LOVELAND — For all intents and purposes, Niwot's Tommy Stager was in a bad place on Saturday afternoon in the 145-pound championship match against Palmer's Dre-Son Scruggs at the Old Chicago Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament.
He was down 11-7 to the Terrors second-ranked senior with 10 second left, but he found a way.
Stager got Scruggs in a headlock and scored a two-point take-down and then as time ran out he was also awarded two more back points that evened the match.
"I knew I had to get something that was a little bit bigger than a take-down and I was just looking for openings," said Stager, who last week passed his brother Nick for the all-time wins total at Niwot. "I knew he was a good Greco guy and I feel like I'm a pretty good Greco wrestler too.
"I decided to go upper body a little bit and he was obviously really defensive and that opened up that headlock. I crossed my fingers and it worked."
In overtime, Stager, riding a wave of momentum again caught Scruggs and his final takedown secured the first victory for a Niwot wrestler at the prestigious tournament at the Budweiser Events Center.
"That's the first time I've ever seen Tommy be, at least for a few moments, out-matched on his feet," Niwot coach Bobby Matthews said. "So for him to figure it out and find a way shows his resilience. he is a resilient kid."
What made the victory feel even bigger was that the victory came after Stager was beaten during the week in a dual to Greeley Central's Tony Ulaszek — who ended up fifth on Saturday.
"That was quite a set-back and I found myself thinking more about the results than the process," said Stager, who avenged last week's loss to Mountain View's Erik Contreras in Cheyenne with a 12-5 victory in the semifinals. "I had a long conversation with my coach about it and just need to focus on the process of getting better and doing everything I can in the moment."
Two matches later on the championship mat, Holy Family's Kolsen Welham continued his flawless start to the season with an impressive 8-3 decision of Brighton's Jeremiah Ellerd in the 160-pound final.
It was a bit of redemption for Welham, who in his last meeting with Ellerd, lost in the finals of last season's Top of the Rockies at Centaurus.
"It was nice to get a little redemption and get that win," said Welham, who improved to 16-0 this season. "I knew kind of what he was going to do, he's a strong, tough kid. I had to stay smart and stick to the game plan I had and get the win."
Legacy's Drian Hays lost in the semifinals and then rallied back to wrestle for third place against Valley's Josh Flanagan.
In a match marred by confusion over the score, Hays and Flanagan went to overtime, where the Legacy senior scored — what some deemed a controversial — two-point take-down for a 5-3 win.
"I was pretty sure he was going to give it to me, (Flanagan) hit his knees first and then stood up," Hays said. "It was just for a second, but it was enough."
Despite losing in his first match of the tournament to Coronado's Angel Flores, Silver Creek's 120-pounder Sawyer Novara battled all the way back through the consolation bracket to earn a shot at third place. He faced Greeley Central's Josh Nira and lost 7-0.
"I wanted to wrestle him to see how I would do against him," said Novara, who beat Flores the second time around. "We've practiced together before and I just wanted to see how I would do."
Fairview's Duncan Heath made it to the quarterfinals, where he lost to eventual runner-up Dominick Finiof Mesa Ridge 6-2 in his first match of the morning. He eventually finished fifth at 220-pounds, beating Cheyenne Mountain's Jayson Grooms 6-2.
OLD CHICAGO NORTHERN COLORADO CHRISTMAS TOURNAMENT
At Budweiser Events Center
Team scores — Pueblo County 197.5, Greeley Central 193.5, Brighton 181, Windsor 179.5, Coronado 128, Mesa Ridge 127.5, Castle View 124, Poudre 123, Cheyenne Mountain 117, Valley 107, Adams City 98.5, Discovery Canyon 95.5, Thompson Valley 93.5, Laramie (Wyo.) 92.5, Lakewood 91, Doherty 90.5, Mullen 85, Legacy 84, Platte Valley 72, La Junta 68.5, Air Academy 66, Prairie View 65.5, Legend 65, Cheyenne South 64.5, Jefferson 64, Fort Morgan 59.5, Mountain View 59.5, Palmer 58, Centauri 55.5, Cherry Creek 53.5, Eaton 53.5, Brush 50, Niwot 50, Lewis Palmer 49.5, Greeley West 48.5, Cheyenne Central 47, Berthoud 43, Elizabeth 42.5, Horizon 41, Holy Family 40.5, Highland 39, Northglenn 38, Rawlins (Wyo.) 37, Thornton 36, Silver Creek 35, Northridge 33, Thomas Jefferson 33, Chaparral 32, Hinkley 32, Mountain Range 30.5, Vista PEAK 30, Eaglecrest 27.5, Ralston Valley 26, Abraham Lincoln 25, Denver North 24.5, Bennett 23, Loveland 22, Torrington (Wyo.) 22, Fairview 19, Liberty 19, Conifer 18, Smoky Hill 16, Fossil Ridge 10.
106 — Malik Heinselman, Castle View pinned Bobby Macias, Thomas Jefferson, 1:54.
113 — Steve Dabelko, Coronado dec. Jimmy Ramirez, Jefferson, 4-2.
120 — Dominick Serrano, Windsor dec. Nathan Bonham, Pueblo County, 6-4 OT.
126 — Andrew Alirez, Greeley Central dec. Jason Hanenberg, Air Academy, 12-5.
132 — Grant Willits, Pueblo County won by forfeit over Zeke Alirez, Greeley Central.
138 — Chris Sandoval, Windsor dec. Justin Davis, Pueblo County, 7-3.
145 — Tommy Stager, Niwot dec. Dre-Son Scruggs, Palmer, 13-11 OT.
152 — Hunter Willits, Pueblo County dec. Gabe Dinette, Lakewood, 4-2.
160 — Kolsen Welham, Holy Family dec. Jeremiah Ellerd, Brighton, 8-3.
170 — Tate Samuelson, Castle View dec. Andrue Rojas, Greeley Central, 6-2.
182 — Carless Looney, Laramie (Wyo.) pinned Xavier Vasquez, Greeley West, 4:20.
195 — Donavon Rincon, Pueblo County dec. Christian Robb, Cherry Creek, 9-4 .
220 — Nate Pastorello, Discovery Canyon dec. Dominick Fini, Mesa Ridge, 10-8.
285 — Sam DeSeriere, Mullen pinned Tanner Aitken, Brighton, 2:42.
120 — Josh Nira, Greeley Central dec. Sawyer Novara, Silver Creek, 7-0.
170 — Drian Hays, Legacy dec. Josh Flanagan, Valley, 5-3 OT.
220 — Duncan Heath, Fairview dec. Jayson Grooms, Cheyenne Mountain, 5-2.