DENVER — On Saturday night, Longmont junior Drake Engelking and head coach Matt Engelking were finally able to release some of the tension that had been building up over the past three years.
All it took was for the father-and-son wrestling duo to finally capture the state title it had chased all the way to the state tournament twice before, only to be denied just at the end. At Saturday's Colorado wrestling state championships, Drake Engelking won an 8-2 decision over Thompson Valley's Hunter Williams to claim the Class 4A 160-pound championship.
As Matt Engelking welcomed the final victorious whistle with a visible sigh of relief, Drake Engelking simultaneously let out a triumphant scream to let everyone in a raucous Pepsi Center know that his time had finally come.
"That yell at the end of the match was just me letting go of all the frustration that I've had before," Drake Engelking said. "I just let it all out. All the frustration that has been bubbling inside of me is what has made this whole journey so amazing. But after I let it out, I felt awesome."
A career 160-pounder, Engelking stood between three-time champion Parker Simington's third straight title when he reached the finals as a freshman. A semifinal loss to Cheyenne Mountain senior Zac Baker snuffed out a potential return to the title bout at the end of Engelking's sophomore season.
Despite battling a thumb injury that held him to fewer than 30 matches as a junior, Engelking (25-3) tore through the state tournament by oustcoring his first three opponents 36-9 in a trio of major decisions. Facing Williams (36-7) in the finals, Engelking took an early lead with a takedown just 35 seconds into the match and steadily built his lead while he remained in control until the end.
Wrestlers from nearby areas of northern Colorado, Engelking and Williams last wrestled one another in the seventh grade. Since Engelking was wrestling out of the state when their Northern League teams met during the regular season this winter, they had not faced one another in years.
With limited knowledge of his opponent, Engelking stuck to the strategy that had worked so well for him throughout the tournament. That meant simply focusing on getting an early advantage and wrestling to his potential.
"We watch film and all that stuff but nothing can prepare you for when you step on the mat with the guy," Drake Engelking said. "You just have to wrestle your match and try to be at your best when it counts."
Engelking said finally winning a state championship with his father less than 15 feet away on the mat made it more special. Matt Engelking echoed the sentiment.
"He's been snake-bit here a few times and I think it helped his training, his motivation and helped his inner drive because he was tired of losing," Matt Engelking said. "It's tough being dad and the build-up was hard for both of us. It's been coach and wrestler, and sometimes it's been son and dad, and we've had our ups and downs. But our struggles with each other have finally paid off."
Drake Engelking is now Longmont's sixth individual wrestling champion and the program's first since Scotland Coyle in 2010.