Grand County High School junior Kayden Robertson (in red) pinned down a rival wrestling team member during the Red Devils' season-opening Moab Invitational. Robertson placed third at the event. [Photo by Murice D. Miller / Moab Sun News]

The Grand County High School wrestling team placed fourth out of 12 teams at the season-opening Moab Invitational, which took place Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2 and 3, led by first-place performances from freshmen Carson Whitney at 106 pounds and Carson Sheets at 126 pounds.

Complementing the impressive debuts of the pair of freshmen, Dakota Johnson placed second at 138 pounds, Kayden Robertson placed third at 132 pounds, Jared Smith placed third at 170 pounds, Oscar Flores placed fourth at 120 pounds, Trea Meyer placed fourth at 195 pounds and Gage Hansen placed fifth at 220 pounds.

Grand wrestling coach Dennis Wells said it was the best the team has performed to begin the season since about 2003, and praised the success of the Little Devils and Junior Devils programs.

“It’s nice to have freshmen who can come right in and compete,” he said. “We’ve always had a lot of good kids wrestling in Little Devils, but what typically happens is they get to junior high and fall off. The last few years with Kelly Sheets running the junior high program, it’s gone really well.”

Last year, the Red Devils ended the season with eight wrestlers on the roster, and the year before that, they had only seven. To begin this season, Grand has 19 wrestlers on the roster.

Wells said the Red Devils have been a bad dual team over the past few years thanks to the small rosters. There are 14 weight classes and each weight that isn’t represented is an automatic forfeit. Grand currently only has one weight class not filled, 182 pounds, but Wells said he is hopeful that Meyer, another freshman, can come down from 195 to 182, as sophomore Jarom Shumway, who missed the invitational, figures to wrestle varsity at 195. Wells has a pair of 220-pounders in juniors Hansen and Nick Downard, who he says will wrestle each other throughout the season with the winner staying at 220 and the loser wrestling heavyweight.

Wells added there are other weight classes double-represented, including 120 pounds, in which seniors Flores and John Corbin battle it out before every meet to determine who’s varsity and who’s junior varsity. Ironically, Flores and Corbin are the only seniors on the team.

“It’s nice to have options, wrestle-offs,” Wells said. “We’ll be a (much) better dual team this year. It’ll be a lot (more fun) not giving up weights.”

Grand’s first dual of the season was scheduled to take place at Monticello on Wednesday, Dec. 7. The Red Devils are next scheduled to compete in St. George on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9 and 10.

Red Devils optimistic for ’16-17

It’s nice to have options, wrestle-offs. We’ll be a (much) better dual team this year. It’ll be a lot (more fun) not giving up weights.