BROOMFIELD -- Broomfield's Drew Romero and Phil Downing come from different backgrounds but they have one defining characteristic in common. They're two of the best wrestlers in Colorado.
Romero, a senior, and Downing, a junior, are each two-time state champions. But in 2013, they'll each be trying to become Broomfield High's first three-time state champion.
Romero, an athletic and confident trickster from La Junta, and Downing, a powerful Boulder County wrestler with a dominating will to win, have different approaches to wrestling. But as different as they are, the Eagles wrestling program has molded the two into a fearsome pair that is blazing a new trail into the Broomfield wrestling record books.
"We're different in some ways," said Romero, who is 64-6 over the past two seasons. "But, wrestling's wrestling."
Romero won the 3A title wrestling at 103 pounds for La Junta during the 2010-11 season before moving to Broomfield for the 2011-12 season. In his first season with the Eagles, he won the 4A title at 106.
Downing took home the 4A title at 119 pounds his freshman year and came back to win the title at 132 as a sophomore.
The pair knew one another through middle school wrestling before Romero came to Broomfield. Once he got to Broomfield, he and Downing clicked on the wrestling mat and off it.
"We became pretty close when he moved here," said Downing, who is 61-5 in the past two seasons. "We push each other because we both try our hardest in practice and both try to come in first every time. That pushes me harder to have somebody else with that talent in the room."
Both Romero and Downing are adjusting to new weights, which is a particularly big change for Romero, the smaller of the two. The senior will be jumping up from 106 pounds to 113.
Romero has already wrestled in two big offseason tournaments at his new weight and is getting used to it. Going up against stronger opponents, Romero said he can't shoot straight in as much at 113. But, he said, his speed and veteran savvy are still abilities he can use to his advantage.
"It's a pretty big change, actually," Romero said. "Heavier kids and a lot more kids cutting harder, stuff like that. I keep on learning so I think I'll be good at the weight. I'll just have to use more tactics to get around these guys who can throw me around a little bit more."
On the way to his second state title, Romero gave up just two points the entire state tournament, both on a two-point takedown by Windsor's Jonathan Lewis in the championship match. He wants to go through the bracket clean this season.
But more than the Colorado state tournament, both Romero and Downing have set their sights on the podium at the Walsh Ironman national championships on Dec. 7-8 in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
Downing, who will move up from 138 to 145 this season, said the goal of placing in Ohio puts the state tournament in perspective.
"That's way harder than state," Downing said. "The number one kid in the nation is in that bracket. It's a different level of wrestling so I need to train at a higher level than what I would be doing if I was just training for state."
During the preseason a year ago, the Eagles were confident they'd vie for the 4A team title. But several of their top wrestlers caught bad breaks with untimely injuries and disqualification that cost them points at the state tournament. They finished fourth.
Downing said finishing fourth showed the Eagles what they had to do in order to win the team title. The maturation of this year's team and its battle-tested mentality, Downing said, has left him even more confident in the Eagles' lineup than he was at this time a year ago.
Many of the Eagles were sophomores last season. Head coach Joe Pereira said the team, led by Romero and Downing, has transferred to what he calls an "upperclassman phase" in which he sees a more mature approach to training, discipline and technique.
Romero and Downing were the school's second and third two-time state champions last season. With each questing to become the first three-time champ, Pereira said not many hopeful three-time champions have the advantage of a teammate that can relate to what they're trying to accomplish.
"We have a room atmosphere right now where those two guys feed off each other and they also support each other," Pereira said. "They both want to be the first three-time state champ. That's hugely significant in uncharted territory that they have someone to look at so it's not just them out there on their own."
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