DENVER — The light has come on for Monarch 113-pound freshman Ryan Kuykendall.
And at just the right time.
"Honestly, it's all about confidence and part of the reason we wrestle such a tough schedule that when we get here, they know that they have wrestled three or four tournaments that are even tougher than this," said Monarch coach Ezra Paddock of his freshman's epiphany. "He just started putting matches together and confidence is such a big thing in wrestling."
One week after capturing a regional title in Fort Collins, Kuykendall — who like 106-pound teammate Vince Cornella attends Peak to Peak — continued his winning way. This time it was on the state's grandest stage at the Pepsi Center in the Class 5A state tournament, where he beat Prairie View's Mark Grice 9-4.
Kuykendall (25-12) will face Grandview sophomore Alejandro Santillan in the quartfinals on Friday afternoon.
"My coaches told me that everything you wrestle is in the past and everyone in the bracket is 0-0, and I know that I have prepared as much, if not more, than the other guy," Kuykendall said. "Before last week, I really didn't know if I could compete with all these guys and going in there and setting the pace, making sure I wrestled my matches, really helped my confidence."
Against Grice, Kuykendall dominated from the opening whistle and was able to control his taller opponent. He wrestled with the lead after an early take down in the first period and built it to 4-0 with back points in the second.
"All along, my dad has been telling me just to just go to state and if you can get past that first match, it's even better," Kuykendall said. "I've done everything I needed to do and reached all my goals. Now I can just go out there and wrestle."
Said Paddock, who knows Kuykendall sees some of the best training he'll get in his own room against Cornella: "It helps a million percent. It's nice to have young guys come in the room and they already know how to work hard and you don't have to teach that."
Cornella was clinical in his match against Aidan Lenz. He scored his first takedown just nine seconds into the match, added four more nearfall points before eventually getting the pin 46 seconds into the second period.
It was a great first day for the Coyotes, who sent six to the Pepsi Center and advanced four of them — including Cole Polluconi (138) and Parker McQuade (152) — to the quarterfinals.
It was an even better day for the Broomfield Eagles, who went 8-1 on Day 1 and scored a classification-best 30 points to lead Class 5A.
"This is pretty awesome right now. This is what we wanted to do, come out here and wrestle hard and good things will happen," said Broomfield 132-pounder Darren Green, who pinned Denver East's Anthony Martinez at 2:31. "As long as we keep doing what we are doing, we'll be fine."
The highlight of the first day came in the last match of the night, when senior heavyweight Michael DeCamillis — who was down 5-0 to Mountain Range's Michael Fenton and nearly got stuck — rallied to win by pinfall in the third period.
Legacy will also send four wrestlers to the quarterfinals. Dakota Key (145), Aidan Funk (170), Drian Hays (182) and a huge victory from heavyweight Aaron Baugh all moved on.