.
Saturday was filled with a lot of emotion as high school fans from around the region screamed and stomped, and whistled and howled, as their wrestlers fought tooth and nail to try to earn themselves a state berth.
Adriana Svoboda, a student at Hayden High School, watched nervously from the stands while her boyfriend, Anton Fredrickson, took the mat for a showdown with Mancos' Scott Koppenhafer.
Svoboda covered her eyes while Fredrickson and Koppenhafer got close and clawed at one another.
Although it appeared that Fredrickson had scored a takedown midway through the match, the referees did not share the same sentiment and the wrestlers kept fighting. When the bout was over, Fredrickson had lost a hard-fought 1-0 contest.
"It was close," said Albert Fredrickson, who had just seen his son fall to the same wrestler that defeated him by a decision earlier in the year.
Fredrickson did qualify for state by placing No. 2. He is the defending 135-pound state champion and will enter the tourney with a 30-4 record.
Fredrickson, most likely, will meet Koppenhafer again.
"I will see him at state again so I hope I can step it up and beat him there," Fredrickson said following their bout.
Six Tigers placed third at regionals and four Hayden wrestlers came in second.
The top four wrestlers in each weight class made state.
The following Hayden wrestlers were second in their weight classes: Troy Kochenower (112), Kelly Bruchez (145), Joel Wixson (171) and Fredrickson.
Third-place finishers were Jimmy Rossi (125), Josh Giessinger (140), Kevin Miller (152), Riley Whiteman (160), Clayton Neumiller (189) and Tanner Copeland (215).
Rossi, who is making his third trip to state, beat Wade Henderson of Norwood to place third in his class. Rossi used a front-quarter move and turned it into a half-nelson to get a pin.
Tigers coach John Svoboda said his team had a lot to do in the next few days.
The team is gunning for a top-5 finish at state, he said.
"We're going to work hard in what little time we have left this week," Svoboda said. "Hopefully, we can fix some things and have a strong showing at the tournament."
Doug Gates, who coaches Soroco, said his team showed a lot of determination.
Josh Iacovetto (103), Brandon Ager (119), Cody Denning (130), Brandon Gilleland (152) and Tyler Knott (160) qualified for the Rams. Iacovetto and Gilleland placed second.
In Grand Junction Saturday, the 4A regional games also came to a close.
Steamboat Springs will not be sending anyone to state, though Levi Muhme and Wes Adams came in fifth in their weight classes. Adams pinned Palisade's Chad Kelly to finish No. 5 in the 171-pound class, and Muhme took care of Delta's Tyson Esquibel to place fifth in the 135-pound class.
Sailors coaches Chris Decker and Jay Muhme said their wrestlers put up a hard fight. Four Sailors placed sixth at regionals.
"I saw nothing but a lot of heart today," Decker said.