Bronco wrestlers dominate to win Red Rocks Invitational
by Rhett Sifford
Entering the 2022-23 Utah high school wrestling season, the San Juan Broncos have a target on their backs.
The Broncos were ranked third in 2A in the USA Wrestling Utah preseason poll behind Millard and Beaver and they had seven wrestlers listed sixth or better in the preseason rankings.
Two of those wrestlers, Callen Burke and Taylor Black, were ranked #1 to start the season.
In addition, in the 215-pound Power Poll which ranks wrestlers across all classifications, Callen Burke is ranked 11th in the state.
The season officially began this past weekend for the Broncos at the annual Red Rocks Invitational in Moab.
It’s a huge tournament that brought 12 teams, most from the Four Corners region, together for some tough competition.
San Juan was dominant, scoring 316.5 points to win the tournament easily over Mancos, which scored 299.5 points.
Third place went to Durango with 270 points, and the host Grand County Red Devils scored 205.0 to finish fourth.
The Broncos had the most pins (64) in the least time (103:28). Parker Snyder led the tourney in that department individually with nine pins in 13:42. Deklan Helquist was right behind with eight pins in 12:38.
Snyder scored the most points individually at the tournament with 43. And Taylor Black was tied for the fifth-fastest pin on the weekend, pinning one opponent in just 15 seconds.
The Broncos swept the top two spots of the 285-pound weight class, with Callen Burke winning the class and Taylor Black coming in second.
The pair was forced to wrestle each other in the final match, with Burke winning by fall in 1:22.
Burke was 7-0 on the weekend with all seven of his wins by fall. Black was 6-1 with five wins by fall and one by 2-0 decision.
At 144 pounds, Parker Snyder finished first, going 9-0 and winning all nine of his matches by fall.
Deklan Helquist won the 126-pound weight class with a perfect 8-0 record and eight wins by fall.
Taydan Mark came home second at 165 pounds, going 5-1 on the weekend. He won four of his matches by fall and one by technical fall.
Logan Keith earned second place in the 150-pound class with an 8-1 record. Keith won six matches by fall, one by 11-0 major decision, and one by 8-1 decision.
Chad Yellow got second at 113 pounds, going 4-1 on the weekend. He won two by fall and two by major decision.
At 106 pounds Grady Lacy also finished in second with a 3-1, winning two by fall. His only loss was in the finals of the weight class.
The final Bronco wrestler to finish in the top three individually was Trace Bennett at 175 pounds. He was 5-2 with four wins by fall.
JD Palmer gets an honorable mention for his fourth-place performance in the 157-pound weight class. He was 6-3 at the tournament with four wins by fall.
San Juan is headed to Price this weekend for the Carbon Duals tournament Friday and Saturday, December 9-10.
Bronco Head Coach Steve Simpson, who is in the second year of his second stint at the helm and eighth overall, fielded several questions I sent via email recently:
San Juan Record: What is your coaching philosophy and approach to coaching the team this season?
Steve Simpson: Our goal is to give the young men the tools necessary to be solid human beings and to succeed after they graduate high school.
While winning matches is fun, winning at life, marriage, work, and parenting is much more important.
SJR: Tell me about your assistant coaches.
SS: Shane Musselman is the assistant coach, although we are more like co-head coaches.
I respect Shane’s coaching abilities and thoroughly enjoy working with him. I have learned a great deal from Shane since we have been working together since our sons were very young.
Steve Snyder, father of Parker Snyder, is also helping this year.
SJR: Talk about your team this season.
SS: The team is solid this year, and it’s likely the best team San Juan High School has had in many years.
The wrestlers are talented and cohesive. They are great about helping each other improve their individual techniques and skills.
The kids are fabulous, funny, and happy. Shane and I love them and are pleased to have the opportunity to work with them. It is a great gift.
I am looking forward to seeing them on the mat and hoping we don’t have any serious injuries over the course of the season.
If we can stay healthy, we will have an excellent showing throughout the year.
SJR: What do you think your strength(s) will be this season?
SS: Our strength is that we are a cohesive team and the boys all enjoy being with each other.
There is a very good feeling in the wrestling room and the boys are working hard to improve their abilities.
SJR: What things do you think you’ll have to work on the most?
SS: Everything. The boys have a wide variety of experience levels, so we are working from the ground up with all of them.
Shane and I are focused on giving the boys solid fundamentals and building from there.
SJR: What are your expectations this season?
SS: I expect the boys to be good sportsmen, to develop their wrestling skills, and to be better human beings when the season is finished.
I also expect them to have fun in practice and in competition.