DENVER — Not many freshmen get the opportunity to wrestle for a Colorado state championship.
Drake Engelking isn't your average freshman wrestler.
At the 2016 state championships on Friday night, the Longmont Trojans freshman won a 4-3 overtime victory over Cheyenne Mountain's Zac Baker in the 4A 160-pound championship semifinals. In just his first season of prep wrestling, Engelking has positioned himself to end his freshman season in with most auspicious way possible - with a state title.
"I knew it was going to be a close match so I just tried to stay relaxed," said Engelking, who improved to 26-2 with the win. "He was a total defender and he never shot once. He acted like he would but he never did. I have a partner who is a defender and he gave me a lot of practice this weekend so I was ready."
Scoring two escapes apiece, Engelking and Baker were tied 2-2 going into a third overtime period before the Trojans freshman finally scored a takedown on the defensive junior. On top for a restart with nine seconds remaining, Baker scored an escape only to have Engelking circle defensively until time expired.
Not only was Friday's semifinal victory a special moment for Engelking, it was an emotional win for Longmont head coach Matt Engelking, Drake's father and a former Longmont Trojans state placer himself.
"That was a great match against a real tough kid," Matt Engelking said. "He's a real defensive guy so throughout the match we were taking all the shots. I'm his dad so I was getting a little choked up after. Throughout the years he's been in big national tournaments so he has that low-key demeanor because he's not new to that situation. He just did a great job."
Drake Engelking will face Thompson Valley senior Parker Simington (43-0), a two-time state champion who has won 96 consecutive matches. The two regional foes have squared off once this season, a match in which Simington pinned Engelking despite being taken down three times.
"That wasn't the result we wanted but he's got a second shot at him before he graduates," Matt Engelking said.
Drake Engelking won his first two state tournament matches by major decision. Simington has won his first three matches in the 2016 tournament by either technical fall or pin.
The state championship finals will begin immediately following the parade of champions at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. In the school's history, Longmont has won five individual state titles.
Also for Longmont on Friday, senior 126-pounder Will Hickman lost a 3-2 decision in the quarterfinals to Greeley Central's Zeke Alirez. He bounced back in the second consolation round to pin Battle Mountain's Colin Stilson in 21 seconds and remain in the hunt for a podium spot.
In the 152-pound semifinals, Trojans junior Nathan Morris lost 14-1 to Pueblo County's Hunter Willits and is also still alive in the chase for a medal.