The Palisade wrestling team was in postseason form.
The Bulldogs, unranked but obviously talented, easily defeated Eagle Valley and host Steamboat Springs in Thursday's triangular in Steamboat.
It was the first real head-to-head matchup against regional competition for the teams, which have spent the first two months of the season at tournaments.
"They came out ready," Devils coach Ron Beard said. "They came out aggressive. We came out flat."
Eagle Valley forfeited 12 points at 189 and 215 pounds, but Palisade was every bit as dominant as the final 53-16 score indicates.
The Devils picked up an impressive pin from 135-pounder Mason Ewing and a 10-1 major decision from 160-pounder Chris Harvey. Eagle Valley's other six points came on hard-fought wins from Kylan Kottenstette at 152 pounds and a 6-2 overtime decision from Brendan Best at 171 pounds.
That Eagle Valley veteran quartet has set a tone this season.
"Mason, Kylan, Brendan and Chris -- they go together every day," Beard said.
Eagle Valley and Palisade opened Thursday's triangular. Steamboat and Palisade squared off next, with the Bulldogs notching another easy victory, 60-12.
Palisade posted great finishes at regional tournaments but hadn't been recognized as one of the state's top teams. That's likely to change.
"It's where you finish," Bull--dogs coach Brian Rush said about the rankings. "We've been pushing it pretty hard. Each week we keep getting better."
The 12 points Steamboat scored were set up by great showings from senior Andy Morrell and sophomore Houston Mad--er. On the night of his final home matches, Morrell, the only senior on the Sailors' squad, pinned Palisade's Brad Cooper with 13 seconds left in the first period. Cooper scored the first takedown, but Morrell quickly reversed, taking Cooper to his back before sticking the Palisade wrestler at 135 pounds.
Mader was the only Steam--boat wrestler to win both of his matches Thursday, and he won both by fall at 130 pounds.
Mader pinned Tony DiCam--illo with 35 seconds left in the first, and he pinned Eagle Valley's Ryan Green in the final 20 seconds of the second period. Mader controlled both matches from the start.
Eagle Valley defeated Steamboat, 63-12, in the final dual, and Mader was the only Sailor to win. The other six points were awarded to 189-pounder Joey Melius on a forfeit.
"I started thinking about (regionals) right off the bat," Mader said. "I felt good (Thursday). I had a rough week last week, and I really got myself prepared."
Coaches for all three schools have talked about peaking at the right time. The top four wrestlers at each weight at the regional tournament Feb. 10 and 11 at Grand Junction High School advance to state. Mader wants to be in that mix.
"Once you start winning, you are peaking at the right time," he said.
Up next for Steamboat is the Westside Classic dual tournament on Saturday in Manitou Springs.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org