DENVER — Erie coach Steve Gratton was relegated to stands on Saturday afternoon.
The outgoing Tigers coach, who announced his retirement from the program earlier in the season, lost his voice on Thursday night and let his valuable assistants work the corners for the final two days.
"It was tough to watch," said Gratton, through his interpreter.
In was arguably what was on of the most successful seasons in program history, the Tigers brought six wrestlers to the Pepsi Center and placed three in Class 4A. Seniors Ernie Quintana and Zach Roper as well as sophomore Nate Hackney all placed sixth.
"It felt good to go out there and wrestle for him one last time," said Hackney, who lost his fifth place match to Silver Creek's Jacob Williams via pinfall at 2:01. "It was tough losing, but felt good for him."
Quintana lost his fifth place match to Discovery Canyon's Jared Turner 3-2, and was incredibly close to earning take down points in the final minute.
Roper went to the third period tied 2-2 with Mountain View's Braden Barker and started the period in the down position. Barker was able to get leverage and locked Roper into a cradle, scoring the pin 50 seconds into the final two minutes.
"To see your kids on the podium is always great," said Gratton, who challenged Mead's team to the 7-pound burrito challenge at Jack-N-Grill on Twitter. "The way we have built the program is really great."
Engelking rallies for third
Expectations were through the roof for Longmont sophomore Drake Engleking after last years runner-up finish.
And after starting the season a later than most while a nagging thumb injury healed to 100 percent, Engelking quietly went about his business, running up a unbeaten record going into the regional tournament.
He suffered his first defeat in the championship match of the regional tournament at Cheyenne Mountain to Pine Creek's Pete Isais, but still went to the Pepsi Center with all the confidence in the world.
A disappointing semifinal setback to Cheyenne Mountain's Zac Baker, 1-0, relegated him to the 4A consolation bracket. To his credit, he kept his head up and eventually finished third, scoring an 8-1 decision over Valor Christian's Hunter Harrison in the final match of his sophomore season.
"It wasn't really what I wanted to do, but things happen and you get upset a couple of times and you just have to fight back and battle back," Engelking said. "I've just got to learn how to keep going, because in the last period of that semifinal match, I just stopped.
"I've got to keep wrestling."
Coyotes come back strong
The way things worked out in Saturday's Class 5A consolation rounds, the three Monarch wrestlers that still remained in play were all on the mats at the same time -- which certainly spread out the coaching staff.
But the Coyotes were focused on redemption from a tough semifinals round, and MoHi ended up with third-place finishes from Cole Polluconi (126 pounds), Parker McQuade (138) and Xander Rens (145). McQuade and Rens, in particular, buckled down in tight matches to move up as much as possible. Rens, just a sophomore, took a 5-4 decision over Palmer's Dre-son Scruggs while McQuade beat Daniel VanHoose (Fruita-Monument) 3-2. MoHi finished with 63 points.
For Legacy and Fairview there were also a smattering of outstanding finishes.
The Lightning were led by 160 pound junior Aidan Funk, who rebounded from a heartbreaking semifinals decision to get on the good side of a one-point win, beating Brighton's Jeremiah Ellard 8-7 to take third. Legacy's Drian Hays also began his quest for a 2018 title by working back to third place at 170 pounds, beating Grand Junction's Seth Lathum 4-0.
The Knights' Duncan Heath earned his first ever podium at 195 pounds, beating Poudre's Cole Yung for a second time in the tournament to capture fifth place.
Impressive state debut for Holy Family's Branson
Landing on the podium at state is tough to do.
To do it as a freshman is is mighty impressive. It didn't exactly end the way Holy Family frosh Hunter Branson would have liked, but he should have no complaints.
After losing in the 3A championship quarterfinals on Friday, Branson -- the cousin of Holy Family 160-pound finalist Kolsen Welham -- battled his way back to the consolation semifinals to earn a spot on the podium.
In the conso semis he was pinned by Jefferson freshman Nick Gallegos and then lost the 5th-place match to Berthoud senior Matt Bailey 3-1.
Williams wins another local battle
Though it wasn't in the match in which they might have wanted to see each other, Silver Creek's Jacob Williams and Erie's Nate Hackney found themselves battling for the 4A 285 pound fifth-place match. The Raptors' Williams threw together his first pinning effort of the tournament, getting Hackney at 2:01 of the second period.
Mead's Mendez wins last career match
Wrapping up a senior season that included more than 40 wins, Mead's Caleb Mendez was able to raise his hand one last time in the 4A 152-pound third place match, nabbing the Mavericks' top tournament finish with 12-5 decision over Cheyenne Mountain's Luke White. Mendez's junior teammate Jeremy Ashton took fourth at 132 pounds to help MHS to 36 points.
Broomfield's Hruby sings National Anthem
If you've been to a Broomfield sporting event of any kind over the past couple of season, you've probably heard Kayla Hruby sing.
The CHSAA has taken notice and her unmistakable voice has opened festivities at state soccer and swimming this season.
On Saturday night, in front of possibly her biggest audience yet, Hruby again worked her magic at the Pepsi Center.
Follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/BoCoPreps