It’s been a long road back for Grand Valley High School senior wrestler Hayden Grice just to make it to the state, and a mad dash through the heavyweight class to take third place at the State Wrestling Championship of class 3A on Saturday in Denver.
Early this season, Grice broke a bone in his right arm when he was thrown hard to the mat.
“I had to have surgery and I couldn’t train for about a month,” Grice said on Sunday as he reflected on his return. “There has certainly been a lot of effort to overcome this adversity. It was basically a state of mind, because I knew I had the skills to get back to where I was going in the season.
“I certainly had to overcome a lot of fatigue and pain to get there this weekend.”
He got there, battling Thursday and Friday to the 285-pound semifinal at the Ball Arena with wins in the first two rounds over Conifer rookie Ben Metzger in 33 seconds, then beating Manitou Springs senior Terry Lindh on a 12-7 decision.
“That second game was probably the toughest of the tournament because it was the first time I had struggled for six full minutes since last year,” said Grice, who finished sixth in the state in his senior years. second and third year and entered this year as the No. 2 seed with a 14-9 record.
His bid for a state championship was upended in the semi-final match when he was pinned at 5:45 by eventual state finalist, senior Kane Fobare of Weld Central, who arrived at a impressive 34-8.
Grice then pinned Strasbourg senior Jesse Burt in 2:47, which led to a familiar opponent in Platte Valley senior Lane Weimer.
“I had fought him last year and lost by pin,” Grice said. “This year I was more dominant and felt in control of the game.”
Grice got the pin on Weimer at 3:41 to take third-place honors.
“I knew I had to step up to get third place, and I’m just glad I had the stamina to do it,” said Grice, who hopes to wrestle for the University of Western Colorado next year.
After his third-place match, Grice got to watch junior teammate Teagan Jacobs take fifth in the 113-pound class, pinning Sterling junior Aden Young in 2:14 on Saturday.
Jacobs entered the tournament at 36-5, scoring a 3-2 victory over Mullen sophomore Antillon Gilbert to open, then beat sophomore Severence Devante Sisneros via pinfall in 2:52.
Jacobs then fell in the semifinals in 3:11 to eventual runner-up freshman Brock Fry of Gunnision in 3:11, and lost 8-4 to freshman Brush. Nick Dardanes, knocking Jacobs down in the fifth place match.
“I like to see my teammates perform well and I was happy to see him rank up. We’ll see what he can do next year,” Grice said of Jacobs.
Eleven other wrestlers from Garfield County and Basalt competed in the state championships over the weekend.
In Tournament 4A, Glenwood Springs senior Ray Rosenmerkel lost his 138-pound opener by technical fall, 16-0, after 4:42 to Grand Junction Central junior Dagen Harris, then lost 2-0 against Standley Lake senior Sampson McClung.
At 132 pounds, Demons sophomore Leo Meraz lost by pinfall in 5:21 to Roosevelt senior Jorge Torres before pinning Cheyenne Mountain senior Brennen Feign in 4:13. He fell just short of a medal fight when Pueblo County junior Boden White got the pin in 4:28.
In other State 3A wrestling action this weekend, for Grand Valley: senior Aydan Fisher (152 pounds) lost in a 15-0 technical fall in 1:42 to Sterling senior Casteus Combs, then a lost to Florence senior Jacob Kennedy 9-2; Cardinals senior Bryden Harper (220 pounds) fell in 1:29 to James Irwin senior Jack Hustoles, then fell in 3:47 to Jefferson junior Hector Hernandez; Cardinals junior Dominic Mendoza (160 pounds) lost via pinfall in 1:36 to Eaton rookie Gunnar Clary, then lost on a 4-3 decision to Severence junior Bobby Holt.
For Coal Ridge, junior Angelo Perea (220 pounds) lost to Classical Academy junior Tanner Eide, won in the fall in 1:36 over Mullen rookie Ami Hall, then lost 4-3 to the Skyview senior Brandon Gutierrez; Titans sophomore Cooper Thurmon was pinned in 0:47 by Sierra senior Daryl Mills, then won 4-3 over varsity junior Drew Ayres, before retiring with a 7-1 loss to Anthony Moffat County senior Duran.
For Rifle, second Parker Miller (138 pounds) fell 1:11 to Skyview junior Isaac Ibarra, won a 13-7 decision over JFK junior Gabriel Little, then retired with a 7-5 loss against Eaton junior Jake Hergenreter; and Bears senior Levi Miller lost on a 20-4 technical fall in 5:17 to Resurrection Christian senior Eddie Lemons, then lost 9-3 to Fort Lupton senior Isaac Rodriguez.
For Basalt, junior Jose Munoz (285) lost in 1:45 to Eaton senior Lucas Cass of Eaton, won in 2:43 to Abraham Lincoln junior Alex Bilbrey, then lost to Weimer of Platte Valley in 0:45; Longhorns junior Brady Samuelson lost to Eaton rookie Cal Sidwell, then pinned Jefferson senior Valentino Duran in 4:15, but retired on an 11-4 decision against Middle Park second Eli Broady.