DENVER — The bright lights at Pepsi Center weren't blinding enough to overcome Lyons freshman Oran Huff's tunnel vision.
Set on reaching the podium to cap what has already been an outstanding freshman campaign, Huff's focus did not waiver despite the inevitable nerves that accompany wrestling at the state championships. In the first round of the Class 2A 126-pound bracket on Thursday night, Huff won his first match on the big stage with an emphatic 8-0 major decision over Rye senior Colton Sims.
"I felt really good from the beginning of that match," Huff said. "I've never been in such a big arena and it's really cool so your head just kind of has to go blank. It's easier if you just stay out of your head and stay focused, then the nerves just go away."
Freshman mistakes caused Huff to fall short of his objective at regionals, where he was pinned twice while leading both matches and ended up narrowly qualifying for state in fourth place. Aided by the pain from that personal shortcoming a week ago, Huff also entered his state debut confidently knowing that he had wrestled Sims before and beaten him 11-2.
Huff wrestled a defensive match, scoring a takedown in the first period and a reversal in the second to take a 4-0 lead into the fourth. Registering another takedown and a pair of back points while preventing Sims from scoring in the third period, Huff closed out his first career state tournament victory.
"He was fired up and I think his head was right where it needed to be, and that's hard down here," Lyons head coach Brandon Lohr said. "Regionals didn't go quite how Oran wanted. He had a tough time and I think he learned from that. I think it hurt him a little bit but I think he learned from that this week and came back ready. Ultimately, I think he wrestled the match he needed to wrestle."
Beginning with Huff's victory, the Lions advanced three of their four qualified wrestlers to Friday's championship quarterfinals. Reigning 182-pound champion Keegan Bean opened his senior-year title defense by pinning Ellicott's Matthew Brant in 26 seconds and Bean's sophomore Brother Karson Bean won a 21-5 technical fall over Hanover's Brandon Clark. Lions junior Konner Mack lost by technical fall to Rocky Ford's Jesse Tapia.
"Honestly, all four of my guys went out there and had a good first day today," Lohr said.
Thursday was less kind to Holy Family's three-man contingent of 3A state qualifiers.
Pagosa Springs' Trevor Bryant pinned Tigers sophomore 152-pounder Hunter Branson in 2:29, Tigers senior Cade Carter was the victim of a 5-1 decision at the hands of Centauri's Bennie Chacon and La Junta's Nick Martinez won a 2-1 decision over Holy Family heavyweight Andrew Edwards.