LOVELAND — Though he may have dreams of one day playing linebacker in college, Longmont junior Brayden Engelking cannot deny that wrestling is in his blood.
His father, Matt Engelking, was a state runner-up as a prep wrestler at Longmont High and is now in his fifth year as the wrestling coach at his alma mater. Brayden's older brother Drake Engelking is Colorado's reigning Class 4A 160-pound state champion. A state qualifier in 2018, Brayden Engelking is quite a talented wrestler himself.
Surrounded by wrestling the way he has been his whole life, Brayden is quickly coming into his own and is looking to not only follow in his family members' footsteps but also to make his own mark on the Engelking wrestling legacy.
"I try to practice with Drake as much as possible," Brayden said. "He beats me all the time but I try to take the stuff he shows me and use it. And whenever I go upstairs to my dad's room, he's always watching a wrestling match of some sort. So, wrestling is obviously huge in my family."
It's true, wrestling is a tough sport and for the Engelking clan that often means a bit of tough love is in order if you want to keep up.
"I kind of beat up on him at practice but he just takes it," Drake Engelking said. "I give the guy a lot of credit and he's gotten a lot better since last year. It'll be fun to see what he can do this season."
On Saturday afternoon at the Budweiser Events Center, Brayden Engelking (13-2) placed seventh at the high-level Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament. Wrestling at 152 pounds, the junior went 4-2 over the two-day tournament and his only losses of the season are now to Greeley Central's Andrew Alirez, a three-time state champion, and Eaglecrest's Tyler Maccagnan. After not making it to the second day of last winter's NCCT, Brayden Engelking's improvement was on full display during a 1-minute, 20-second pin of Jack Cunningham (Cedar Cliff) in the seventh-place match.
"I think it was a great tournament," said Brayden, who led the Longmont football team with 68 tackles in the fall. "I lost to a three-time state champ but I came back to get seventh. Drake did great as usual too. I feel like I'm doing pretty well and I hope I can become a state champion like Drake this year. I think I have a chance."
Signed to wrestle at the University of Northern Colorado next season, Drake Engelking's focus this season is on defending his title and "reaching another level" in the hope he can crack the Bears' starting lineup as a freshman. Bumping up a weight class as a senior and wrestling the first tournament since returning from a much-needed break between the football and wrestling seasons, Drake Engelking (6-0) dominated his bracket at the NCCT. The Trojans senior, who has placed in the top three at state in each of his three seasons in high school and also led the Trojans football team with 2,136 all-purpose yards as a senior, opened his tournament with a pair of pins and ended it with an 11-5 decision over Windsor's Cody Eaton in the finals.
As a team, the Trojans finished 24th out of 72 teams at the NCCT. This year's tournament included 17 top-10 teams, over 60 wrestlers ranked in the top three, 25 No. 1-ranked wrestlers, a pair of three-time state champions and 17 combined individual state titles from multiple states.
Also at this year's NCCT, Erie finished 45th as a team. Sophomore Rudy Lopez (10-2) led the Tigers, going 5-2 and placing fourth at 120s. Legacy was 30th and Lightning junior Grady Funk (13-6) placed seventh at 160s. Niwot was 71st and junior Daniel Torres (3-8) was the lone Cougars wrestler to win a match.