BOULDER -- Niwot's Clay Robinson is excited to be back on the mat after missing most of his freshman season. That was abundantly clear when he pinned Poudre's Owen Lamb in 27 seconds for the 106-pound title at the Mike Stanley Invitational.
In his first meet back with the Cougars after tearing a ligament in his elbow, Robinson won the Most Outstanding Wrestler award for the 150-wrestler field. He went 3-0 before hip-tossing Lamb for an abbreviated championship match and leading the Cougars to a second-place team finish behind Poudre in the Cougars' season opener.
Robinson, who was one of the lower seeds in his bracket because of a lack of information on him, beat two ranked opponents on his way to the title. In the finals, Robinson said he knew the Cougars were close to Poudre in team points so he wanted to go out there and do the best he could.
"I felt like I was ready wrestle," Robinson said. "I felt good to be back on the mat. I'm a lot better than last year. I learned a lot."
Training in Greco-Roman wrestling during the offseason, Robinson added new throws to his skill set. He said he was motivated to come back strong by a lesson he learned from Nick Stager, last year's senior captain who was Mr. Niwot Wrestling for four years before graduating.
"He was a good role model to all of us," Robinson said. "He came up with our team motto and that is, 'Only you can make yourself better.' That really of struck me and it showed me that the harder you work, the easier it is to get victory."
Two other Cougars, Marcus Cano at 126 and Joey Lambert at 132, combined for a pair of second-place finishes. Cristian Ramirez took tihrd for the Cougars at 152. Jessie Slepicka (138) and Matthew Strope (145) each took fourth.
Cougars head coach Scott Sanchez said the team displayed the usual first-tournament rust but, for the most part, all of them wrestled well. But, he said, he was most excited to see Robinson steal the show as he expected he might.
"I didn't have anything to seed him with. He's the nicest kid, but he turns into a different kid on the mat," Sanchez said. "To finish that finals match the way he did, that's just shows you how up he gets and how much he puts into it."
In a comeback of his own, though a much shorter time frame, Fairview's Cito Balsells led the third-place Fairview Knights be winning the 182-pound championship in his home gym. Having lost in overtime to Pueblo West's Kyle Bludworth during a dual the night before, Balsells came from behind to beat Bludworth 7-4 in the championship match on Saturday.
Short for his weight at 5-foot-8, Balsells said his mentality was to not bother with a Plan B and stick to Plan A, which was simply to not give up until he won.
"It was nice to get a little rematch again today," Balsells said. "I just went out thinking, you know what, I'm going to win. I'm not going to have any kind of backup plan. I'm just going to do what I want to do and if it works out, great. If not, I'll have some more work to do and things to improve on."
Also for the Knights, Chris Robinson took second at 145 and Cliff Lester took third, winning the consolation finals by forfeit at 132. George Martinez took fourth at 113 and Melvin Gutierrez too third at 138.
Knights head coach Jim Lefebvre said he was proud of the way many of his wrestlers came back through the consolation bracket to score points for the team.
"We didn't have a very good first round," Lefebvre said. "But this team is resilient and they did a good job of rebounding again today."
Skyline sophomore Braden Richards won the 120-pound championship. Determined to wrestle a smart match, Richards wrestled on top on the right side, rolled Hinkley's Mike Brungardt's wrists and rode the championship match out for a 9-0 major decision.
"I went out there, worked my stuff and did what I knew," said Richards, whose Falcons finished 10th. "I feel like it's a good way to start off the season."
Fellow Falcons sophomore Jesus Contreras took third at 145.
For the Lyons Lions, junior Cameron Grossnickle took second at 113, freshman Jon Hickman took third at 170, and Gaspar Vasquez took fourth at 220. Senior David Plute took second place in a three-person round robin at 285s
The Lions finished seventh in the team scoring.
Sam Oliver was Silver Creek's most successful wrestler on Saturday, advancing to the consolation semifinals after being knocked out of the championship bracket by Balsells in the quarterfinals.
Follow Brad on Twitter: @BradCochi
Mike Stanley Invitational
At Fairview HS
Team scores -- Poudre 209.0, Niwot 153.0, Fairview 128.0, Hinkley 122.5, Pueblo West 110.5, Overland 107.5, Lyons 95.0, Rock Canyon 85.0, Denver North 77.0, Skyline 59.0, Denver West 30.0, Kennedy 29.0, Denver South 25.0, Silver Creek 13.0.
Championship matches -- 106 pounds: Clay Robinson, Niwot, pinned Owen Lamb, 0:27; 113: Nick Noonan, Poudre, pinned Cameron Grossnickle, Lyons, 3:11; 120: Braden Richards, Skyline, maj. dec. Mike Brungardt, Hinkley, 9-0; 126: Thomas Viles, Pueblo West, maj. dec. Marcus Cano, Niwot, 12-4; 132: Bo-Daniel Hagans, Poudre, pinned Joey Lambert, Niwot, 4:47; 138: Erik Romero, Pueblo West, pinned Mason Marsh, Poudre, 0:40; 145: Austin Heim, Pueblo West, dec. Chris Robinson, Fairview, 7-2; 152: Matt O'Donnell, Poudre, tech fall Alex D'Agostino, Rock Canyon, 15-0; 160: Gabe Marquez, Poudre, def. Brayden Hubbard, Poudre, 7-4; 170: Emery Lee, Poudre, pinned Kamoni Walsh, 1:21; 182: Cito Balsells, Fairview, dec. Kyle Bludworth, Pueblo West, 7-4; Max Carbajal, Hinkley, dec. Brendon Frazior, Rock Canyon, 12-6; 220: Amer Tipura, Overland, pinned Victor Garcia, Kennedy, 1:41; 285: Jasari Dixon, Overland, won three-person round robin.
Consolation championship matches -- 106: Adam Lee, Denver West, dec. Isaiah Martinez, Denver North, 7-2; 113: Rafael Garibay, Hinkley, dec. George Martinez, Fairview, 6-2; 120: Steve Rodriguez, Denver North, maj. dec. Kyle Love, Rock Canyon, 14-5; 126: Ryan Madril, Denver North, maj. dec. Conrad Rice, Poudre, 11-2; 132: Cliff Lester, Fairview, won by forfeit; 138: Melvin Gutierrez, Fairview, pinned Jessie Slepicka, Niwot, 4:44; 145: Jesus Contreras, Skyline, dec. Matthew Strope, Niwot, 10-9; 152: Cristian Ramirez, Niwot, dec. Kelten Tschanz, 4-0; 160: Taylor Ziolkowski, maj. dec. Rob Monroes, 11-1; 170: Jon Hickman, Lyons, pinned Damien O'Hare, 0:44; Javier Alonso, Overland, dec. Hunter Tyson, Rock Canyon, 8-5; 195: Santiago Medinao, Overland, maj. dec. Jeremiah Campbell, 10-1; 220: Jesue Dorado, Kennedy, pinned Gaspar Vasquez, Lyons, 2:45; 285: David Plute, Lyons, second in three-person round robin.