After sitting out the first half of the season with an injury, Montezuma-Cortez High School grappler Jayven Valdez has quickly rounded into form and is leading his team to postseason competition.
The Panthers’ and Valdez’s latest solid performance came Saturday at the Butch Melton Invitational with a seventh-place finish in the 16-team tournament. Valdez finished second in the 113-pound weight class.
Among Valdez’s wins was a 7-5 decision victory over Pagosa Springs’ Trevor Torrez and pin victories over Mancos’ Carter Galloway, Bayfield’s Cade Kruger and Newcomb’s Rashaad Keedah. Valdez’s only loss came to Cedaredge’s Lane Hunsberger in the championship match.
Also wrestling well for M-CHS was Austin Featherman, who finished third in the 126-pound weight class after winning four of his five matches.
Featherman’s victories came by pin over Pagosa Springs’ David Thomas and Piedra Vista’s Isaiah Charley. Featherman also won by technical fall over Newcomb’s Logan Curley and posted a major-decision victory over Ignacio’s Keaton McCoy. Featherman’s only loss came to Aztec’s Dylan St. Vrain.
Other Panthers who competed in the one-day tournament included Ethan Root, who won two of his four matches and placed fourth at 152 pounds, and Casen Allmon, who won two of his four matches at 160 pounds.
Caden Cote finished 2-3 at 132 pounds, and Jaquin Laner finished 0-4 in the B-bracket of the 132-pound class.
M-CHS finished seventh with 40.5 points, and Cedaredge won the tournament with 182 points. Farmington High School finished second, and Aztec finished third.
Next up for M-CHS be road matchups against Durango and Pagosa Springs place on Thursday and Friday, respectively. The team will then prepare for its regional tournament, in Grand Junction, Feb. 14-15.