DENVER — Expectations have never been higher for Ezra Paddock and his Monarch wrestling team.
A season that saw them tour the country from Ohio to Nevada and California, the Coyotes, ranked for a majority of the season in Class 5A, gained all the experience they needed with one goal in mind ... a huge state tournament.
After a great quarterfinals showing earlier on Friday at Pepsi Center, the trio of Cole Polluconi, Parker McQuade and Xander Rens had a chance to achieve their ultimate in-state goal and reach the finals.
It wasn't meant to be.
All three suffered heart-breaking defeats.
"It's sad and I am sad for them, because of how much work they put in and what this night meant to them," Paddock said. "We came up just short. The kids they are wrestling are the best in the state too and we are in the state semifinals of 5A ... these are the cream of the crop kids and we came up a little short."
The toughest match of all for the Coyotes to swallow might be Rens at 145 pounds.
Rens was looking to avenge a 6-4 loss to Ponderosa's Parker Benekas at Centaurus' Top of the Rockies and Rens had the much lankier Mustangs grappler right were he wanted going to the third period, down just 1-0 after an early second period escape.
Late in the third, Rens had nearly worked himself out of Benekas' grasp and in doing so appeared to put him in what looked like an illegal hold.
"He figure-foured his legs around the body, which is a penalty," said Paddock, who argued for his wrestler after the match. "His explanation to me was that the movement from the defensive wrestler (Rens) is what made his foot come up, which I understand."
Polluconi, a finalist last season, fell behind Arvada West's Cody Fatzinger in their 126-pound semifinal early in the second period and never was able to answer.
Fatzinger would add another takedown in the third period and go on to win 5-1.
"He didn't think he wrestled his best match and on a night like tonight, that's hard," said Paddock, who knows his kids will come back and make the most out of Saturday knowing the importance of it to their future. "When you know you have something more or something different and the moment happens too fast for you to correct it, it's hard.
"It's a hard lesson, but they will al be back next year."
McQuade had a tall task against Poudre's defending state champion Jacob Greenwood and fell behind early 4-2 in the first period and eventually dropped a 9-4 decision.
The season long journey is something that McQuade didn't take lightly and enjoyed every step of the way.
"It didn't go the way we wanted, going 0 for 3 in the semis, but we'll rebound," he said. "(Saturday) is important in so many ways, for team points, getting us ready for next year and knowing we are in the race with those guys.
"I's important to keep working."