DENVER — Even with all the commotion in the Pepsi Center on Friday night, Mead sophomore Jeremy Ashton was fixated on the match timer during the 3A 126-pound semifinals.

That's all there was in the building.

Locked up with Berthoud's Austin Brinkley, Ashton was watching his state title hopes tick away. Then, in an instant that felt to Ashton like it went on for minutes, he was headed to the championship match on Saturday night.

Trailing by one point in the third period of Friday night's 3A 126-pound semifinals, Ashton desperately turned Brinkley to his back and was awarded three nearfall points as time expired to win 6-4. While his coaches jumped up and down on the mat, Ashton could only roll over an exhale in relief.

"That was crazy," Ashton said. "At the very end there were eight seconds left, I was on top and I had that bar tilt. I looked up at the clock and I just told myself, 'I've got to turn him now.' I don't know how I got it."

As a freshman last season, Ashton placed fifth at 113 pounds. His goal from Day 1 of his sophomore campaign has been to win the whole thing. The Mavericks sophomore was predictably excited to be within reach of his ultimate goal. But having come within seconds of his title dreams slipping through his fingers, Ashton (41-7) was overjoyed.

"I'm just pumped," Ashton said. "I'm so glad to be in the finals. But I want that first-place medal so I'm not satisfied."

Having coached two other wrestlers who won multiple state titles for Mead, Mavericks head coach Ty Tatham said he was excited for Ashton to be one win away from his first in only his sophomore season.

"We pinned him in a dual earlier this season but I knew this was going to be tougher because that kid is well-coached," Mavericks head coach Ty Tatham said. "That was a tense moment at the end but Ashton pulled it out and that's all I know."

In the 200-pound semifinals, Mead senior Jack Gallegos (45-6) lost an 8-3 decision to Sheridan's Ricky Ayala but remains in the hunt for a place on the podium. Mavericks' 145-pounder Caleb Mendez (23-12) won two consolation matches on Friday and is also still eligible to place.

Consolation matches will resume at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. Championship matches will begin immediately following the parade of champions at 6:30 p.m.

Brad Cochi: or