Reds take home 2022 state title

Ryan Dirksen and Alex Castaneda crowned individual champions

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Emily Hogsett, Feature Editor

As the Reds secured the 2022 3A state title, they celebrated making history for Eaton wrestling. In 2020, Eaton tied with Valley for the title making 2022 a redemption year for the Reds. Along with winning state as a team, Eaton seniors, Ryan Dirksen (22) and Alex Castaneda (22) won their weight divisions making them individual champions.

12 wrestlers represented Eaton in Denver for the state championship tournament on Feb. 17, 18, and 19. Along with Dirksen and Castaneda each placing first, Gunnar Clary (25) placed sixth at 160lbs, Patrick Preston (24) placed fifth at 126lbs, Ryder True (23) placed third at 220lbs. 

For the Reds, the wrestling season was packed with successes. They dualed Brush, University, Wiggins, Platte Valley, Highland, Bennett, Sterling, Weld Central, Delta, and Valley along with attending countless tournaments across the state. The state championship was no exception to the Reds success seen throughout the season.

After three packed days of wrestling, Eaton walked away with 127.5 points, trailed unexpectedly by Gunnison with 105 pints. Prior to the state tournament, the Reds were expecting to have tough competitions with Mullen and Jefferson according to ranking. Both Dirksen and Castaneda wrestled Mullen opponents for their championship match.

Two years ago, the Reds took home the 3A state championship as a tie with Valley, and Dirksen was crowned the 3A 145lbs champion. Last year Castaneda placed second in his weight in overtime of a tough battle. This year the two were able to take it all.

Castaneda said, “Losing that match made me a better wrestler. It made me really go back and work on fundamentals and little things that needed to be worked on. I pushed myself even harder. After winning and achieving my goal, it hasn’t even settled in yet, but it feels great.”

Since Dirksen and Castaneda have wrestled together since Castaneda came to Eaton, it was a memorable experience for both of them receiving winning titles. “Ryan and I were successful in eighth grade too – winning the first MPLA championship in eighth grade. It was me and Ryan’s dream in eighth grade. I remember us talking about wanting to be state champions when we are in high school, and it was really cool to finish off our senior year as both state champions and with a team title.”

“I was overcome with a lot of joy just knowing how hard they have worked to get where they are. It was an awesome feeling,” Head Coach Tony Mustari said.

As a senior, Dirksen was able to spend his last high school wrestling season undefeated. Along with being an undefeated wrestler, Dirksen played for the EHS football team, which also went undefeated. “I was very happy and relieved after I won. My emotions were very confident yet relieved knowing I’m the best in the state,” Dirksen said.

To win his match, Dirksen pinned his opponent Kaled Valdez Lemos at 4:47. After his win, Dirksen proceeded to do a backflip in the middle of the mat. Dirksen said, “I am most proud of the everyday grind in the wrestling room with all the hard work everyone put in everyday and to see all that pay off with a team state championship.”

Castaneda won his match by a 7-1 decision against Noah Linares who he had wrestled before in the regular season. With his final match in the books, Castaneda ended the season with a 56-6 record.

Dirksen has committed to Western State to wrestle, and Castaneda is looking into attending Mesa to wrestle. “Having the success in high school that I’ve had has made a large impact on me wanting to pursue my wrestling career,” Dirksen said.

As the Reds came home on Sunday, their family, friends, and community greeted them with a parade. “The environment was awesome. I didn’t come from a small town school so seeing how the community and everyone gets behind a team and a school like that is awesome,” Coach Mustari said. 

As the wrestling season comes to an end, the wrestlers can proudly add another ring to their collections, another banner to the wall, and a first ever solo wrestling state title.