WOODLAND PARK - Caelan Garner had the best showing of any Woodland Park High School wrestler at the Jan. 19 Mel Smith Invitational in Florence.
Wrestling at 195 pounds, Garner lost in the championship match to Buena Vista’s Ed Rodriguez - ranked third in Class 3A. Garner, a senior, finished the tournament 4-1 and improved his season record to 15-10.
“Eight of Caelen’s losses this year are to ranked guys,” said Woodland Park coach Keith Sieracki. “He’s beat four or five guys in his weight class who were ranked in the top 10 in 3A.”
Woodland Park, of course, is a 4A school. The team has made great improvements on the mat this year. The Panthers finished 12th in Florence among 21 teams. Canon City won the tournament with 88 points, followed by Palmer Ridge with 86.5.
“We have a really good nucleus of wrestlers and parents who are on board with what we’re trying to accomplish,” Sieracki said. “The way we’re going to win as a Woodland Park wrestling team is off-season training. If the kids keep wrestling through June I figure we’ll have some momentum going into next year.”
Panthers senior Thomas Chisholm went 3-2 and finished fourth in the 160-pound division in Florence. Chisholm is 24-3 this season and ranked in the top 10 in state. Sophomore Jesse Weatherill (126) was 2-2 in the tournament and has a solid 15-10 record.
Other top Woodland Park wrestlers, in terms of overall record, include sophomore Tommy Hancock (113, 16-9), juniors Jake Morgan (138, 14-6) and Josh Smith (170, 19-7), and freshman Abe Adair (132, 15-10).
The Florence tournament was a solid rebound for the Panthers, who were defeated 58-9 by Mesa Ridge in a Metro League dual meet on Jan. 16. Woodland Park wrestlers won just two matches - a decision by Chisholm (wrestling at 170 that night) and a pin by junior Jon Jon Hinton (who moved down to 160).
Earlier this month, Mesa Ridge defeated Woodland Park 62-3 at the Legend Tournament. The Panthers finished fourth among 12 schools at that meet.
“Overall, Mesa Ridge is a better team than we are right now,” Sieracki said.
Things won’t get any easier for the Panthers this week as they travel to Widefield for a dual meet on Thursday and then head to Doherty on Friday and Saturday for the 24-team Metro League Championships. Among the schools that will be represented are powerhouses Pine Creek (5A), Coronado (5A) and Discovery Canyon (4A).
“It’s a heavy hitter tournament,” Sieracki said of the Metro League Championships.
Individual medals will be given to the 1st through 8th place winners in each weight class and the top four teams will receive team awards. An Outstanding Wrestler will be named for lower and upper weights. There will also be an Outstanding Underclassman, a senior named Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year, Coach of the Year, Assistant Coach of the Year and Manager of the Year.
The Event finals and semifinals will be webcast live on TheMat.com (www.themat.com).
Sieracki will use the tournament as a measuring stick to see where his kids stack up against some of the state’s best competition.
“Thomas (Chisholm) is great at making adjustments for the long distance,” Sieracki said. “As the competition gets tougher it’s going to come down to who wants it more.
“I think our kids are capable of beating the top-tier wrestlers. We’ll see.”