THORNTON — For Frederick wrestler Jake Longstreth, Saturday's Thornton Invitational was all about getting over the hump at a big tournament.
For the Warriors in general, the event signaled just how far they have come in a little time under second-year head coach Joey Gardner. With regionals not too far away and FHS looking to build on the two wrestlers it sent to the state tournament one year ago, a fifth place showing at Thornton sat quite well with Gardner.
In addition to Longstreth getting a 195-pound tournament title — this after placing third in the past three major tournaments the Warriors have competed in — Frederick placed six individuals overall with some tremendous competition spread out through the weights.
Class 3A No. 1-ranked Alamosa was present, as was Class 4A No. 8 Grand Junction Central and unranked-but-always-a-factor Mead. Those three finished at the top, in that order, with the Mavericks hauling in individual titles from Jeremy Ashton and Caleb Mendez.
"It's all part of the growth we're going under and getting kids the mat time because they are young," Gardner said of his team, which had three fourth-place finishers. "We're getting them to believe they can compete with anybody.
"I told them all this could be a good idea of what regionals are going to look like, so give yourself a chance to get in that top-four kind of deal."
Longstreth, seventh in 4A in the latest On The Mat rankings, didn't mess around as the senior pinned four opponents in a total time of 4 minutes, 9 seconds. His final opponent represented someone he may see in the state tournament, and he stuck G.J. Central's Robert Shenk in just 1:13 after getting out of a headlock and anticipating a shoot.
After finishing third at the Gary Daum, the Warrior Invitational and Northglenn tournament, Longstreth finally was able to put everything together.
"This match, and really all my matches have had me thinking about last year ... and how slacking off in practice and stuff cost me matches last year," Longstreth said. "I've been really focusing on conditioning and busting my (behind) to be the best I can be.
"I knew (Shenk) was ranked, and I know he's good so this one really gives me some confidence in where I'm at right now."
Of Gardner's other five placers, only 106-pounder Jonah Gardner walked off the mats with a win — the sophomore took fifth with a pin against Rangeview's Josh Nuttall, who was 27-9 and had gotten Gardner by pin earlier in the day. At 126 pounds, Cole Hoffman suffered a tough loss against Highlands Ranch's Jake Kellogg, but the sophomore held a 13-3 lead on Kellogg before he got stuck.
"I've just been trying to work with him to keep him in it when he gets on his back, you know, just keep fighting and I was proud he got out of there and then went to work," Gardner said of Longstreth.
"For Cole, that's definitely one you hate to lose ... but I'm hoping he learned a valuable lesson that you always have to be defense-minded no matter how many points you might be up. There's a good and bad with that match, there, because he scored a lot of points."
While Frederick appears to be blossoming, Mead also seems to be peaking at the right time. The Mavericks had eight wrestlers still fighting during the final rounds, getting third-place match victories from Brennan McDermitt at 170 and Joey Garcia at 182.
Like Longstreth, Ashton battled a kid in the 132 finals that he may very well see again at state — Central's Andrew Bench. The two were ranked 4-5, and Ashton relished the thought of seeing Bench make the final. A series of take-downs and reversals made for a good test, but Ashton came out with a 10-4 decision.
Ashton also beat Bench a year ago on his way to being 4A state runner-up.
"It's huge to see a guy that's right there because it lets me know where I'm at right ahead of state," Ashton said. "You prepare yourself for seeing him again. I thought it went pretty well, and there were times I got caught but I corrected off of those things."
Mendez, ranked fourth at 152, had no problems with 4A seventh-ranked Kitt Knisley (Palmer Ridge), and Mead also had a third finalist in 220 pounder Derrick Allen. Allen was the victim of an Alamosa stampede, as 3A No. 2-ranked Manuelito Casias pinned him in the championship bout.
Count Ashton as one who is seeing the bright possibilities of all his teammates as they surge toward the final couple weeks of the season. Most regional tournaments around the state will take place Feb. 10-11.
Not to be outdone was Niwot's Tommy Stager, who simply rolled at 145's and decisioned Rangeview's Deron Solomon (No. 6 in 5A), 9-5.
At Thornton HS
Team scores — Alamosa 241.5, Grand Junction (G.J.) Central 206, Mead 164.5, Florence 143, Frederick 117, Burlington 87.5, Rangeview 83, Elizabeth 81, Highlands Ranch 75, Mitchell 71.5, Ralston Valley 55.5, Akron 48, Skyview 46, Niwot 44, Dolores Huerta Prep 40, George Washington 40, Arvada 39, Thornton 38.5, Palmer Ridge 27, Wheat Ridge 26, Westminster 0.
106 — Elijah DeLaCerda, Alamosa, p Johnny Masopost, Florence, :56.
113 — Isaiah DeLaCerda, Alamosa, p Nabil Kargar, Skyview, :30.
120 — Tyler Kenison, Alamosa, p. Collen Bauernschmit, Ralston Valley, 4:47.
126 — Cody Jacobsen, Burlington, dec. Donnie Liles, Mitchell, 6-4.
132 — Jeremy Ashton, Mead, d. Andrew Bench, G. J. Central, 10-4.
138 — Riley Garner-Orr, G.J. Central, maj dec Dennon Parks, Highlands Ranch, 11-2.
145 — Tommy Stager, Niwot, dec. Deron Solomon, Rangeview, 9-5.
152 — Caleb Mendez, Mead, maj dec Kitt Knisley, Palmer Ridge, 8-0.
160 — Aramus Schuster, Thornton, dec. Tanner Hickey, G.J. Central, 6-3.
170 — Erminio Barrera, G.J. Central, p. Ryan Hanson, H. Ranch, 3:08.
182 — Weston Holdren, G.J. Central, p. Clayton Riddle, Florence, 3:58.
195 — Jake Longstreth, Frederick, p. Robert Shenk, G.J. Central, 1:13.
220 — Manuelito Casias, Alamosa, p. Derrick Allen, Mead, 1:15.
285 — Preston Duran, Alamosa, p Nik Schnebly, Wheat Ridge, 1:29.
Local Third-place matches
106 — Kris Kramer, Elizabeth, d. Emilio Chavez, Mead, 8-6.
113 — Chris Gamboa, Burlington, tech fall Gabe Carrillo, Frederick, 15-0.
126 — Jake Kellogg, Highlands Ranch, p. Cole Hoffman, Frederick, 3:40.
170 — Brennan McDermitt, Mead, p. Anthony Bono, Mitchell, 1:25.
182 — Joey Garcia, Mead, dec. Dustin Poss, Akron, 2-0 (OT).
220 — Levi Packard, Florence, p. Michael Castro, Frederick, 1:18.
285 — Parker North-Wanner, Florence, p Luis Miramontes, Mead, 1:50.
Local fifth-place matches
106 — Jonah Gardner, Frederick, p. Josh Nuttall, Rangeview, 2:14.
113 — Blake Morgan, Mead, over Bryan Fierro, Rangeview (match limit).
170 — Larry Vigil, Arvada, p. Logan Burdett, Frederick, 3:25.