Hungry Bulldogs

Durango Herald/Steve Lewis

Cole Baughman takes control of Rocky Ford’s Adam Baca during the 2012 Class 2A 120-pound wrestling state finals at Denver’s Pepsi Center in February. Baughman had to settle for second-place at the state tournament. The senior hopes to win a state title this season.

By Bobby Abplanalp

Journal Sports Editor

So close.

Yet, it seemed so far Dove Creek’s Cole Baughman.

Tied 2-2 after two periods at the 2012 wrestling state finals in Denver, Baughman almost took the lead on multiple occasions in the third period.

However, Rocky Ford’s Adam Baca continued to escape, again and again.

Baughman ultimately settled for second-place at 120 pounds.

“Last year when I won in the semis, I was so happy,” he said. “I think nerves kind of got to me last year during the (finals) match. I just wasn’t wrestling my style.”

Now a senior captain, Baughman is ready to take state. He is one of seven state returners on a stacked Dove Creek Bulldogs wrestling team.

“I definitely want to get back in the state finals,” Baughman said. “I feel like with the team we have right now, we have a lot of competition in the (wrestling) room. I feel like that’s going to help me a lot, too.”

Dove Creek may challenge for a team state title of its own.

“We’ve got some good senior leadership and they’re pretty excited right now,” Bulldogs coach Shane Baughman said. “They’ve set some pretty high goals. They definitely want to be top-three as a team (at 2A state).”

Cole Baughman will begin the year at 132 pounds, but plans to wrestle 126 by state.

Chance Randolph placed third at state last year in the 113-pound division. He’ll wrestle in the 120 to 126 range. Older brother Dalton Randolph placed fifth at 138 in 2012. The senior has bulked up to 145.

There’s 16 kids in the Dove Creek wrestling room. Most of them played football for Shane Baughman, so getting in wrestling shape wasn’t much of an issue. The Bulldogs have been grappling against each other and are barking to start the season.

“We’re always just ready to go at the first of the year,” Cole Baughman said. “We want to show what we’re about. We’ve all been practicing hard these last three weeks after football. It kind of gets old beating up on each other. We’re pretty stoked to get out there and start wrestling other people.”

Nick Jones, a junior, has grown dramatically from 106 to 132 pounds. Disappointed with his state tournament performance last year, Jones is determined for redemption come February.

“He’s going to try and gain a bunch of mass and strength. He’s really been working hard in the weight room,” coach Baughman said about Jones. “He’s looking really tough there at 132s.”

Tyler Ebberts, 138-145 range; Wyatt Applin, 160-170; and, Tyson Smith, heavyweight, are the other state returners.

Freshmen Colin Hobbs, Connor Roussin, Austin Carter and Case Baughman provide good, youthful depth for the loaded Bulldogs.

Sophomore Tyler Knuckles, 182-195; and, juniors Tommy Fury (138-145) and Dillon Daves (145-152) will also be strong this season.

“We could fill all of our weights in a dual,” Shane Baughman said. “We may be open one weight class, but we could probably fill all the weights. We got plenty of kids that will push each other.”

Dove Creek opens its schedule at Montezuma-Cortez High School on Thursday, Nov. 29, in a tri-meet against a pair of 4A schools. Host Montezuma-Cortez and Aztec (N.M.) are the teams the 2A Bulldogs will face.

Dove Creek has dominated this tri-meet that last two seasons.

“Those are two good, quality teams,” Shane Baughman said. “When it gets right down to it, one-on-one on the mat, there is no difference between 2A and 4A.”

Dove Creek, the defending San Juan Basin League champions, will look to defend their title at rival Dolores High School on Feb. 7.

The close proximity to home is just fine with coach Baughman.

“That’s good that it’s close, for the fans, especially,” he said. “We’re used to traveling. We travel almost every weekend and travel all summer long. It’s more of a fan thing. It’s good for them to be able to come watch that.”

Regionals are at Grand Junction Central on Feb. 15-16, and the state tourney is Feb. 21-23, at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

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