CHEYENNE, WYO. — Niwot's Tommy Stager and Mountain View's Erik Contreras have travelled all over the country together, rooming at tournaments and training.
In wrestling circles, you might think the two have crossed paths a time or two over the years, but Contreras has always been just one weight heavier ... until this year.
Stager, who hasn't faced his friend in a competitive match since sixth grade, has finally caught up and going into the 2016-17 season they found themselves No. 1 (Contreras) and No. 2 (Stager) in the preseason rankings put out by On The Mat.
On Saturday afternoon at the prestigious Charlie Lake Tournament in Cheyenne, the two met for the first of likely several times this year and round one went to Contreras 4-1 in the 145 pound final.
"I gassed myself and that is something that just doesn't happen very often," said Stager, who was named the wrestler of the tournament last year in Cheyenne. "I pride myself in my conditioning and that is something I am definitely going to have to work on."
After a scoreless first period, Contreras opened the scoring in the second with an escapes and then worked hard for the only take-down of the match moments later.
It was 3-0 going to the third and despite Stager's best efforts to find an opening, he was held off every time and managed his lone point when Contreras locked hands and was called for a penalty.
"The match that matters the most is the state finals match," said Stager, who could see Contreras again next week in Loveland at the NoCo Christmas Tournament at the Budweiser Events Center. "And that's what I am looking forward to, but there is still a lot of wrestling that has to happen between now and then, but that is what we are both preparing for."
The only other BoCo area wrestler to make the finals was Longmont's Nathan Morris at 152 pounds. And despite crossing state lines, he was more than familiar with his Nebraska opponent, Derek Robb.
The Sidney junior is already a two-time state champion and came in into the season with a remarkable 99-1 career record. In his previous meeting with Morris, Robb pinned him. On Saturday it went the distance with Devils junior winning by major decision, 14-3
"I feel like I've grow some," said Morris about going the full six minutes with Robb.
Robb wracked up five take-downs and was prepared for everything that Morris tried.
"He's got moves that I feel like counter mine. I went for the under-hook and he easily got the fireman's carry on me," said Morris, a senior. "He's really tough on top, so it was difficult to get out and it really wore me out."
Most wrestlers, even the really good ones, will tell you that they learn more from a loss than they do any victory and that is the case for both Stager and Morris.
"It shows me how much I need to work to reach my goals," Morris said. "And shows me who's the best and what to strive for."
Erie was also on hand and despite the fact the Tigers didn't send anyone to the finals, they were able to show off their dynamic team depth with a sixth place finish in the 20 team tournament.
The Tigers had five placers, led by Ruben Portillo. The senior 195-pounder avenged a quarterfinal loss to Mountain View's Joseph Montoya in the third-place match with an 8-4 victory.
Michael Ferrera (106), Adam Evertz (120), Adrian Rincon (132) and Ernie Quintana (145) all finished fourth.
CHARLIE LAKE INVITATIONAL
At Cheyenne East H.S.
Team scores — Windsor 195, Cheyenne East 133.5, Poudre 112.5, Kelly Walsh (Casper, Wyo.) 101, Glenrock, Wyo. 98, Erie 92.5, Mountain View 87, Sidney (Neb.) 75, Douglas, Wyo. 64, Eaton 63.5, Fort Collins 62.5, Cheyenne South 62.5, Wheatland, Wyo. 44.5, Cheyenne Central 43, Torrington, Wyo. 39, Longmont 28, Niwot 25, Saratoga, Wyo. 16.5, Gering, Neb. 11, Burns, Wyo. 10, Greeley West 10.
Local Championship Matches
145 — Erik Contreras, Mountain View dec. Tommy Stager, Niwot, 4-1.
152 — Derek Robb, Sidney (Neb.) major dec. Nathan Morris, Longmont, 13-4.
Local Third-Place matches
106 — Dean Noble, Poudre pinned Michael Ferrera, Erie, 3:56.
120 — Trey Arellano, Sindey (Neb.) dec. Adam Evertz, Erie, 2-1.
132 — Cody Eaton, Windsor won by forfeit over Adrian Rincon, Erie (five match limit)
145 — Dylan Sandtsedt, Douglas (Wyo.) dec. Ernie Quintana, Erie, 5-2.
195 — Ruben Portillo, Erie dec. Joseph Montoya, Mountain View, 8-4.